Sleep is not only core to your health, but also the health of your business productivity
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
I’m sure we’ve all encountered in our day to day living certain people who look, feel and behave much younger than they really are. Introspectively, we question ourselves as to how can anyone look 10-15 years younger and go about it so effortlessly. Their mind is sharp, they are actively energetic, have flawless skin, good posture and a wonderful disposition. Health and medical professionals would say that these individuals have a biological age (active rate at which the body is aging) that is less than their chronological age (current age in years).
So how can we lower our biological age?
What can we do today going forward to potentially halt or reverse the progressive aging process. We know if the possibility of looking younger existed we would all sign up for it, however we know we can’t outsmart mother nature. We can however influence our aging process (fine lines, wrinkles, gray hair and joint pain) through modifications in our daily living. If we look retrospectively we realize that we have become the recipients of age accelerating lifestyle factors: increased stress, inadequate nutrition, lack of physical activity, sleep deprivation, alcohol and tobacco use, and exposure to environmental toxins. Therefore, can our bodies offer us protection to win the fight against aging when we’ve become submissive to these daily toxins?
Sleep and your biological age:
Some small business owners and executives are in a constant state of sleep deprivation. Their busy schedules can make it challenging to form habits that involve carving out time to sleep. They work tirelessly to succeed at reaching deadlines, strive to create and attain new business, socially network with existing or new clients and stay late at the office for those last minute impromptu meetings all the while unaware that their health is being short-changed from the body not being at rest.
Sleeping is one of the most important and very often overlooked lifestyle factor that may influence our overall health and biological age. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of brain which regulates our sleep and wake cycles. During daylight hours, the pineal gland remains inactive. During the evening hours as darkness approaches, the pineal gland becomes active and starts producing melatonin which is released into the blood. As a result, melatonin initiates the process of making us feel drowsy, tired and sleepy providing us the cue needed to get ready for bedtime.
When we are in a peaceful sleep, our bodies perform many vital repairs during the sleep cycle such as energizing the immune system, balancing hormones, regulating metabolism, replacing damaged tissues, storing memories and resolving daily experiences. Therefore, executives and small business owners (many whom are my patients) who feel that pulling all-nighters at the office or at home will make them more productive are actually causing a disruption in the body’s physiology of the brain which can potentially compromise their health.
Why business owners and executives understand the importance of sleep
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, most people don’t get enough sleep. Harvard sleep researcher, Dr. Charles Czeisler, has found that getting four hours of sleep for five nights in a row can have a similar impact on memory, attention, and speed of thinking as being legally intoxicated. “We would never say, this person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!”
However, as small business owners and executives we glorify sacrificing sleep and continuously seem to burn the candle at both ends. We thrive on forgoing sleep to work late hours at the office or back at home. The daytime effect of inadequate sleep leads to fatigue, bad mood, short tempered, frustration and a lack of focus. Research studies reveal that sleep deficit carries both short and long-term consequences to our health.
- In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the workplace, its effects can be seen in reduced efficiency, productivity and errors.
- In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of chronic health problems including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and these conditions may lead to a shortened life expectancy.
How small business owners can maximize the benefits of sleep and productivity
- Walk away from the after work tasks that are contributing to your sleep deficit. For executives, it is advisable to “bank”those seven to eight hours of sleep every night and instead wake up early to tackle your “unfinished business.”
- The increase rate of obesity in America has created a dangerous side effect: an increase in blocked breathing passageways known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea interrupts both breathing and normal sleep cycles resulting in chronic sleep deprivation. If you snore a lot, stop breathing or gasp for air, this is a possible indication that you may have sleep apnea and don’t even know it. Consult with your physician if you are experiencing this nighttime pattern that is preventing you from a restful sleep.
- Dealing with stress is a normal part of the work day for all executives. What we fail to realize is that stress can negatively alter our sleep cycles through elevating levels of cortisol. Stress can prevent us from falling asleep or from falling back asleep if we awaken during the night. To mitigate both stress and sleep deprivation, try to get out for an evening walk or run to decrease stress and increase sleep.
- Executives: re-evaluate those countless cups of coffee or energy drinks that you consume during the day as they may be counterproductive to night-time sleep. These stimulants keep us revving high during the day, but may take many hours to clear out of our system making us over-stimulated by bedtime and continuing the vicious cycle of disrupted sleep.
Even though it may seem sacrificial for small business owners and executives to devote a good portion of the evening hours to sleep, the investment may just be the missing link to your optimal health, work productivity, vitality, mental function, and a happy mood. Therefore, after reading this article, shift your mindset and treat sleep as a priority rather than a luxury and we may potentially have found our own little secret to side-step and challenge mother nature.