So you’ve recently started a business. Or you’re considering starting one. You might already feel the encroaching creep of sleep deprivation. Entrepreneurs frequently find themselves getting fewer hours of sleep or lower quality sleep than the general population, and certainly less than they truly need. But why is this the case? And what can they do about it?
The Counterproductive Urge for Productivity
Part of the problem is the entrepreneur’s drive to get as much done as possible. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly driven, motivated to accomplish more than the average person. Their livelihood depends on the business’s success, so they’re inclined to spend far more hours working than the average employee.
They frequently find themselves in a dilemma. They choose between their personal health and their business’s needs. Ultimately they choose the business. For example, they may have a project with a tight deadline, so they pull an all-nighter to get it done in time, or they may stay up far too late going through emails so they aren’t bombarded with communication catch-up in the morning.
But all these little decisions have a massive accumulating effect; chronic sleep deprivation starts by interfering with your cognitive abilities, making it harder to focus and solve complex problems. Soon, it starts affecting your mood and disposition, and eventually, it leaves you susceptible to more diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and even the common cold. In other words, the more shortcuts you take to increase your productivity (i.e., sacrificing sleep), the more you’ll hamper your ability to be productive long-term.
The solution is to make sleep one of your top priorities. Schedule 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night with the same commitment you’d use to schedule a client meeting. If, on occasion, you want to stay up an extra hour or two to work ahead, feel free; but don’t make this a chronic habit. If you’re that overwhelmed with work, it’s better to delegate some tasks to one of your team members, and reap the benefits of your own increased health and productivity.
Investments and Upgrades
Young and new entrepreneurs also tend to be frugal in their personal lives, especially if they’re personally invested in the business. They’re dealing with a low salary, and low profitability, so they want to make their money go as far as possible. Accordingly, if they’re sleeping on a low-quality or old mattress, they may be inclined to squeeze more life out of it, getting less sleep because of it.
There are frugal ways to extend the quality of your mattress, however. For example, you can invest in a memory foam mattress topper for far less than you’d pay for a brand-new mattress, and breathe new life into an otherwise deteriorating bed.
Stress and Anxiety
It’s also no secret that entrepreneurs are chronically stressed, and for more than one reason. For starters, being a leader and decision maker for an organization is brutal. People will be counting on you to make good choices and lead the team, and you’ll face significant pressure or blowback for making the wrong choices. You’ll also be dealing with competition on a near-constant basis; every day, you might hear of some new business, or some changing market circumstances that completely change how you do business.
On top of that, you face the financial pressure of running a business. If you’re personally invested in the business, you might see your life savings at stake. Even if you don’t, your salary and revenue likely depend on the business doing well. When the business is slow, you might worry whether you can pay your bills. When the business is doing great, you may wonder how long it will last, and work extra hard to take advantage of it.
In the end, entrepreneurs face stress both chronically and acutely. This happens to varying levels of intensity. Stress ranks as one of the most common root causes of insomnia. And it makes it harder for you to relax enough to fall asleep. This can interfere with the quality of your sleep once you are asleep. Even worse, entrepreneurs don’t possess as much time as other people to engage in the habits that reduce stress, like exercising, meditating and taking vacations. The solution is to reduce your working hours and make time for these stress relief and stress management strategies.
Final Word on Entrepreneur Sleep Deprivation
Entrepreneurs face a unique combination of circumstances. These make it nearly impossible to get good sleep on a consistent basis. They intentionally sacrifice sleep to get more done. And they constantly stress about their work. They frequently decline investments that could make their sleep better. You may not be able to eliminate these factors altogether. But you can certainly mitigate them by making sleep a priority in your life (as you should).
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It is important to look after yourself and your health. It is your life that is at risk when you lose too much sleep.