Just how important is a restful night’s sleep? Guest blogger Kaia Roman from TheJoyPlan.com teaches us 5 reasons sleep can help us stay more focused and attain more success.
When speaking to a publisher some time ago, in an attempt to demonstrate my fervent work ethic, I glibly claimed, “I’m an entrepreneur with insomnia, so I work all the time.” “That sounds like most authors I know,” was his reply.
I’ve seen many bleary-eyed entrepreneurs (and employees) wear sleep-deprivation as a sort of badge of honor, a testament to their dedication to the cause. And I’ve personally felt twinges of pride after pulling all-night work binges or getting by on less than four hours per night for weeks on end.
But the more I learn about the critical importance of sleep, and the more I feel the detrimental effects of lack of sleep, the less inclined I am to put work before slumber.
Here are 5 reasons to get sufficient shuteye that you may not have considered:
While we sleep, our brains prepare for the next day. This is when we form neural pathways that help us learn and remember new information. Studies show that sufficient sleep is critical for learning and problem-solving skills, two things we certainly need as entrepreneurs. Studies also show that sleep deprivation makes it more difficult for us to make decisions, pay attention, control our emotions and cope with change.
Sleep and health are intrinsically connected. Our bodies rely on sleep as critical downtime to heal, repair and regulate all systems, keeping them in good working order. Lack of sleep is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and lower immunity. Sleep also affects how our bodies produce and react to insulin, as well as the hormones Gherkin and Leptin, which control hunger. It’s also no surprise that sleep deficiency is linked to obesity.
Maintaining a regular sleep pattern sets our internal circadian rhythm, which signals the body to pump out the right hormones at the right time of day. This includes hormones such as melatonin, cortisol, testosterone, growth hormone and thyrotropin (or thyroid-stimulating hormone) which affect everything from our body temperature to stress levels and cell repair. Our bodies are wired to sleep at night, with the deepest levels of sleepiness generally occurring around 2:00–3:00 am.
Ironically, even though we often evade sleep in the pursuit of productivity, sleep is the very thing we need in order to perform at our best. Lack of quality sleep has been shown to slow down reaction time, increase mistakes and generally reduce efficiency in the accomplishment of tasks. In fact, missing just one or two hours of sleep per night for several nights in a row, affects productivity in the same way as complete lack of sleep for one or two days.
In her recent book, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington tells of how she reached such a devastating level of sleep deprivation that she fell asleep standing up in her office, only to awake in a pool of her own blood after slicing her face on the corner of her desk.
Lack of sleep can lead to micro sleeps, brief moments of sleep that occur when we should be awake. Perhaps you’ve experienced this scary phenomenon while driving. It’s estimated that micro sleeps cause hundreds of thousands of car accidents each year. Even when we’re not driving, I’m guessing that nodding off during a meeting or class is not the professional appearance you aim for.
I used to think of sleep as an inconvenience, a block of time I’d rather be putting to better use.
But now I literally jump into bed with enthusiasm, excited for sleep like I may have felt excited about a party in my 20s. Does this mean I’m getting old and boring? Not really. But it does mean that I’m finally getting wiser. I know that sleep is critical to my mental, physical and emotional health, and I’m no longer willing to compromise my long-term well-being in pursuit of a short-term burst of output.
The good news is, I’m still highly productive.
In fact, I feel like my most productive hours have shifted to the morning, after a good night’s sleep, whereas they used to be late in the evening, after several cups of coffee.
Now that my well-rested brain is firing on all cylinders during the day, I’m accomplishing more in less time during normal working hours.
However, I have had to make some shifts in how I prioritize my time now that I set aside eight hours per night for sleep. I used to go to the gym, grocery store or do laundry during my workday (the luxuries of working from home), but often have to save those activities for the weekends now — a small price to pay for the multiple benefits of sleep.
Originally published at blog.withcoach.com.
Dear friends, the message contained in this post is expanded on in my new book, The Joy Plan, releasing on 7/11/17. The Joy Plan chronicles my deliberate plan to cultivate joy in thirty days — a plan I grabbed onto like a life raft when I reached a very low point in my life. I wanted to remember how I found joy so I could do it again if I forgot, so I documented all the steps I took to transform my experience of life from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic. I left no stone unturned in my pragmatic search for joy — tackling my one month “joy plan” with the same tenacious entrepreneurial spirit that I apply to a new business plan.
Although The Joy Plan is my story, it’s also yours. Because 30 days is long enough for you to form new habits, apply the neurobiology of joy, and radically upgrade your experience of life. It’s simple, it’s practical, and it’s something anyone can do. Think of The Joy Plan as a memoir with benefits: as the story evolves, the book provides a blueprint for creating your own Joy Plan. No matter what you’re currently experiencing in life, joy is possible, and it’s easier than you think. Find out more at TheJoyPlan.com.
Originally published at medium.com