Written by Sarah Jones
It’s not unfair to say that the first six months can make or break a business. It’s these formative months where the foundations for the future are laid out, and your attitude and enthusiasm in this time sets up the expectations both in your mind and your clients attitudes about how you’re going to continue to do business in the future.
That’s why you need to make sure that you’re working at peak capacity, and one of the key aspects to this getting enough sleep.
See, sleep affects literally everything we do. We all innately know this, but in the rush that comes with starting a new project, it’s often forgotten. But it’s not something you can afford to let slip, even if it seems like you’ve got a million things to focus on and time to do maybe half of them.
The detrimental effects of sleep deprivation
It can take as little as one night of bad sleep to affect your mood in noticeable ways.
For starters, just losing an hour of sleep causes your brain to produce far higher levels of cortisol than normal. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and higher levels are associated with increased amounts of anxiety, twitchiness, and basically being permanently in a fight or flight response.
Lack of sleep also causes us to process our emotions differently. People who are sleep deprived have been shown to deal with negative emotions differently, reacting poorly to situations that wouldn’t normally cause problems, and having issues regulating their own emotional responses.
Then you’ve got to realize that this symptom of sleep deprivation affects your ability to make smart decisions and recall information. Over time, the imbalance in hormones can lead to long term problems like paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and depression.
Sleep, emotions and depression: A concrete link
More insidiously, the link between depression and insomnia is huge, and works both ways. One of the major symptoms of depression is insomnia, and poor sleep patterns actively changes the brain in ways that contribute to depression. It’s a vicious cycle.
This is especially important for entrepreneurs, where the urge to put in extra hours and force yourself through sleepless nights whilst pursuing your dream is huge.
It’s not an insignificant correlation, either. People who aren’t getting enough sleep are 10 times more likely to have depression, and 17 times more likely to have anxiety than people getting the recommended 7-8 hours.
The major effects of depression are hideous for entrepreneurs. If you could think of a disorder specifically designed to kill your motivation and business success, you literally couldn’t design of a better option.
The effects of depression on you and your business
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering details. As an entrepreneur, where everything tends to fall down on your shoulders, forgetfulness and lack of concentration can be a death knell.
- Difficulty making decisions: Again, this is your dream. You’re the captain of this ship, and if you don’t make decisions, no one else will. Every minute spent deliberating, or worse, every decision put off for another day, is time you aren’t going to get back.
- Fatigue and decreased energy: If you’re going to be a success, you’re going to have to put the work in. Fatigue is going to make it almost impossible to put in the hours you need to.
- Hopeless, pessimistic, guilty feelings: Enthusiasm is contagious, and positive emotions infect everything you do, even down to the decisions you make. There’s a reason pretty much every successful person has attributed some of it to positive thinking. It works.
- Irritability and emotional irregularity: You’re going to be dealing with people, so putting on your best face is important if you want to work with anyone more than once. Being able to control your emotions and make other people feel good around you is a key part of that.
- Over or under eating, and lack of interest in health and exercise: We’re in this for the long game (or at least, you should be) and a key part of that is physical health. After all, there’s no point in putting together a killer app that makes you millions if you aren’t going to be around in ten years to enjoy the fruits of your work.
What can you do?
There’s several ways to overcome sleep deprivation, including
- Establishing a routine, going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
- Removing all electronics from your bedroom, and not using them within an hour of sleeping
- Setting your bedroom up for best sleeping practice; making it dark, cool and quiet
- Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. No TV watching and no using your smartphone in bed
Obviously, everyone’s life and situation are different, and your methods for getting enough sleep are different to how I might handle it, but the most important thing is to try and get as much deep, restful sleep as you can, especially when you’re taking on new projects or have a vital upcoming event.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for you, and finding that delicate balancing act between putting in the hours and getting enough rest is difficult, but with enough work, you can do it.
If you’ve got any tips for an aspiring entrepreneur, or you’ve put in long hours without much rest and have any advice to give, we’d love to hear your story in the comments.
Author Bio: Sarah Jones was once a sleep deprived mess. Once she realized how this was affecting literally every aspect of her life and career, she made it her mission to not only sleep better, but to perfect it. She writes about improving sleep at Sleepy Deep.