As an entrepreneur, chances are you’re probably busy around the clock. And in an effort to squeeze more productivity out of the day, you’ve probably been tempted to sacrifice a few hours of sleep to answer a few more emails, get caught up on a project, or set yourself up for success the following day.
But if you actually want to be more productive, sacrificing sleep—either in time or quality—is just about the worst thing you can do. Research shows that lack of sleep has a seriously negative impact on on-the-job performance and productivity and correlates to an increase in errors and accidents.
If you want to be productive and get more done during the day, you need to get plenty of high-quality sleep. But how, exactly, do you do that?
We asked entrepreneurs for their top sleep tips to find out how they get the high-quality shut-eye they need to function at their highest level (and take their businesses to the next level as a result):
Make your bedroom a sleep-friendly zone
“I never, EVER take work into my bedroom—not even work-related reading. My bedroom is for rest, relaxation, and pleasure.” – Tom Ingrassia, Founder & President, The MotivAct Group and Tom Ingrassia Productions
“The biggest changes I have implemented is turning my bedroom into a bit of a sleep sanctuary. I charge my phone in another room, I keep the room dark and cool, with only a motion sensor night light in case I need to use the restroom in the middle of the night. We also use blackout curtains, a white noise machine, as well as a daylight alarm clock. I’ve learned that our lives are already busy enough, and we need to get our bedroom set up for success when it comes to not only getting to getting to sleep in a timely fashion, but staying asleep throughout the night.” – Bill Fish, co-founder of Tuck.com, one of the internet’s leading resources on all-things-sleep
If you want to get a good night’s rest, your bedroom needs to be a place that encourages sleep.
But if you treat your bedroom like a makeshift office/entertainment center/workout space, your brain isn’t going to associate your bedroom with rest and relaxation—and it’s going to make it a lot harder to unwind and fall asleep as a result.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard (and a number of the entrepreneurs featured in this article), the key to getting better sleep—and increasing productivity as a result—is setting up your bedroom to promote deep, restful sleep.
First things first—If you’re the kind of person who routinely posts up in bed all hours of the night catching up on work, STOP. Keeping work outside the bedroom will help your brain start to associate your bedroom with rest, relaxation, and—most importantly—sleep.
Also, take the extra steps to make your bedroom (as Fish puts it) a “sleep sanctuary.” Keep the temperature at a cool, comfortable level (the sleep scientists at Harvard recommend between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit). Block outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” machine. If the sunrise gets you tossing and turning at the crack of dawn, grab an eye mask to block the light.
The more ways your bedroom is set up to encourage sleep, the more (and better!) sleep you’ll get—and the more productive you’ll be the next day.
Have a cut-off time for work
“Create and enforce a work shutdown. This is a tough one for entrepreneurs, but if you give yourself time to recharge in the hours leading up to bed, you will sleep better and increase your productivity the following day…By disconnecting yourself from your work, you activate your parasympathetic nervous and enter a ‘rest and digest’ mode, which is when your mind and your body recover. Designate a time in the evening when you will stop working (at least 2 hours before bed). During this shutdown, avoid answering emails, doing additional work, or even checking social media.” – Dean Pohlman, CEO, Man Flow Yoga
“I now have a firm policy of not answering my phone after 7 pm. All of my clients know—and respect—this. The nature of my businesses is such that NOTHING is so urgent that it has to be done in the middle of the night.” – Tom Ingrassia, Founder & President, The MotivAct Group and Tom Ingrassia Productions
Even if you love your work (which most entrepreneurs do), it can be stressful. And getting stressed out too close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your ability to fall—and stay—asleep.
Stress causes your body to ramp up production of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone), which can not only make it harder to fall asleep (it’s hard to drift off peacefully when you’re stressed about a client email or a budget issue), but can also cause sleep disturbances (like sleep fragmentation, shortened sleep time, and decreased deep sleep) that will have you waking up feeling more exhausted than when you fell asleep.
If you want to keep sleep-disturbing stress to a minimum, set a cut-off time for work every evening. When you stop work a few hours before bed, you give your mind and body a chance to relax and unwind. That way, when your head hits the pillow, your mind isn’t racing with stressful work-related thoughts—and your body isn’t producing a bunch of stress hormones that will keep you up all night.
Watch what you eat (and drink)
“[I] stopped eating after 7 p.m. and eat an earlier dinner. I find that if I eat a late dinner that it interferes with my sleep patterns, and I find myself not feeling well in the morning. This makes it harder for me to eat a healthy, energizing breakfast as well as feel like I am starting the day in a positive way…[I also] Limit my alcohol intake, especially wine. Wine and alcohol both interfere with my sleep patterns and decrease my productivity the next day.” – Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN, CEO and Founder of Savorfull
Sleep is one of the body’s natural processes—but what you eat and drink before bed can throw a serious wrench into how said process functions.
Eating late at night has been shown to cause disturbing dreams—and throwing off your eating patterns (by eating dinner at 10pm instead of 6pm, for example) can also throw off your circadian rhythm, making it harder for your body to shut down at bedtime. Drinking alcohol can also throw a serious wrench into sleep, causing all sorts of sleep-interrupting issues like blocked REM sleep, interrupted circadian cycles, and increased bathroom trips throughout the night.
If you want to get a good night’s sleep—and feel ready to tackle the day and get things done when you wake up in the morning—eat dinner at a reasonable hour and limit your alcohol intake (hangovers are not the most conducive to productivity).
Take a cold bath
“Getting a good night’s sleep basically means I’m able to stay on task longer — which is critical in a day filled with emails, social media updates, and client calls — not to mention family and other personal obligations. I have to feel like I can work for hours at a time without losing steam so I can keep my sanity…In extreme cases of insomnia, I find taking a really cold bath an hour or so before bedtime is a sure fire way to knock me out cold (so to speak!). This is a trick I learned from Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Body. Is it pleasant? Absolutely not, but it does the trick.” – Jill Wolfe, Co-founder GO Scavenger Hunts
Bedtime is most often associated with hot baths or showers—but turns out, if you struggle with insomnia, the opposite might be just what the doctor ordered.
A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that cooling the brain (known as “cerebral hypothermia”) can actually reduce brain activity and help insomniacs fall asleep faster and get higher quality sleep throughout the night.
If you struggle to fall and stay asleep, hop in a cold shower or bath an hour before bedtime—cooling off your brain could be the piece you’re missing in your nighttime routine.
Get your aromatherapy on
“My mind is always ‘on,’ which is great for my work as a marketing entrepreneur for integrative and alternative medicine products and services. On the other hand, shutting off the tornado of ideas that feed my creative, entrepreneurial mind has been a lifelong battle.My sleep time regimen includes taking long, restful sniffs of peppermint, followed by sniffs of lavender.
Both have been found to significantly aid deep sleep. I keep scent bottles by my bed so I can lean back and relax into the smell!” – Vicky Phillips, CEO and Founder of It’s Only Natural Health Marketing
Studies show that inhaling the scent of lavender before bed has all sorts of positive effects on your sleep—it increases both light and deep sleep and can help you feel more awake and alert in the morning.
Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your nighttime bath (bonus points if it’s a cold bath!) or keep the bottle by your bed and take a few deep inhales before you go to sleep. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed—and ready to get more done—in the morning.
Say no to devices before bedtime
“One of my biggest tricks to better sleeping is powering down on my electronic devices early into the evening. I try not to text or send emails late at night because it becomes difficult to naturally fall asleep at a relatively early hour when you’re still…staring at a screen. The sooner I can power down on my laptop, tablet, and smartphone, the better my sleep will be and allow me to wake up rested and recharged in the morning.”– Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation.com
“Check your devices at the door when you go to sleep. The blue light that emanates from our phones and tablets actually inhibits melatonin, a hormone that is essential to falling asleep. Even if you use your phone as an alarm, place it outside your bedroom door.” – Leslie Fischer, Founder of Sustainable Slumber
If you’re like most Americans, you spend an average of 10.5 hours per day staring at a screen—so there’s no need to rack up additional hours before bed.
Screens—including phone, tablet, and laptop screens—emit blue light, which inhibits the brain’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. The more blue light you’re exposed to throughout the day—and the closer that exposure is to bedtime—the harder it will be for your brain and body to fall asleep.
If you want to get more and better sleep—and ramp up productivity as a result—say no to screens at least an hour before bedtime. And if you’re tempted to check your email or scroll through Instagram, remove the temptation and keep your phone in another room.
Get your Zzz’s on
Getting plenty of high-quality sleep is important for everyone—but it’s especially important for entrepreneurs who want to achieve next level productivity. If you want to get more done, do yourself a favor and follow these tips for more (and better!) sleep.