09/11/2013 09:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Brain Power Is Key for Creating Content for Business: Rethink How You Sleep


Aside from providing design services and creating content, I also lead a remote team of 13 people from the United States and across the globe. I often speak and attend one to two industry conferences a month. Running a business, especially one that relies on my creative and technical skills, requires me to be mentally and physically at the top of my game. Many people have asked me what's my secret for staying productive. To be quite honest, there really is no secret. No matter how busy I get, I always make sure to get at least six to eight hours of sleep a night. As a morning person, I always get to bed early, so I can start my day fully recharged and refreshed.

Does Less Sleep Mean More Success?

Many people think most business owners who forego sleep are more successful. I can understand why people have that opinion. Some argue that the longer they are awake working, the more they can get done. With the current state of the global economy, I can also see why business owners embrace maintaining a very lean team and reward employees who work long hours with little rest. While you may think sacrificing a goodnight's sleep allows you to get more done, it will eventually hurt your business.

The Problem With Sleep Deprivation

What would you rather have: employees who go home on time because they are productive and do quality work while at the office, or tired and unproductive employees who have to stay after hours and do subpar work? Chronic Sleep Deprivation affects health, performance and safety. Staying awake longer than 18 consecutive hours will significantly decrease your reaction time and memory. It's much harder to focus when you're tired, and your decision making capacity is often adversely affected. Even worse, sleep deprivation accumulates over time. Over time if this pattern continues, hyper tension, obesity and heart disease is often the result. See crazy facts about sleep.

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

There are varying opinions on what is the right amount of sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, the number of hours really depends on age and lifestyle. The chart below can be use as a guideline. Note that adults over the age of 18 should be getting at least 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

Average Sleep Needs

Want Success? Sleep More

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post says "sleep your way to success" if you want to be successful and I agree with her. Incubating ideas and innovation is key for growth. One simple way to make sure that we stay on top of our game is to be well rested and consistently get the right amount of sleep. I have found that the following practices have worked well for me and may help you too:

  • Manage stress and deadlines - A big concern when you run a publishing or content business is meeting deadlines. The fast pace of this business can cause a huge amount of stress for everyone on your team. To reduce stress, create a content calendar that will help everyone focus on priorities and stay on track. By everyone being on the same page and knowing what is expected, productivity will increase and the need to rush and cram will be diminished or at least minimized.
  • Set a reasonable time for work - Executives should not expect their employees to work more than 60 hours a week. If there are occasions when overtime is necessary, team members need a reasonable amount of time to recuperate. This may seem unproductive on the surface, but if you encourage your team to get the proper rest, they will be far more productive in the long run. Remember happy employees means better productivity and effectiveness in the workplace.
  • Allow yourself time to recuperate when traveling - If you speak at conferences and travel a lot, try to avoid late night, red eye flights. If you cannot avoid it, give yourself some time to rest in between your talks or meetings. Believe me, you will be far more effective, alert and focused. Your body will thank you for it.

Here are simple sleep promoting techniques that can help you get the rest you need:

  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks close to bed time - Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics that can wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Perhaps in place of having that late afternoon coffee, take a 15-20 minute nap instead.
  • Make your bedroom sleep friendly - Keep your lights dim and room cool. Try not to work close to bed time to avoid too much mental stimulation. Both your mind and body need time to relax. Turn off your mobile devices and keep them out of arm's reach, so you're not tempted to check your email when going to bed.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule - Get in sync with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and your circadian rhythm to maximize the benefits of a good night's sleep.
  • Be smart with your nap time - Taking a nap is a great way to recharge, but make sure you don't nap to close to your bed time to avoid sleep issues at night.
  • Avoid alcohol near bed time - Having a nightcap may not be a great idea after all. Alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, but it reduces the quality of your sleep.
  • See a sleep expert/doctor - If you have done everything you can and are still struggling with sleep problems, you may have a sleep problem that requires professional treatment. Go see a doctor. There is nothing wrong with getting professional help. The faster you do it, the quicker you will resolve your sleep problems.


No matter what type of business you run or work you do, I highly recommend you make work-life balance a high priority. If you want to raise your own level of performance as well as your organizations, make sure everyone is getting the proper rest (see my thoughts on quantified self -- living a data-driven life). Sleep deprivation is a serious problem. Brain power is key to creativity and mental alertness. If you and your team are well rested, then you will be able to perform at your peak, avoid mistakes and be happier on the job. How much sleep do you get at night? Are you sleep deprived? What steps are you taking to promote better sleep patterns?