Want to be a better leader? Get more sleep.

A guide to getting a good night's sleep as a startup founder.

Nate staggered, steadying himself on the dinged-up car. 

"No, really. I'm fine. I can drive home." 

Brennen and Hannah locked eyes for a moment then shook their heads. Nate thought he was fine. He even felt fine. Yet these two knew better.

It had been three weeks since Nate had a full night's sleep. He imagined he was doing everyone a favor by working overtime before launch. Instead, he'd become a big liability - in decisions, on the road, and now to his co founders. 

"Get in," Hannah said, "We're driving you home and you're getting some sleep." 

A brief and terrifying overview of sleep loss 😱

Once you've been awake for more than 19 hours, you're as impaired as if you'd been drinking heavily. 🍹Sustained sleep deprivation has similar effects and sleep loss is linked to a shorter life span, Alzheimer's, depression, diabetes, weight gain, and cancer.

Seriously. Night shift work is a probable carcinogen. 😬

Sleep loss and your bottom line 💰

Those physical effects are scary but they admittedly seem distant. The temptation to cram in extra work at sleep's expense feels more urgent, sometimes necessary. 😓

Yet moderate sleep loss nukes your performance, decision making, and creative thinking. What's more, you communicate to your employees that losing sleep is a good - even expected! - behavior. 

Creativity and decision making are everything in an early-stage startup, so it's not hard to see how lost sleep quickly turns into lost profit.  💸

Note: Studies show that sleep deprived persons are not self-aware. This means that, like Nate, you can feel fine and think you're fine but actually be making a total mess of things. 🤔

Better sleep starts with awareness 😴

A good night's sleep is in your physical and entrepreneurial best interest. Here's how you can get it. It starts with knowing the friends, enemies, and frenemies of a blissful 8 hours snuggling your pillow.

Friends 💤

These are your best buds when it comes to getting a good night's sleep: 

A consistent schedule: Yes, even on the weekends. 🗓

Cool bedroom/house: 65 F is an ideal sleep temp for most people. If that's too cold or expensive, opt for as cool as makes sense. ⛄

Hot bath or shower: A steamy plunge before bed lowers heart rate and stress levels. 🚿

Processing your day: Make a to-do list for the next day or write down what went well today. 🖋

A relaxing bedroom: Zen out your bedroom. Remove TV, exercise equipment and clutter. 😌

Meditation: Anxiety and stress can play a big factor in sleep loss. Meditation helps calm your mind. 

Bedtime rituals: It doesn't have to involve PJs but it should involve powering down devices. 🌛

Enemies 🚫

Eager to be a sleep-deprived, poor-performing zombie? Hang out with this crowd: 

  • Stigmas: We associate sleep with weakness and laziness. In our rush to be busy, we even brag about losing sleep. Yet 8 hours of sleep a night isn't lazy, weak, or indulgent. It's a smart business strategy. 🙌

  • Light: All light keeps us up and represses melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep) production. For a better night's sleep, limit light exposure before bed and make your room pitch dark. 💡

  • LED-emitting devices: See above. 📱

  • All-nighters: Self explanatory.  self>
  • Caffeine, alcohol and sleeping pills ☕🍷💊

  • The snooze button: The sleep you get between whacking your alarm is low quality. Set your alarm later to when you'll actually get up and soak in uninterrupted sleep until then. ⏰

  • Only use your bed for sleep and romance: We associate objects with actions. Save work, emails, and phone calls for your office or desk. 🛏💃

  • Tense discussions: Stress is a sleep enemy so leave that can-of-worms conversation for tomorrow. You’ll probably handle it better when you’re less tired anyway! 

Frenemies 🤷

Sometimes this crew works in your favor. Other times, they work against you. It's all about how you approach them:

  • Exercise: Getting a good workout in will help you sleep better...unless you work out within three hours of bedtime. Get your workout in before dinnertime. 🏃

  • Sleep monitoring devices: A lot of apps and devices will help you track your sleep. They can also make you totally neurotic about it. Use these apps wisely and only if you have a good reason to monitor your sleep. ⌚

To get the most out of yourself, your employees, and your business, get a good night's sleep. You'll be a better leader for it. ✨

Disclaimer: sleep disorders do exist and they are treatable. This newsletter explains how to cultivate healthy sleep habits. It does not address chronic sleep disorders. If you think you have a sleep disorder, talk with a doctor or a counselor for expert direction. 

"A good sleep policy is smart business strategy." 

- Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com