14 May 2024

When ranking the skills required to run a successful company, the ability to get a good night’s sleep might not be high on the list. In fact, with the rise of hustle culture, you’re more likely to hear a CEO brag about how they only sleep five hours a night, in order to conquer the world of business. The truth is that you and your brain are the core of your business, and without good sleep, you won’t be functioning at your best.

In a role where each decision can significantly impact your business's trajectory, the importance of sleep is often undervalued. Sleep isn't just a period of rest, but a critical component of a healthy, effective decision-making process. Rather than being the enemy of work, sleep is a key opportunity to prepare for success.


Why Sleep Matters for Your Business

It’s common to hear that we should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but nearly three quarters (71%) of UK adults do not get the recommended seven to nine hours’ sleep a night. And it’s not just about quantity: 74% of UK adults have reported a decline in sleep quality.

Sleep cycles, consisting of stages including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM, repeat approximately every 90 minutes. Quality sleep involves enough cycles to allow both the body and mind to repair and rejuvenate.

It’s not just about your brain – sleep is also an essential time for your body to recover, helping to protect you from heart disease, anxiety, depression and obesity. Poor or insufficient sleep cuts short the time your body uses for cell regeneration and tissue growth, strengthening the immune system and supporting short and long-term memory.

Rather than fixating on the hours, focus on how you feel upon waking. Feeling refreshed is a good indicator that your sleep has been truly restorative.

Business leaders, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises where the pressure falls squarely on them, need to be at their best.

  • Sleep supports high-level cognitive functions such as problem-solving, decision-making, and memory.
  • Even moderate sleep deprivation can impair these functions as much as alcohol intoxication.
  • For entrepreneurs, whose daily activities demand innovation and sharp thinking, ensuring quality sleep is not a luxury, it’s essential.

But, as any business owner knows, it’s not always as simple as just closing your eyes.


Why Do Some People Struggle With Sleep?

In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, getting a good night's sleep seems harder than ever.  For busy business owners, the pressures are even greater.  From long hours to  24/7 connectivity,  it can feel like your brain never gets a chance to fully switch off.  This, combined with other factors, creates the perfect storm for sleeplessness.  Some of the biggest sleep disruptors include:

  • Stress Overload: For many of us, stress is likely a constant companion. 96% of small business owners admit to bottling up the stress of running their business – deadlines, financial worries, and those racing thoughts at bedtime all interfere with healthy sleep patterns.
  • Always-On Culture: Our addiction to our phones and the pressure to be constantly available blurs the lines between work and rest. The temptation to check emails or answer one more message well into the night is a major culprit behind sleep deprivation. The devices themselves seem to not help either – risk of poor sleep quality is around two-times worse among those who use a smartphone at bedtime for 16 to 30 minutes.
  • Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption: Many individuals consume caffeine or alcohol to manage the demands of their day, but both substances can significantly affect sleep. Caffeine can delay body clock timing and reduce sleep efficiency, while alcohol can interrupt the sleep cycle, reducing sleep quality.
  • Lifestyle and Work Schedules: Irregular work hours, like a business owner ready to jump on the next crisis that comes along, no matter the time, can disrupt natural sleep rhythms.. Furthermore, the pressurised culture prevalent in many entrepreneurial and business settings promotes long hours and high engagement with work, often at the expense of rest.
  • Physical Discomfort and Environmental Factors: An uncomfortable mattress or pillow, noise, light, or temperature extremes in the bedroom can prevent deep, restorative sleep. Additionally, physical ailments like chronic pain or respiratory issues can make it difficult to stay asleep.


Five Tips for Better Sleep

While everyone’s different, the first step to better sleep is to actually make it a priority. In a world – and career – that offers constant distraction and stimulation, it takes a conscious effort to invest in better sleep habits.

  1. Aim for a consistent sleep schedule: Our bodies are more mechanical than we like to think, timing their internal rhythms to cues around us. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body’s internal clock – set a routine that works for you and stick to it.

  2. Wind down routine: In tandem with a schedule comes a routine that provides clear signals to your body about what’s coming. Develop a pre-sleep flow that helps train your mind that it's time to wind down. This might include reading, stretching, or meditating.

  3. Limit screen time: Tempting as it might be, taking your phone to bed is a surefire way to reduce your sleep quality. The blue light emitted by screens on phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Avoid these screens at least an hour before bed – read a book instead.

  4. Watch what you eat and drink: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. Try to enjoy dinner earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy or rich foods within two hours of bed. Similarly, while alcohol can feel like it relaxes you, it actually interferes with your REM sleep.

  5. Invest in your sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is conducive to sleep—cool, quiet, and dark are ideal conditions. Investing in a good quality mattress and pillows can also make a significant difference, and save you a world of neck and back pain.


Is your business keeping you awake at night? Haines Watts accountants helps thousands of business owners get the control and confidence they need to run their companies with confidence. Why not get in touch with one of our advisors and find out how you can sleep easy with better visibility and advice.