Is The Lack of Sleep Making You Stupid?

By LeAnna J. Carey | Jun 21, 2012

Is The Lack of Sleep Making You Stupid?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, "life consists in what a man is thinking of all day."  Career and life success is not based on wishful thinking, but clear and focused long range thinking.  Most of us would agree that it can be a challenge to work through that afternoon brain fog with the same energy that jump started the day.  The key is getting enough sleep; however, the gap between understanding that there is nothing more restorative or rejuvenating than a full 7-8 hours of sleep and taking actions to get that sleep is where most of us find ourselves.  While it comes as no surprise that Americans are sleep deprived, it may be eye-opening that sleep does have an impact on memory, learning and productivity; in other words, thinking.

What are the benefits of a good nights sleep?

  • Everyday we take in a multitude of information, some of it important and meaningful, some not so meaningful.  When we have a good nights sleep, cognitive processing takes place, so that meaningful information is filtered. (1) 
  • According to Psychologist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the brain 'resets' itself during sleep, so that the brain wakes up 'fresh' and ready to learn and process more information. 
  • Sleep has a direct affect on our health and well-being.  In an interview focused on the benefits of sleep, Susan Redline explains that, "the rise of our chronic health problems, like diabetes and obesity have happened in parallel with changes in the amount of sleep that we as a society are getting.
  • Sleep has a direct affect on your work productivity.  Entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan says that,  "Working overtime doesn't increase your output.  It makes you stupid...lose just one night's sleep and your cognitive capacity is roughly the same as being over the alcohol limit."
  • Getting the right amount of sleep impacts both declarative memory (what we know) and procedural memory (remembering how to do something).  "When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information." (2)

Looks like many successful people have figured out that sleep is instrumental in their success journey - it begins with thinking and thinking begins with sleeping.  What time are you going to bed tonight? 

(1) Cognitive Processing and Sleep: Implications for Enhancing Job Performance. James K. Wyatt and Richard R. Bootzin

(2)Ellenbogen JM, Payne JD, Stickgold R. The role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation: passive, permissive, active or none? Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec;16(6):716-22. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


Entrepreneurs Do Need Energy

By LeAnna J. Carey | May 18, 2012

Entrepreneurs Do Need Energy

George Eliot said that, "the important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men."  Sounds like the perfect description of an entrepreneur.  The other characteristic that entrepreneurs seem to share is that achieving work life balance is not their number one priority. According to Jeffrey Stibel, in his well-written Harvard Business Review article, Entrepreneurs Don't Need Work-Life Balance, entrepreneurs have “zero balance…we’re all in, all the time.”  Like many, I do not disagree with Stibel, in fact I think he is spot on.  What may resonate with entrepreneurs is that they do need energy to keep their unrelenting pace.

For entrepreneurs, productivity is a priority.  Therefore, understanding the importance of syncing personal schedules with the body’s cyclic rhythms to increase energy levels is insight (and science) that will probably not frustrate the entrepreneur.  Our daily ability to  renew our energy levels is dependent on syncing light, food, temperature and activity cycles.  While the majority of us fall back on familiar routines, the entrepreneur may not be aware that they are out of sync, have missed a meal, or have worked through the night to solve a problem.  To realize their potential, entrepreneurs need to strategize personally and professionally on how not to run out of steam.  Let's examine how we can renew our daily energy:

·         Light.  Think about how the built environment and the fast paced workday works against us with electrical lighting and spending hours inside buildings.  Our bodies respond to the rhythms of night and day.  For example, the release of  melatonin is critical to rest...which is critical to energy.  Take the time to go outside during the day for an energy blast.  

·         Food.  Yes, we know - entrepreneurs eat on the run, but did you know that with one night of poor sleep, more calories (up to 500) will be consumed the next day?   Start the day with a decent breakfast which syncs up with cortisol release to help transition to wakefulness. 

·         Temperature.  Where do bats sleep for 16 hours of the day? A cool dark cave, I'll let you connect the dots.

·         Activity.  You need a plan to work out just as much as your business needs a plan.  Your schedule is never going to open up for you to exercise; so let me ask you, how long have you been sitting at your desk today or how long has it been since you have taken a sip of water? Remember that research shows that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue. While we all have the same 24 hours, entrepreneurs tend to overestimate what they can squeeze into their day.       

Like all of us, entrepreneurs are on a journey, the difference with entrepreneurs is that  they know they will regret not using every spare minute to follow their dreams - that's why they need energy.  


What is Stress, Part 2

By LeAnna J. Carey | Mar 23, 2012

What is Stress, Part 2

William James said, "The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."  In our last post, we addressed the impact that stress has on the body and unhealthy stress relievers.  Few are immune to the uncontrolled events of the economy, demands in the work place, and uncertainty about the future.  In fact, according to Dr. Dexter Shurney, scientists are finding that "it is often the inability to take action, or a sense of helplessness that infuses even more stress."  Mastering how we handle stress is a key ingredient to our quality of life. Can you look back on this past week and point to where you took action on something that is causing you stress?

It is important to believe that you can master how you approach stress.  In Albert Bandura's book, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, he states that, "people's beliefs in their capabilities to produce desired effects by their own actions," points to his theory that our beliefs are an important determination of how we persevere in the face of challenges or under certain conditions.  Learning and applying skills on how to approach stress intentionally is a habit that is developed over time and a result of how knowledge plays a key role in not limiting our own internal resources.    

Begin by assessing what your normal reaction is when you are thrown a curve ball - be honest, do you fall into negative thinking?  This is a learned behavior that can be replaced with more positive and healthy thinking.  Dr. Virginia Gurley explains that, "contrary to the myth that your brain stops developing after childhood, your brain continues to grow, change and develop throughout life.  This is called neural plasticity, and brain researchers are finding that neural plasticity can change how we react to pain, stressful events and unhealthy coping habits."   

To tackle the next stress curve ball head on, Dr. Dexter Shurney recommends the following tips, what he refers to as the Perfect 7 to help overcoming stress:

  1. Don't ignore the stressor - instead take action.
  2. Plan appropriately, but do not worry about things you cannot change.
  3. Strive for purposeful fulfilling life.  Find an avocation, or volunteer at something that provides greater purpose in life.
  4. Spend time (not money) on relationships and experiences.
  5. Adopt an attitude of giving.
  6. Adopt an attitude of forgiveness.
  7. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. 

Daniel Goleman, reasons that temperament is not destiny.  So, try this exercise that Dr. Shurney throws out as a challenge - to master negative feelings set aside any negative thoughts for anyone for an entire week! Go for it!  

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