Is Sleep Deprivation Killing Your Chances Of Entrepreneurial Success?
We’ve all had those nights. You have a tight deadline, and need to stay up all night to get it done. You had to stay late for a meeting, and your personal responsibilities take you well past midnight. You didn’t have time to read the new contract, so you’re trying to cram it into one session. Whatever the case, you had to stay up late and sacrifice sleep in order to get something done.
But all too often, for entrepreneurs and professionals of all levels, those one-time instances of sleep deprivation occur regularly, and start to become a habit. Before you know it, you’re getting four hours of sleep a night, if you’re lucky, and you can’t break free of the cycle.
In the short term, you tell yourself this is a good thing — you’re busy, and you don’t have enough time to get a good night’s sleep. But in the long term, sleep deprivation is actually killing your career, and here’s why:
1. You lose focus and concentration. It’s the first and most noticeable step of sleep deprivation. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, your capacity for attention and concentration plummet. Even with caffeine, which can help you feel more alert, you’ll have a harder time performing even your basic tasks. If prolonged, your entire productivity could crash, forcing you to work longer hours, and prolonging the cycle. Getting an hour or two of extra sleep can improve your productivity enough to completely negate the time you spent resting, so don’t make excuses about the amount of work you have to do in the morning — get your rest.
2. Your memory begins to suffer. Your short-term memory is the next cognitive function to go, and you may start experiencing this after only one night of sleep loss. Having a reduced short-term memory makes you even more efficient on your day-to-day tasks. You may find yourself going back over the same information multiple times, checking and rechecking your work because you can’t remember what you had before. You may also have trouble remembering the names of people you meet, or retaining the information from company meetings. In any case, your worn memory will start to impact your career if you continue depriving yourself of sleep.
3. You’re relying on drugs. There are a variety of substances that can ease the effects of sleep deprivation in the short term, but ultimately, they’ll only make the problem worse. For example, using caffeine can help you stay more focused on your work and feel more awake, but as you use it more, you’ll build up a tolerance and could even become dependent on it. Similarly, sleep aides can help you get to sleep and sleep more soundly, but using them regularly can result in dependence and eventually, even worse sleep habits.
4. You’re more prone to stress. When your body is deprived of sleep, it becomes more vulnerable to stress. A slightly irritating event, like getting caught in traffic, can escalate to become infuriating, and a minor setback can cause you to collapse with grief. Because you’re more sensitive to both major and minor events, the stress of your job will start to take its toll on you and eventually, you won’t be able to cope. Getting more sleep can help you take things in stride and not get stressed out over relatively minor obstructions.
5. You start to feel anxious or depressed. Anxiety and depression are both major side effects of chronic sleep deprivation, and both of them can have a serious negative effect on your career. When you’re depressed, you’ll feel demotivated and listless, unable to gain any momentum on your work, and to the unaware, you could look like you don’t care about your job. If anxiety gets the better of you, you’ll feel constantly on edge and tense, possibly spiraling into an anxiety attack when confronted with a stressful situation.
6. Your physical health begins to suffer. Finally, as a result of sleep deprivation, your physical health could start deteriorating. You’ll gain weight, you’ll feel achy and sore, you’ll have headaches, and you’ll be far more susceptible to contagious illnesses since your immune system will be functioning inefficiently. Over time, insufficient sleep habits could lead you to heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even a stroke. None of these symptoms are going to help you in your career, and some of them may even jeopardize your life. Reconsider your priorities. If you continue your bad sleep habits, you may end up killing more than just your career.
Fortunately, sleep deprivation is a cycle that you can break out of. You first have to make a commitment to yourself; all too often, sleep deprivation is simply the result of a personal choice. You don’t have to work late every night. Make a commitment to get at least seven hours of sleep every night — even though eight to nine would be better — and practice habits that get you to sleep earlier; don’t drink caffeine before bed, don’t stay up watching television or using digital devices, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (even on weekends), and use meditation or relaxing music to help yourself get to sleep. In time, you can repair your sleep cycles and correct the problems that sleep deprivation caused you in the first place.