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Sleep – the secret sauce for entrepreneurs and start-ups?

Sleep – the secret sauce for entrepreneurs and start-ups?

Posted 18th June, 2019 by Sarah

Never mind space, sometimes it can feel like sleep is the final frontier when you run a business. It’s a place you rarely get to visit and when you do it’s a challenging place to stay.

It’s been reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook sets his alarm for 03:45 every morning in order to get through the 700 emails that are usually waiting for him before work. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, meanwhile, is said to wake up at 05:00 in order to prepare for the day with meditation and coffee.

Some of the most famous leaders and inventors of all time are also known for getting by on minimal amounts of sleep every night. Churchill is said to have survived on four hours a night during the war, Edison is believed to have slept for just three hours every night, and Margaret Thatcher’s apparent lack of a need for sleep led to the coining of the term ‘Thatcher gene’ to describe the genetic makeup of anyone who seems to function normally without the recommended eight hours’ of rest.

Despite this, a school of thought is beginning to emerge that suggests that sleep is vital for most people when it comes to achieving their goals.

In fact, Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post has now dedicated a large part of her career to raising awareness of the importance of sleep for business people and the impact that a lack of sleep can have on working lives.

In this article, we’ll look at the importance of sleep and consider a few tips for sleeping better in order to do better business.

Sleep and business

Scientific studies have shown that sleep deprivation most strongly affects a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex . This is the part of the brain that processes complex ideas, giving it an essential role in many leadership decisions.

Other research studies have discovered that when a person has been awake for 17 to 19 hours, their individual performance on tasks such as grammatical reasoning becomes the same as a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 – that’s over the limit to drive in the UK.

After 20 hours, functioning deteriorates further to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.1. You probably wouldn’t make key business decisions drunk, so why should you when you’re tired?

In addition, experiments have found that leaders can be more abusive to their teams when they have poor quality sleep and this, in turn, has been found to impact employee engagement.

The above is just a snapshot of some of the scientific and psychological studies that show how poor sleeping habits can impact on a business.

Now let’s look at a few ways that you can attempt to get a few more ZZZZs in order to get a few more £££££s in the bank.

Invest in bed tech

Think back to the very first mobile phone you had. How different is it to your current model? Lots, right? Now think back to the first bed you had. The chances are, apart from being smaller, it wasn’t that different to the one you’re spending your nights in now.

The question is why? We have used technology to improve almost every other aspect of our lives, so why shouldn’t we harness it to make our sleeping arrangements better?

The good news is that at the start of February 2019, technology company Eight Sleep launched its new Pod bed, which it claims is the first ever bed to be engineered with dynamic cooling and heating that keeps users at the optimum temperature all night, ensuring a better night’s sleep.

With prices that start at $1,999, the pod features personalised temperature regulation technology on each side. Not only does it keep your body at the right temperature all night, it will wake you up with its thermo alarm at your desired time in the morning.

Stock up the freezer

In December 2018, a foodie brand called nightfood released a range of ice creams that it claims could help people sleep more soundly. Its ingredients include the likes of the amino acid glycine, magnesium and prebiotics, which have all been linked, in studies, to enhanced sleep.

The ice cream is endorsed by a range of ‘sleep experts’ including sleep researcher Dr Michael Grandner and sleep and nutrition expert Dr Lauren Broch, and it comes in eight flavours – full moon vanilla, midnight chocolate, after dinner mint chip, cold brew decaf, cookies n’ dreams, milk and cookie dough, cherry eclipse and bed and breakfast, which is a sweet maple ice cream with waffle chunks.

Don’t view sleep time as wasted time

One of the most famous quotes attributed to inventor Thomas Edison – mentioned above – is one in which he refers to sleep as a waste of time and ‘a heritage from our cave days’.

The research mentioned above seems to show otherwise. However, if you’re still feeling guilty about getting that early night or sleeping in on a Saturday when you would normally be checking emails, it might soothe you to know that new research suggests that it is possible to learn while you sleep.

Published in Current Biology in January 2019, the new study found that the sleeping brain can encode new information, store it for the long term and make new associations.

This conclusion was formed after researchers attempted to implant a series of words from a made-up language, and their corresponding meanings in a native language, into participants’ brains as they slept.

When participants woke up, they were able to tell the experimenters if the new fictional words that they’d only heard in their sleep represented something that was bigger than a shoebox or smaller than a shoebox.

So next time you’re worried about wasting time sleeping, it can’t hurt to pop on a podcast.

Make time for a bedtime story

And while we’re on the subject of podcasts, millions of people around the world now rely on them to send them off the sleep. One story on sleep aid app Calm has been listened to more than 100 million times alone.

A Guardian article on the rising popularity of bedtime story apps for adults quoted clinical psychologist and insomnia expert Dr Steve Orma explaining why podcasts can succeed in helping people fall asleep.

He said: “There’s a paradox to sleep, in that it comes when you’re not trying. When you try to sleep, your mind monitors your efforts, which then keeps you awake.”

“So, doing something calming before bed – like listening to a sleep story – that’s designed to help you let go, will prepare you for sleep.”


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