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Make sleep work for you

Sleep plays a key role in problem-solving, immune functioning, memory, learning, coping and mood and is an incredibly important part of our day-to-day lives. As many small business owners attempt to balance the load, one of the first things they will often sacrifice is sleep.

Research shows that people with better sleep quality report less depression, less stress, better self-reported physical and mental health status, less physical illness, and fewer mental illnesses.

The average person needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. However for small business owners, it can be difficult to get this much sleep. Although having enough sleep is important, the quality of your sleep is key. Having eight hours of restless sleep is not necessarily going to help. Instead, making sure that the sleep you do get is the best quality possible will help you to be more productive and healthy.

One of the ways to improve the quality of your sleep is to improve your sleep habits. This is also called sleep hygiene. Below are a number of sleep hygiene strategies provided by various sleep health foundations.

Tips for good sleep habits:

Increase behaviours that promote good sleep

  • Have a fairly regular sleep schedule (even on weekends)
  • Have a nap if you need it ( 30-60 minutes not too close to bedtime can help with alertness; but don’t nap if you experience insomnia)
  • Schedule some “worry time” (e.g. writing in a diary, venting to a friend, etc.) before bedtime so you don’t take your concerns to bed
  • Trying relaxation exercises or activities before bed (e.g. meditation, reading, yoga)
  • Exercise each day.

Set up a good pre-sleep routine

  • Try and maintain the same sleep routine most evenings. Your body will quickly learn to associate this routine with sleep time and you may fall asleep more easily.
  • Your routine could include having a warm shower, a cup of herbal or other non-caffeinated tea, reading a book, or softening or turning down the lights. Focusing on calming activities can help falling and staying asleep.

Set up a good sleep environment

  • Have a comfortable bed
  • Reduce distracting lights and sounds in your bedroom
  • Try to make the temperature of your room comfortable for you.

Avoid unhelpful behaviours

  • The use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs close to bedtime
  • Smoking can effect falling asleep and staying asleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, and nicotine side effects can cause insomnia and withdrawal symptoms similar to caffeine. Smokers spend more time sleeping lightly and less time in deep sleep than non-smokers
  • Use of technology (mobile phones, TV, computers, other screens) close to bed time
  • Caffeine close to bedtime
  • Mentally stimulating activities close to bedtime
  • Exercising close to bedtime
  • Falling asleep on the lounge before bed.

Make sleep work for you

The number of sleep hygiene strategies above might seem overwhelming. Instead of trying to do all of them, it might be more beneficial to focus on a few at a time and see which ones help.

Taking sleep seriously is important as a lack of sleep, or poor sleep quality, can negatively impact our health and our daily functioning. However, people often do not prioritise sleep and sacrifice this vital health benefit to do other activities. Try to set some sleep goals for yourself, and your mental health will be rewarded for your efforts.


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