I’m not going to waste your precious time explaining why sleep is important. I’m not going to quote studies and tell stories to convince you to rest well. You know all that.
There are any number of reasons why someone can’t get to sleep, and physical ones are worth a mention. The temperature of the room, the darkness of the room, the comfort of the pillow or mattress and the noise from outside. They’re the basics. I’ll assume that you’ve sorted them as best as you can.
Habitat aside, here are some other reasons why entrepreneurs might not be able to get to sleep.
Worrying about the past or future
You’re anxious about the future or dwelling on the past. You’re caught in unhelpful thought patterns about what has been or what might be and can’t seem to shake them. You’ve come to associate being in bed with lying awake worrying and each night it happens the link is reinforced.
At best, your brain is working overtime trying to find the answers. At worst, you’re replaying situations that have happened and cannot be changed. You’re scared to shut off in case you miss something else.
Whatever is going wrong, the minutes before bedtime are not the right time to put it right. Willpower runs on a reserve of mental energy that diminishes throughout the day, like your personal battery pack. Forgive your fear-based thoughts and chalk it up to the late hour rather than a sign of anything more sinister.
MORE FOR YOU
You’re really onto something and you can’t wait to work on it every single day. You can see so much potential that it has consumed you. You’re aware that making it happen involves masses of your input and you don’t want to let that slip for a second.
After you finally managed to get a night’s sleep, you’re waking up raring to go. You’ll talk about it to anyone who will listen, and you’ll type away at record speed. It’s going to change the world and it’s going to be big.
The best version of you operates on rest. Even when adrenaline levels are high and you’re on a mission to act, the happiest and most productive person you can be has slept. Write a list, meditate or practice patience. Switch off earlier. It’s a great problem to have but a cranky, knackered leader isn’t what your grandiose plans require.
Perhaps you’ve reached the end of the day and had a sudden realisation that you didn’t achieve what you wanted to. Perhaps you spent it hurrying around fulfilling pointless obligations, or being distracted, or helping others towards their goals whilst ignoring your own. Maybe you’re questioning if your entire week, month or even year has been misspent.
In the book Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield introduces the concept of a shadow life: a life someone lives that is different to their true purpose and serves only to distract from it. Perhaps you really have settled for less than what you’re capable of, and your realisation becomes lucid after another day of avoiding your calling.
Going to sleep with satisfaction requires waking up with determination and then seeing it through into action. There’s no other way. The only way to find out what you’re truly capable of is to get started. Look ahead. The only way to see if something is worth the risk is to take the leap. Sleep soundly whilst living your dream life or stay awake thinking about what it might look like.
A niggling feeling
The subconscious is a wonderful and powerful thing. It’s processing millions of fragments of information each second and it’s storing data about everything we see, feel and hear. It’s why gut feelings are so important. We aren’t sure why we feel uneasy about that person or that situation, but something is telling us we should steer clear.
Our subconscious knows things we don’t. It’s clocked the sarcastic undertones or the cracks the paper is hiding. Ignore it at your peril. Perhaps that niggling feeling is keeping you awake but you can’t quite pin down what it’s about. You’re convinced you’re missing something, but what?
A niggling feeling is either a sign something is slowly going wrong, or that something amazing is around the corner. Consider an artist whose work has been exhibited, for all to see, for the first time. Will people like it? Will they hate it? Enter niggling feelings. Perhaps you’ve experienced them when interviewing candidates or signing up a new client. Your choice involves learning to live with them; accepting them as by-products of putting yourself out there, or exploring what they are hiding to eliminate them. Neither involves missing sleep.
Locate the cause of your inability to drift off and cure it head-on. Live your true calling and give every day your all to sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that you’re exactly where you need to be.