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Even entrepreneurs need to sleep – our top tips

Are you getting enough? It’s National Sleep Day today and it seems that while the traditional small business recipe of all work and next to no sleep still holds sway – but if that’s the case for you, could you be harming your bottom line?

Sleep is important, no more so than if you’re working excessively long days. Studies show that regular, uninterrupted sleep contributes to better health and improved cognitive ability, lowers the risk of anxiety and promotes peak performance. We all know we feel better after a good night’s sleep, but now recent studies into the economics of sleep have shown that it can not only promote our health, it can promote our wealth.

Findings popularised by the economics renegades (and best-selling authors) at Freakonomics have revealed that getting more sleep can actually help you make more money. Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader’s study, Time Use and Productivity: The Wage Returns to Sleep, tested two similar towns in the US, Huntsville, Alabama and Amarillo, Texas. The only significant difference between them was that one was at the far east of the timeline (Huntsville), the other (Amarillo) at the far west. Though both cities are on the same timeline, the sun goes down on citizens of Amarillo about an hour later than Huntsville, so they tend to go to bed later. But because they get up for work at the same time, on average, they get an hour’s less sleep. The research showed that the average wage in Huntsville is 4.5% higher than Amarillo, with the difference attributable to an extra hour’s sleep on average per night.

So what’s the ideal amount of sleep for the director of a busy small business? Well, The Sleep Council recommends between 7-9 hours a night. No news there, it’s what most of us aim for, but it’s getting there that’s the problem. Here are a few tips for getting your eight hours a night.


Some tips for a good night’s sleep

  1. Set a sleep schedule – and stick to it. Keeping to roughly the same bedtime and wake up time, even at the weekends, helps regulate your body clock and get you into the habit of sustained sleep.
  2. Avoid screens before bedtime – sleep researcher Lauren Hale says that it’s not just the blue light from mobile phone or tablet screens that excite your brain patterns, making it more difficult to drop off, it’s the type of stimulus you receive from checking emails, checking through Facebook posts etc. Reading a book is much more relaxing.
  3. Avoid naps – the odd power nap may help you get through the day but if you’re not sleeping well at night, they may be more of a cause than a cure.
  4. Exercise regularly – every day if you can. Even light exercise can help prepare your body for sleep at night.
  5. Get a bedtime routine – a regularly practised ritual can subconsciously help put you in the mood for sleep and help you shrug off the day’s anxieties.
  6. Eliminate distractions – it seems obvious, but your room should be dark, an even temperature (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit is considered optimum), and devoid of sounds, including a partner’s snoring or passing trains. Don’t try to sleep through distractions, consider investing in blackout curtains, ear plugs, eye shades, perhaps even an ambient noise app for your phone.
  7. Get a good mattress – and pillows. If yours is more than a decade old it may need replacing for optimum comfort and a reduction in allergens such as dust mites.


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