In my time working as an entrepreneur nothing has been more central to my day to day success or the general cadence of work and motivation than sleep. And yet time and again I’d sabotage myself by not getting the sleep I needed – either working late or “rewarding” myself with a long gaming session on a weekend or evening.
It’s important to reward yourself and get a good work / life balance of course, don’t do it at the cost of sleep. Though that takes willpower I often lack when it counts.
We watched an excellent TED talk by Matt Walker about the importance of sleep in our lives;
In it Matt explains that the brain must undergo a process which only occurs in deep sleep to transfer short term memories amassed during the day into longer term (I assume mRNA based) memories. The transition of memories from short term electrical impulses to chemical / physical substrates has always fascinated me, but one for another blog.
During deep sleep these “spindles” of electrical activity are believed to be the coding of memories to these longer term storage methods, purging them from the hippocampus (which presumably keeps these electrical / transient memories running around and around).
Following this purge the ability of test subjects to absorb new information was increased by 60% (in the video he talks how those without good sleep did 40% worse, but conversely those with sleep did 60% better than those who did not. Unless my maths wrong, which is highly likely).
He then went on to explain how important deep sleep is to the immune system – and how the world health organisation has identified lack of sleep as a possible carcinogenic. That’s pretty mental. “I can sleep when I’m dead” is actually around the wrong way, and should not be the mentality of hard working entrepreneurs (or for that matter, gamers!).
So, get your sleep. Set a regular time to get into bed so you get your circadian rhythm on your side, and steer clear of coffee after mid-day (I bloody love my coffee, *sigh*). Don’t have a different time for weekends – your body doesn’t understand breaks in your rhythms like that. Don’t drink booze at night (GOD DAMN IT).
If you find yourself tossing and turning over your latest challenge, change something in your environment. Strip off. Change beds. Go sleep on the sofa. Open a window. It gives your body and mind a little reset / kick in the chuffs (a gentle, caring one).