For most entrepreneurs, sleep is often seen as a necessary evil. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to complete the obligatory “to-do” list. Even worse, many find themselves tossing and turning all night, only to wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed.
Entrepreneurs are not alone in these problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep. Fortunately, quality sleep can be achieved with a few minor changes to your nightly routine. Follow these 10 simple strategies to improve sleep quality and wake up feeling more rested than before, ready to tackle that next project:
1. Cut out caffeine.
Caffeine is the lifeblood of most successful entrepreneurs. However, consuming it during the evening hours could be contributing to an over-active mind at bedtime. Try substituting a cup of chamomile tea to help wind down in the evenings. And keep in mind that caffeine lurks in other things besides coffee. Carbonated beverages and dark chocolate are other caffeine culprits to avoid in the late afternoon and evening.
2. Dim electronic screens.
The human brain detects light and dark, and uses such stimuli to set its wake and sleep patterns (called circadian rhythms). Cell phones, tablets, laptops and television screens all emit bright light that can trick the brain, triggering it to wake up. Keep all electronic screens turned off at least one hour before bedtime to help your brain prepare for sleep. At a minimum, set screen brightness to its dimmest setting.
3. Set a sleep schedule.
Anyone who has ever travelled abroad can relate to the importance of a sleep schedule. The human body likes routine and a steady circadian rhythm. Set an alarm as a reminder to start getting ready for bed at the same time each night. Try to keep the same sleep schedule on the weekend as well (no marathon sleep-ins).
4. Wind down before bed.
A sprinter must slow down before stopping, and the human brain is no different. Shut down the laptop and quit reading e-mails at least one hour before bed. Engage in a relaxing activity such as reading, meditating or journaling to help wind down.
5. Avoid liquids.
Drinking any kind of liquid right before bedtime will inevitably result in a bathroom trip during the night. Minimize the amount of liquid consumed starting two hours before bedtime to prevent such sleep disturbances.
6. Ban cell phones from the bedroom.
While it may be difficult at first, keep cell phones out of the bedroom (or at least across the room). Smartphones represent countless distractions in the form of social media, e-mails, text messages and the internet. Nothing ruins quality sleep like rolling over in the middle of the night to check an e-mail or text message.
7. Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
Uncomfortable room temperature can cause restlessness. Avoid extremes and find a temperature that works best, given the season, bedding weight and sleep attire (or lack thereof). Keep in mind that body temperature drops during sleep and rises again in the morning. For that reason, most experts recommend 65 degrees as the optimal bedroom temperature.
8. Turn the lights out.
Since lights play tricks on the mind and can alter the circadian rhythm, it’s best to eliminate all lights from the bedroom while sleeping. Dim alarm clock displays and cover bright LED lights on any visible electronics. Blackout curtains and eye masks are great tools to prevent natural outside light from interfering with your sleep schedule.
9. Reduce noise:
Take steps to minimize noise in and around the bedroom. This might mean removing the chain on the ceiling fan that makes constant noise or even relocating a snoring pet to another room. Some noise might be unavoidable (like a snoring partner), in which case silicone earplugs can be useful. Soft “white-noise” producers like sound machines and air purifiers might also help drown out background noise.
10. Track sleep quality.
Take advantage of the many sleep quality monitors available. Numerous smartphone apps, such as Sleep Cycle alarm clock by Northcube AB, track movement during sleep and provide an overall sleep quality score. Most fitness and smart watches also do this. There are also over 100 different sleep disorders that might be contributing to poor sleep quality. If nothing seems to help, discuss the issue with your primary care doctor and get a referral to have a study conducted of how well, or not well, you snooze.