“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.” ― Abbé Prévost, Manon Lescaut
Let’s talk about the most underrated secret to success and high performance, and a key ingredient to being a business dad:
Any idea what I am speaking about?
Well, having just come back from Miami and feeling jet lagged I can tell you that no matter what you want to achieve, you will do it much better when feeling energized and well rested. And the single most important behavior that helps us dive right into our best performance state is quite a simple one too- it’s getting enough sleep!
Various studies confirm that our brain needs sufficient sleep to work properly. When we feel well rested, we enjoy better cognitive abilities, become more creative and better at solving problems. For example, one benefit of sleep is that it makes us think clearer because we sort out our memories and process our day’s events while dreaming.
At the same time, a lack of sleep can lead to memory lapses and makes us feel scattered and distracted. This is why sleep deprived people suffer from feeling more stressed, tensed, make poor decisions and are also not able to handle conflicts with other people very well.
Without a doubt, sleep is especially important for parents, as they need lots of patience while spending time with their little ones. We lose up to 91 percent of our abilities to regulate our emotions when we don’t sleep enough, so just imagine how difficult it becomes to build qualitative relationships with our little ones, and even with our partners. In fact, lack of sleep is the main reason why many relationships suffer after the birth of a first baby.
Ironically, having a baby, of course, makes sleep only harder. For most parents it usually means waking up several times a night, at least initially. This is of course not ideal for anyone wanting to prioritize sleep.
So what can we do?
The answer is very simple. We know that babies have shorter sleep cycles than us, which is why they wake up more easily and more often, and require our attention. Nevertheless, we can’t use our toddlers as an excuse for not getting enough sleep. Feeling exhausted will eventually make us worse dads, husbands, and business people.
Instead, we want to take responsibility and make sleep a priority, especially as we know that we will nevertheless experience interruptions. We need to ensure that we fall asleep swiftly, get enough rest, and wake in good spirit, by introducing specific habits that help us get enough sleep.
Let me share five things you can do to instantly sleep more and feel better:
1. Get enough sleep:
No matter how busy we are, we will operate better when we feel rested. This is why most people need at least 7-8 hours of sleep. I do this by sleeping earlier, often not much later than my son. If this sounds too drastic for you, start by adding 45 minutes to your sleep, and gradually work towards getting your ideal amount of sleep. Also, try and go to bed at regular times as this will make falling asleep and waking up much easier as well. If you still don’t get enough sleep, try and take a one hour nap in the afternoon, if at all possible.
2. Create an evening ritual:
If we want to sleep well, it is important that we tune down at least 30-60 minutes before our bedtime. This means, for example, dimming your light, avoiding any screens (TV, computers, phones), and doing things that make you feel relaxed and calm, like taking a hot shower, reading a good book or spending time with your family. It is also advisable to avoid drinking coffee and sugary foods after say 3pm, as they stimulate us to feel more awake and affect our internal clock.
3. Control your thoughts:
To fall asleep without delay, it is important you control your thoughts. This is why it is helpful to think of something pleasant. I for example focus on things I feel grateful for, as this gets me in a good and relaxed state, and helps me sleep extremely well. In any case, avoid thinking about things that are making you feel stressed out or worried. From time to time, you may get distracted by intrusive thoughts of things you need to complete — this is called the “Zeigarnik-effect“. In such instances, it is advisable to write down whatever it is that you are thinking of, so that your mind can switch off and let you sleep.
4. Relax during the day:
As odd as this may sound, a reason many people struggle to fall asleep even when feeling exhausted is because they still feel excited and hyped up from activities they experienced throughout their day. To counter this, I recommend you take some time off at least twice a day to slow down. This can be through a 20-minute meditation, a peaceful walk, switching off technology, or anything else that helps you feel calm and relaxed. With the help of these ‘’time-outs’’, you train yourself to relax even in the midst of a hectic day, and you will be able to do the same before going to sleep.
5. Create a morning ritual:
Waking up is as important as falling asleep. Ideally, you don’t want to start your day by checking your emails or missed messages. Instead, you want to check in with yourself and ensure that you begin your day in an upbeat mood.
I change my morning ritual on a regular basis, but right now it looks like this:
6am: I wake up, without the need of using an alarm clock. I spend the first 20-30 minutes reading in bed until son wakes up.
6:30: I get dressed while my wife prepares my son, and do a short workout.
7:00: I take him out for a walk, often to my favourite coffee where we have breakfast together.
7:30: I bring my son to his kindergarten where he spends the morning together with five other babies of his age.
8:00: I come back home, take a cold and refreshing shower while thinking about something I feel excited about for the day, to get me in the right mood.
8:30: I start my day with an important task that will help me achieve any of my professional goals. I usually do this for the first ninety minutes, and before checking any emails.
Implement these five simple steps and you will experience the kind of energy boost that will help you become more productive than ever while also enjoying many bonding moments with your loved ones. They are pretty basic but remember that common knowledge is often not common practice.
If you have any other suggestions on how we can get enough sleep as a business dad, I would love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts with me below!
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