I wake up, and I look at the clock. It’s 2:14 AM. I had gone to sleep at midnight, and here I was, awake two hours later.
“Maybe this time, I’ll be able to break the pattern and go back to sleep,” I say to myself. For the next hour, my mind was racing, as I tried to get back to sleep.
The topic of the evening, as it was just about every evening: “How am I going to solve my problems with my investors?”
I couldn’t get my mind to just slow down and relax.
Instead, there I was, having a knock down, drag out fight with my eyes closed, as I tried not to wake up my wife.
I look at the clock again, and it read 3:03 AM.
“Screw it,” I say to myself.
I got up and went to my home office next door to our bedroom. For next 35 minutes, I answered emails that I hadn’t gotten to.
I look at the clock, and it read 3:38 AM.
“Maybe now I’ll be able to get back to sleep,” I mumble to myself as I trudge back to the bedroom.
I climb back into bed. Blossom is blissfully asleep, unaware that I’ve been up for close to the last two hours.
I try again.
It seems like it takes forever, but eventually I fall asleep. I’m dreaming that I finally won my battle with my investors when the alarm goes off at 5:00 AM.
Yes, you can run a company on less than five hours a night of sleep. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
For over one year, that was my pattern. I would sleep for two to four hours a night. Some nights, I didn’t sleep at all.
I was, despite my lack of sleep, still somewhat functional running my company. Maybe it was just the adrenaline running through my body, but I did it.
I didn’t have the coping mechanisms I know have, so I was just trying to survive. I’m certain my health suffered because of the intense stress I was under.
Take naps if you’re short on sleep.
I did have one trick back then that did help me. When I was really dragging, I would get in my car at lunch and I’d drive to an empty parking lot.
I’d park my car in the shade, and I’d set a timer to wake me in fifteen minutes. Then I’d put my seat as flat as I could get it, and I’d try to get a short nap in.
This gave me the energy I’d need to get through the rest of the day.
You’re not at your best when you’re operating on minimal amounts of sleep.
But who was I kidding? I knew I wasn’t nearly at my best. I wasn’t as focused as I wanted to be. My creativity was down. Worse yet, my temper was short. And most embarrassingly of all, I was falling asleep in meetings.
That’s what happens when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. Now imagine not getting a good night’s sleep for a year, and you can understand what I went through.
The book, “Why We Sleep,” by Mathew Walker, changed my life.
A couple of years ago, long after I went through my sleepless ordeal as CEO, I was introduced to Why We Sleep. It was a life changer.
The book is written by Andrew Walker, a professor at UC Berkeley who studies the importance of sleep.
Why We Sleep is a must read for any startup CEO. Simply put, you’ll pay dearly if you don’t get the right amount of sleep you need, just like I did.
Did you know that if you go without sleep for around 14 days you will die?
Did you know that your chances of getting Alzheimers Disease go way up if you don’t get enough sleep every night? This around 7 to 8 hours for most adults.
Did you know that can’t make up for your lack of sleep during the week on the weekends?
Did you know that drinking alcohol at night affects your quality of sleep?
So, after getting scared by the information Dr. Walker was sharing in Why We Sleep, I decided to make some life changes.
I decided I was going to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. I got to bed earlier and I woke up a little later. And, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I use meditation to get myself quickly back to sleep.
The changes I made prioritizing sleep made a dramatic change in the quality of my life. Here’s what I found:
A. My energy level is higher, and…
B. I am much more focused resulting in…
C. My productivity increasing, plus…
D. I’m more creative, and…
E. I’m getting more done than I was in less time, and, all in all…
E. I’m happier
Not so bad. And it’s so easy to do. You just need to get to bed a little earlier and wake up a little bit later.