Sleep your way to success

What with work, side projects, and my five daughters, I often get asked ‘when do you actually have time to sleep’.

Former President Bill Clinton once said “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired” and that’s because sleep matters considerably more than people give it credit for.

Dr Stuart Quan & Dr Russell Sanna, of the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, found that “sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher level cognitive functions: the combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance” — basically with limited sleep you don’t think as well.

In new parents this gets termed ‘baby-brain’, so if we look at those who don’t sleep enough because they’re constantly working we could just as easily call it ‘over-worked-brain’. Your brain is just too busy doing things whilst it is awake it doesn’t have time to repair itself when you sleep.

A 2013 study on mice showed that during sleep the brain clears out harmful waste proteins that build up between its cells, and that it only happens during sleep. So no sleep, no clean up! And in many cases, no sleep higher stress levels and greater risk of heart disease and diabetes according to a Duke University study.

In my case, I’ve had to take steps to try and not work too hard and to try and get some sleep … wherever I can.

I’ve introduced a going to bed time, met with disgust by my wife who thinks I’m treating her like a 10 year old, but I think it might work.

I’ve already got my work messaging app set to ‘do not disturb’ between 8pm and 8am so I’m not interrupted and I’ve got a laptop that changes the colour of the light it emits from daytime blue to an evening glow as it approaches sunset, because dealing with electronic devices can really interrupt your ability to get a good night’s sleep.

As passengers of Southeastern Rail will tell you, I’m also a huge advocate of sleeping on the train. The 15 minutes as my high speed train gets up to high speed and whizzes through some East London tunnels is enough to help me top up on the sleep I’ve missed out on because our one-year-old has decided that 5am is playtime.

There has been no culture of working late in the businesses I’ve worked for. If you’re working late it’s because you love the job, not because the company insists on it. In fact, we’ve always insisted that you don’t do it regularly and tell you to switch off your laptop if we think you’re working too hard.

We don’t want to be making mistakes like Bill Clinton now do we!

How can you improve the sleep your getting?

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Helping people kick start their product management career at gettingstartedinproduct.com * Product person at Watchfinder

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