Sleep Deprivation and How Entrepreneurs Can Put it to Rest

Sleep Deprivation and How Entrepreneurs Can Put it to Rest

Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day and wants to get the most out of them. As our waking (and working) hours stretch beyond sunset, we steal time from our sleep.

In theory, sleeping less ought to be a blessing for those who have too much to do and too little time. You have more time to be productive and get things done. It would aid in long-term success, as they would be doing more than those who are fast asleep, right? 


While the notion of burning the midnight oil and working while others sleep may have seemed rather romantic and motivational in the past, we now know about the dire consequences that can accompany long-term sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation: having inadequate sleep

While healthy and optimal sleeping patterns vary according to the individual, an average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep per day to function optimally. Adolescents, whose bodies are constantly growing, should sleep for about eight to ten hours every day. However, some may willingly give up their sleep hours in order to get things done.

Thus, poor lifestyle choices can lead to a severely harmful loss of sleep. When one is not sleeping adequately on a regular basis, it can yield detrimental effects on the body and the psyche. The longer the individual is deprived of sleep, the more severe effects one will experience.

Phases of sleep deprivation can generally be marked at 12-hour increments:

  1. Going 24 hours without sleep can cause drowsiness, fatigue, irritability and reduced coordination.
  2. Going 36 hours without sleep begins to impair one’s cognitive abilities, causing difficulty with recall and learning new information, reduced reaction time and hampered decision-making.
  3. Going 48 hours without sleep enters the territory of extreme sleep deprivation. This can cause anxiety, depersonalization, increased irritability, extreme fatigue and, in some cases, even hallucinations. 
  4. Going 72 hours without sleep can increase the frequency of microsleeps (episodes of sleep of less than 30 seconds) and cause increasingly complex hallucinations, illusions and delusions.
  5. Going 96 hours or more without sleep can lead to distorted perceptions of reality and sleep deprivation psychosis—disconnection from reality that can present as hallucinations or delusional thinking.

While it is possible to recover fully from sleep deprivation, however, extreme deviation from a sleep cycle would also take a long time to recover.

Insomnia: having trouble falling asleep

A common physiological issue that can contribute to sleep deprivation is insomnia. People suffering from insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting enough restful slumber. It can be caused by environmental stressors, like constantly thinking about work and overthinking day-to-day plans. These stressors will set off the individual’s adrenaline responses, putting them in an extended state of awareness and not allowing the body to relax.

Over time, lack of sleep can lead to health problems, like diabetes, hypertension and weight gain, to name a few. It can also cause irritation, moodiness, fatigue as well as memory and concentration issues.

Revenge bedtime procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination refers to a situation where people put off going to bed in order to engage in activities that they don’t have time for during the day. It is often an attempt to find time for leisure and entertainment, often at the expense of sleep.

The term “revenge” here refers to the individual’s attempt to take back control over their own time, which most people feel deprived of. This form of procrastination is commonly seen in individuals working long hours, holders of high-stress jobs, students and even parents of young children, who may not find much time for themselves during the day.

While delaying one’s bedtime for a couple of hours on a day or two doesn’t cause any significant damage, the problem arises when revenge bedtime procrastination becomes a regular habit.

Late nights followed by early mornings for an extended period can cause severe sleep deprivation. It can hurt one’s ability to function the next day and affect daily performance, physical and mental health over time.

Sleep and entrepreneurship

Many entrepreneurs struggle with insomnia and sleep deprivation. It’s no secret that running a business is rigorous, busy work. Some tend to work late into the night in an attempt to “make insomnia pay rent” and get the most productivity out of their sleepless state. This is not ideal. 

Entrepreneur insomnia can be caused by many factors, such as a lack of regular routine from the dynamic lifestyles, stress from work, dehydration and even the lack of a proper diet.

While sleeping less seems to help one achieve short-term goals, like meeting daily deadlines, it can be a major contributor to burnout in the long run, which will lead to more sleep problems, forming a vicious cycle. 

So what’s the solution?

Insomnia and sleep deprivation can be managed by consistently adhering to positive lifestyle changes. We have listed some of these below:

1. Set clear work hours

Work-life balance is very important for good sleep. Creating a clear distinction between work and rest hours trains the mind to associate rest time with comfort and relaxation. It also prevents the body from remaining in a perpetually alert state.

2. Differentiate work from entertainment

It is one thing to enjoy your work and another to substitute enjoyment with work. You should avoid forms of entertainment that include aspects related to your job. Simply separate work and leisure activities can do. Further, try not to consume content based on your profession, as it keeps you alert and forces you to try and correlate your own work with what you’re watching/reading about.

3. Associate your bed only with rest

Working from home during the pandemic has blurred the distinction between places of work and places of rest, fueling the “coronasomnia” (insomnia caused/accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic). If you feel restless and unable to sleep, move out of bed. Go back to bed only when you’re sleepy. Avoid working in bed as much as possible. In time, your mind can begin to associate your bed and bedroom as a space of comfort and safety and, by extension, sleep.

4. Stay organized

For many people, one of the primary stressors that keeps them up at night is overthinking about all the things that they have to get done. It might help to keep a to-do list or organizer of all the tasks you need to get done the next day. If you find yourself swamped with thoughts all the time, you might want to consider doing a “brain dump” to organize your ideas by writing them down, for instance, in a notebook or digital journal.

When you have the assurance of not having to rely solely on memory, relaxing becomes a lot easier. The desire for professional growth is important, and business competition can be cutthroat; but with this knowledge, we hope you will lose less sleep over them now.

Banner image courtesy of Unsplash


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