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Are bad sleeping habits killing your business?

Sleep is one of the least understood aspects of life. Yet one thing is clear: it is essential for maintaining good health. According to research, sleep deficiency increases your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and depression.

It can also have a negative impact on your brain function, which in turn leads to muddled thinking and a reduced ability to solve problems.

“. . .in the post-modern era with its 24-hour culture, endless distractions and complex socio-economics, people are suffering from bad sleep-health”

Leading-edge studies, however, are peeling away the mystery surrounding sleep and its power to restore.

It appears that sleep-time is when the body expels nasty toxins that build up in the brain. These toxins can affect brain functions such as memory, ability to learn and clarity of thought. Some scientists believe the toxins, which are ubiquitous in our environment, can reduce our IQ levels. They might also be a factor in the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Couple this with research from Warwick Medical School, which claims that sleep deficiency is a worldwide public health problem, and we have a bleak outlook for global civilisation.

The benefits of sleep have been acknowledged for thousands of years – after all, it comes naturally to us. But in the post-modern era with its 24-hour culture, endless distractions and complex socio-economics, people are suffering from bad sleep-health and this is having a negative effect not only on our collective physical health, but on our collective ability to solve problems and make sound decisions. And the last time I looked, the world was full of problems not being solved.

“If you don’t put in those extra hours, the business won’t grow as fast. But when you do put them in, your sleep suffers.”

So what does it mean for small business owners?

Good quality sleep is essential for maintaining good brain function, which itself enables you to think clearly during the day. Running a successful business requires you to think clearly in order to solve problems, anticipate threats, come up with fresh ideas and make those all-important decisions. So getting good quality sleep on a regular basis is an essential part of running a successful business.

To illustrate the point, let’s say you’re the operator of a forklift truck. You’re responsible for maneuvering safely around the warehouse. Would it be wise, then, to operate this machine when you are drowsy and muddled in your thinking? Of course not. You’d be more likely to cause an accident. It’s the same for your business. You’re in the driving seat.

You’re responsible not only for yourself and your family, but your employees and your customers too. This level of responsibility requires you to have tip-top brain function.

But there’s a bit of a double bind. All this responsibility can keep you up at night, whether through overwork or anxiety. If you don’t put in those extra hours, the business won’t grow as fast. But when you do put in the hours, your sleep suffers. You’re not alone in this.

Philips commissioned a survey in which people from around the world were asked about their sleeping habits. Out of the 7800 participants, 25-28% said the biggest sleep disruptor is financial, economic and work-related anxiety, the very things that plague most small business owners.

It becomes a vicious cycle: you worry about your business, work long and hard on it, lose sleep and this damages your ability to think clearly and resolve issues, thereby further compounding the problem.

This can be extended to anxiety over staff issues, conflicts with partners, and work-life balance. As a small business owner you have a lot to cope with.

You’re in the busy-trap. The only way you can break out of it is by growing the business to a point where you can afford to delegate. Or if you’re big enough to delegate and still find yourself in the busy-trap, then you probably need better strategies and organisation. And there’s the rub: how can you develop better strategies if your thinking is fuzzy from lack of good-quality sleep?

It’s not just brain function that’s affected. There’s a direct link between sleep and energy levels. Bad sleeping habits can make you tired during the day, which is when you should be at your most productive. Lack of energy can be demoralising: it leaves you feeling demotivated and, ultimately, disappointed in yourself. In many cases, small business owners are the main driving force behind their enterprises. So if they suffer from low energy levels, the whole business suffers with them.

If you’re struggling to solve problems, it could be that you need to improve your sleeping habits

Thankfully there’s a wealth of information out there. Sleep specialists have developed Sleep Hygiene, a way of cultivating better habits and adopting best-practices for healthful sleep.

The strategy begins with you. As you maximise the restorative power of sleep, your thinking will grow sharper and this will inform better decisions, making you one step closer to achieving your goals.

About the author

Simon Kohli is a freelance writer with a penchant for absurd satire. He also does copywriting, content creation and marketing strategy for independent businesses.

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