Entrepreneurial Insomnia…

…is when your mind is so busy working, you’re unable to sleep

At times when I go to bed after enjoying time with the family or watching an episode of our favorite sitcom. One of two things happen, I attempt to sleep, and cannot as thoughts of work enter my mind and I process the things I have done, should’ve done or could’ve done. Or I fall asleep only to wake up 2 hours later with the same thoughts running through my mind of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. This causes me to toss and turn as I force myself into a sleep state, drifting in and out of sleep. Eventually when I wake up, I am exhausted, short tempered and starting my day back peddling, feeling guilty that I have not accomplished what I set myself out to the day before. Is this something that resonates with you at all? Entrepreneurial Insomnia happens to me more than I care to admit.

We know that the pattern of Entrepreneurial Insomnia is no good for us. We already know how bad this can be as shared by the experts below:  

WebM.com – Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including: Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke

Anxiety & Depression Association of America – Chronic stress can affect your health, causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain to heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep.

We can find ways to reduce stress by exercising, being active, eating correctly. That is not what I am talking about though. What I am referring to is Insomnia where the stress has been internalized and making you anxious resulting in you not sleeping. 

Here is a scenario to consider. 
You have a tight deadline and meeting with clients first thing the next morning. As you drive home you think to yourself, the gas tank needs to be filled up.  

You decide that you should fill up on the way home so you are not rushed in the morning on the way to the client meeting.  You see a gas station but decide…not this one, I will fill up at the one closer to home.  You suddenly have a song you love playing and start to sing like a rock star, reminiscing on the days the song triggers in your mind. Now your mind is in a place far away from the thoughts of filling the car with gas. 

You arrive home. The evening is ending and you are relaxing after dinner and decide to turn off the TV, it is time for bed. 90 minutes later you wake up thinking about that deadline and meeting.  You toss and turn saying to yourself “don’t forget the client file, remember to get there earlier to meet with your manager, present to the data not to the price, show value”.

These thoughts continue as you slip in and out of sleep with “remember the file, remember the file” running through your mindNow the alarm goes off, you wake up tired, irritable you rush through the morning routine remembering that the client meeting is farther than normal. You get onto the highway with a harrowing thought of aaarrrgh I forgot the client file.   As you turnaround calculating the timing you think to yourself,  I am okay and will still make it on time to the meeting when all of a sudden the gas light goes on reminding you it’s time to fill-up.  Now you shout out a question in frustration whyyyyyy meeeee!  

A way to have avoided the tossing and turning, the rush and the frustration was simpler than you think. In that moment you think “don’t forget the client file”…. get up, place your file and car keys together, or place the file in your car…then get back into bed.  35 seconds of discomfort would have put your mind at ease and ensured a more peaceful sleep. Now, when the thought comes into your head about not forgetting the client file the answer is – I have it, no problem!  

Sometimes there is a simple fix to putting our minds at ease. Setting the alarm a few minutes early or setting daily priority to complete before bed can help. This scenario illustrates that taking action is important. 

Action is what is needed:
The moment that you are unable to sleep because of anxiety from incomplete work, a challenging presentation or an exciting opportunity – get up and do something about it!  While never ideal, do the work at 2am if needed, since you are not sleeping anyway. Once it is done, you’ll be able to sleep. Here is the best part, you will wake up knowing that you have finished something or at least made a lot of progress on a project. Quite frankly that is motivational because the opposite is way worse. Waking up and feeling tired because of lack of sleep due to anxiety and on top of that your tasks are still incomplete – this second scenario compounds the stress.

A Dale Carnegie stress principle that comes to mind here is don’t worry about insomnia.  What Dale Carnegie was alluding to is the fact that our bodies will force us to get sleep. Work, exercise or watch TV for as long as you like, and I guarantee you there will be a point where you will be so tired that you will just literally pass-out.  Until that happens though, don’t allow thoughts of work to create stress and anxiety by tossing and turning in bed at night while trying to sleep. Take command of your thoughts, prioritize what needs to be done and then get out of bed and start completing the tasks that are keeping you from sleeping. You are awake anyway; the only difference now is that you are being productive.

Take charge of your awake hours and you will feel less stressed and more productive as a result.

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