Like many other ambitious entrepreneurs out there, I reached a point where I was sacrificing my health for more hustle. Specifically: I thought I was a member of the special club of people who could disregard sleep.
I soon found out that I wasn’t a part of the special 1 percent who are exempt from adequate amounts of nightly sleep.
Instead, the only things that came with my sacrifice in the sleep department were weight gain, lethargy, foggy cognition and irritability, along with a decrease in performance and quality of life.
We’re living in the age of hustle and more hustle, where badges of honor are given out to those who neglect sleep for more hustle. And at first, that swap works: The damage doesn’t catch up with entrepreneurs immediately. But soon enough, it rears its ugly head.
Sacrificing sleep for the growth of your business amounts to thinking backward. While you may eventually obtain your desired resources, the most precious of these -- quality of life -- will most likely decrease due to your not prioritizing your health.
Your health is like the head of an octopus and the other various factors of life are the tentacles. When you don’t properly address the head, the rest of your life doesn’t operate efficiently. And the most fundamental factor for maintaining optimal health is prioritizing your sleep.
With that said, many people will be tempted to focus solely on their nighttime habits; but getting a great night's sleep starts with your morning habits. Just as a football team sets the tone in the first quarter to dictate the flow of the game, it's important that you start the morning (your first quarter) off in an ideal manner, to dictate the flow of your workday (and ability to sleep at night).
Improve your workday along with your sleep by using these three habits:
1. Wake up around the same time each day.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to develop a consistent wake-up time because your body has an internal clock that operates on a circadian rhythm set to release various hormones such as melatonin and cortisol at specific times; and that release happens in sync with numerous other fluctuations inside our body. These hormones play a starring role with your sleep, mood, energy levels and appearance.
Waking up around the same time each day trains your body to emerge from sleep when it needs to and keeps your circadian rhythm in its ideal flow -- thus leading to a more productive workday.
2. Expose yourself to light.
Ever struggle with sleeping at night? The probability is high that this problem stems from excessive exposure to the bright blue lights from digital device screens and from other artificial lighting, which suppresses melatonin production (a hormone associated with sleep).
But unlike what occurs at night, in the morning you want exposure to light since it helps calibrate your circadian rhythm to its proper sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to light in the morning kickstarts your day and removes morning grogginess sooner due to the suppression of melatonin and an increase in cortisol increased. Light exposure can even help with your body weight.
Related: 12 Habits to Dramatically Improve Your Sleep
Cortisol and melatonin have an inverse relationship. Cortisol in the morning is good since it helps with energy, mood and alertness, which are essential to a productive workday.
The easiest way to take advantage of this fact is to get some morning sun. With sunlight, you're getting a natural full spectrum of light along with a natural dose of Vitamin D, which benefits your mood, rate of aging, sleep, immune system and brain, among many other important body functions.
3. Get in a morning sweat session.
Researchers at Appalachian State University compared people in three exercise groups by assigning them to work out at different times. One group did this at 7 a.m., one at 1 p.m., and the third at 7 p.m. The morning people slept the longest, had the most beneficial sleep cycles and lowered their blood pressure the most. Late-night workouts, in contrast, were found to interfere with circadian rhythms and sleep quality due to elevated levels of cortisol, thus decreasing melatonin production.
With that said, morning workouts are a productivity booster, a cognitive and mood enhancer. While exercising at any time of the day helps burn calories, researchers at Brigham Young University found that morning exercisers were more active throughout the day and burned an extra 190 calories 14 hours after exercising compared to those exercising at other times.