Research and reports
Here Sanjay Verma, Chief Sleep Officer at sleep, health and wellness group Hilding Anders, gives seven tips for self-employed people struggling with sleep.
Research shows that the majority of us aren’t getting enough sleep. For busy self-employed people, a lack of sleep can have a big impact on managing your business – and your health in general.
A survey of 4,000 people by Hilding Anders shows that people in the UK are getting 1.4 hours less sleep than they want to a night.
Sleep has a huge effect on your general health and wellbeing. If you’re self-employed, you might struggle to switch off from work, so you especially need to make sure that a lack of sleep isn’t contributing to an unhealthy work-life balance.
While late nights are sometimes necessary, too many of them can negatively impact the time you spend on your business day-to-day.
There are small changes you can make to help you get more (and better) sleep – ultimately improving your health and your ability to manage your business.
This could be an opportunity to ‘reset’ your relationship with sleep, optimising sleep patterns to improve your wellbeing – and performance at work.
Here are seven methods small business owners can use to improve sleep.
Music is a great way to improve sleep and to help you unwind after a long, pressured working day. Calming music calms parts of the autonomic nervous system, leading to slower breathing, lower heart rate, and reduced blood pressure.
There’s certain music which is ideal for this, including binaural and meditation music. This music helps slow your system down so you’re not trying to fall asleep – the stresses of the day diminish and you drift off naturally.
If you subscribe to music streaming services like Spotify or Tidal, you can usually find playlists designed to help you get to sleep. Spotify has playlists called Sleep and Deep Sleep that feature soothing, ambient music.
We need sunlight to reset our body clock, which has a life cycle of slightly more than 24 hours. Our body clock needs resetting every day – it resets primarily through sunlight, but it’s also affected by the time you eat, how much light exposure you’re getting, drinking coffee, and so on.
Try to start your day with sunlight in the morning, preferably within one hour of getting up. This can help you reset your body clock, assess how to tackle the day, and generally improve your sleep quality. Getting outside can be a great mood booster, plus it’s exercise, which is associated with switching off at night.
Decoration and ambience in the bedroom affects your sleep quality and how easily you drift off. The ideal sleep environment is cool, quiet and dark, free of computers and screens. So, look around and decide what should and shouldn’t be in your bedroom.
This is particularly important if your bedroom is also doubling up as your working environment. To help you separate work and home life, consider swapping your TV or work monitor for some aromatherapy, relaxation or yoga at the very end of the day.
Investing in a good mattress is one of the best things you can do to improve your quality of sleep. If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll find it harder to drift off, resulting in more hours spent tossing and turning in bed rather than actually getting much-needed sleep.
Spending a little bit more on a higher-quality mattress that fits your needs can go a long way in improving your overall mood and wellbeing. You’ll soon reap the benefits – you could consider it a business investment that helps you improve performance.
Physical activity should help improve your sleep as it increases sleep duration, improving sleep quality overall. Getting out and keeping your body moving, whether on a long walk or a jog, is all the more important when we’re spending more time at home.
Exercise also reduces stress, resulting in your mind switching off from work slowly and leading to a much better night’s sleep. A short walk before or after work or a lunchtime run can help you to temporarily detach from the working day, refreshing your mind.
Light negatively affects sleep – especially the blue light that we get through electronic screens, including mobile phones, laptops and tablets.
On top of this, the very act of scrolling through social media or emails before we go to sleep can stimulate feelings of excitement, worry and stress.
This leads to higher cortisol and adrenaline levels, which aren’t great when trying to fall asleep. We need melatonin to drift off, but this is suppressed as cortisol increases. Consider switching late night scrolling for a book, or set a hard deadline for your last email check. Ideally this should be an hour or two before you get your head down for the night.
Finally, it’s common sense that getting an early night and establishing a routine can help improve your sleep. But did you know that too many late nights and early starts can weaken your immunity to viral infections?
In one study, conducted in a controlled environment, people who slept for five hours compared to seven were three times more likely to catch a viral infection. This means that just two hours less sleep a night can impact your health.
So wherever possible, aim to build a routine with a regular bedtime and rising time, so that your sleeping pattern becomes regulated. You should be aiming for seven or eight hours sleep a night.
So, getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to boost your immunity and fight virual infections.
Ultimately, if you’re running your own small business, taking care of your personal health and wellness – paying particular attention to sleep – makes great business sense.
This article was originally published on 27 January 2021 as part of our Better for Business wellbeing initiative.
Sanjay Verma is the Chief Sleep Officer at Hilding Anders. He believes that sleep helps maximise performance, and that individuals can boost their immunity and help protect themselves against a whole host of viral infections by implementing a healthy sleep routine.
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