If you’re a CEO, business owner or senior partner, take a minute and think about your current sleep habits.
When was the last time you consistently averaged a good seven to nine hours’ sleep?
How do you feel day-to-day with your current sleep schedule?
How do you feel when you manage to get a good quality sleep?
Do you often lie awake wanting to sleep, but find yourself worrying or stressing about things?
Well you’re not alone. The above examples are scenarios that busy CEOs can find themselves in, where sleep deprivation is considered a normal part of their lives. Everyone has experienced having to function at work on minimal sleep. It’s not pleasant. Everything feels like a struggle, it’s harder to concentrate, our memory suffers and the quality of our daily life drops significantly.
Sleep Deprivation is well studied, and the research clearly shows that a lack of sleep causes the following:
- Up to 65% all-cause mortality risk
- Poor memory and creativity
- Increased impulsiveness (reaching for unhealthy snacks)
- Poorer judgement and decision making
- Decreased reactions times
- Sustained stress, supressed immunity and overall infection.
- Weight gain: 5hrs sleep or less gives you a 50% likelihood of being obese, it increases your ghrelin levels (hunger hormone), which means you’ll naturally seek out foods higher in sugar, processed carbohydrates and fats. It also lowers your leptin levels which controls our appetite and energy balance.
- Higher risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, mental health conditions, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s.
In industrialised nations, our sleep has decreased rapidly in the last 100 years from an average of 7.9hrs to 6.4hrs. Two thirds of adults struggle to hit 8 hours sleep, and it’s not just about the quantity but the quality that is important as well; Sleep is essentially your life support system. You also can’t truly catch up on lost sleep; it’s not a bank where you can accumulate a debt and pay it off at a later date. The greatest paradox is that people who don’t get enough sleep are often doing so to try and get more work done, either by staying up late or getting up extremely early in the morning. However, if they instead switched off earlier in the evening, set alarms for a reasonable time and had enough rest, they would be more productive in the time they had the next day. This is hugely important thing to learn as a CEO or business owner.
How can I get more sleep?
Now we know a good sleep makes us feel great and is critical to brain and body function, but how should a busy CEO consistently achieve the right amount and quality of sleep?
Sleep & Wake Times:
Our bodies are designed around regularity; our internal clock (‘circadian rhythm’) is regulated by the hormone melatonin, which takes its cues from the amount of light present in your environment. This is why we will naturally feel more awake in the day and tired at night. Ideally, we should go to sleep and wake up at similar times so your body finds its natural rhythm. However, your lifestyle will often control this. So it’s best to work around that; Aim for 8hrs of sleep as often as you can. This should remain constant even on the weekends.
If you are sleep deprived and you want to manage your day better, you can utilise napping. You have to be careful though, taking naps longer than 20mins or later in the afternoon can negatively affect your sleep at night. It also doesn’t mean you can afford to forgo sufficient sleep. Power naps may momentarily increase basic concentration under conditions, as can caffeine up to a certain dose, but neither naps nor caffeine can salvage more complex functions of the brain.
Keep it Cool:
Most people will find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold versus to hot. The reason why is that our bodies need to decrease core temperature to initiate and then stay asleep. Making sure you have the room temperature around 18 degrees is optimal.
The invasion of technology has been a real enemy of sleep, but of course we must work with technology as it’s not going anywhere. Phones, tablets, laptops and TV’s all emit blue light, which signals to our brains to stay awake. A CEO will want to try and remove all technology ideally 45-60 mins before going to bed.
Try using a candle or a nightlight instead of the bathroom light before going to bed. If you wake up in the night, use low light in bedroom/bathroom. Blackout curtains are a big help and covering any TV red lights etc. can be very effective in creating a dark environment. You can always try using a sleep mask.
Address the Stress:
We’ve all experienced lying awake with our minds racing unable to sleep, which is hugely detrimental. This is especially true of those with demanding jobs like a CEO or business owner. It’s very frustrating when you’ve gone to bed with a possibility of eight hours of sleep and end up with only five or six. Here’s a simple strategy for identifying what is stressing you out: An hour before bed, grab a notebook and write down all the things on your mind, be it work, relationships, family or finance. It acts like an emotional catharsis for your sleep and well-being.
Meditation can also be very useful and will shift you from a sympathetic to parasympathetic state, meaning your mind and body will begin to quieten and become sleepy.
If you are trying to fall asleep but can’t, do not stay in bed; the brain learns the association with staying awake and the bed environment. Simply go into another room, read or do a relaxing task and wait to get sleepy. Just like you’d never sit at the dinner table waiting to get hungry, why would you lie in bed waiting to get sleepy.
Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine:
And the most unpopular opinion of the blog is here. Hear us out though…
Caffeine is a stimulant with a long duration of action on your brain and body. It has a half-life of six hours and a quarter-life of twelve hours. This means if you have a cup of coffee at noon you still have a ¼ cup of coffee in your system come 12 at night. So do your best to cut it off 12-14hrs before going to sleep. Even if you’re one of those people who can have caffeine and go to sleep perfectly fine, the quality of your deep sleep decreases by around 20%. Also, if you think caffeine keeps you stay alert and wakeful throughout the day, try being more physically active; some simple movements, some fresh air, a hot drink (herbal teas etc.) all are good alternatives to keeping you alert and won’t disrupt your sleep later on.
Alcohol seems to be the most misunderstood of all ‘sleep aids’. It is a sedative, but sedation is not sleep. You’re essentially knocking out your cortex and this does not induce natural sleep. Alcohol fragments sleep and as a result you don’t wake up feeling refreshed. Unfortunately, most of these night-time awakenings go unnoticed by the sleeper since they don’t remember them. Alcohol also blocks your dream sleep or ‘REM sleep’ (the ‘rapid eye movement part of sleep helps consolidate memories, learning and mood).
Noise & Getting Comfortable:
Your mattress, pillows, pyjamas and your overall bedroom environment should be comfortable and if you struggle with surrounding noises try some ear plugs or even try some quiet background noise or white noise to help.
- Cool Temperature
- Don’t stay in bed if you can’t fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Every CEO should embrace the importance of sleep if they want to be as productive and successful as possible. Treat it like any other area of your health, like choosing a balanced diet, committing to your personal training sessions, avoiding bad habits like eating junk food and smoking.
We don’t sleep because it is fun, we sleep to have a more productive, time efficient and higher quality day, but this is reciprocal; if we have a better day we’re more likely to have a better night’s sleep, like a reinforcing cycle. Take a pause this week and think of applying some of these methods and tips into your life. You know by this point that it will surely be worth it.
For more health advice to help you put focus back into your physical and mental wellness, CEO Personal Training can be just what you need. We design our holistic programmes around the time constraints and needs of a CEO’s hectic work schedule, putting our focus into delivering results for the client that will improve their fitness, alertness, diet, strength, flexibility and overall quality of life.