By Rob Smentek
With the beginning of the school year fast approaching, I already have a clear picture of the events that will occur the night before that first day. Inevitably, the kids will procrastinate with their baths, be unable to find their backpacks, express dismay at what I’ve packed for tomorrow's lunch, and then start the eternal debate: “Why do we have to go to bed? We’re not tired.” I’ll undoubtedly explain that they need a good night’s sleep so they aren’t cranky in the morning and will be sharp during school.
All parents are familiar with this give-and-take dance, but the fact is that most adults rarely follow their own advice. How many of us put off sleep so we catch the end of the game, finish that Netflix binge, or answer one last email? Before you know it, it becomes routine each night to get only few hours’ sleep, and precious few quality hours at that.
A good night’s sleep gives you more than a sunny disposition and a quick start to your day: It’s actually vital for quality physical and mental health. And sure, while a decent night’s rest might mean fewer trips to the office Keurig machine, it also increases productivity, immune system functions, and creativity. What’s more, sleep can even help keep your weight down. It almost wants to make you jump under the covers now, right?
We realize, of course, that owning a business—in a 24/7 industry, no less—makes it hard to get the 7-9 hours of sleep a night that are commonly recommended for adults aged 29-64. It’s not uncommon in this biz to have evenings plagued by late-night calls, followed by early morning meetings. However, you need to consider that, in the long run, the benefits from a well-rested lifestyle may result in a smoother-running operation.
In past articles, we’ve looked at anger management and creating a positive environment for your employees, and the importance these can have on the long-term success your business. Like the child who stays awake past his bedtime, you're equally likely to be cranky and short-tempered after not enough sleep. In fact, aside from yawning and general fatigue, various health and sleep studies report that the number one side effect of sleep deprivation is moodiness and irritability. Certainly everybody has the occasional late night, followed by a “bad day,” but a routine of poor sleep ultimately leads to an inability to cope with stress, difficulty managing emotions, and an increased risk of depression. As the owner and/or leader of a company, you need to work to maintain a positive culture and office environment. You simply can’t afford to have a black cloud hovering over you—or your staff. Getting a reputation as a difficult, or even unpleasant, boss is certainly going to affect your business relations. All it takes is one negative GlassDoor review from a disgruntled staff member to start a chain of negativity that will reach your clients.
"Aside from yawning and general fatigue, various health and sleep studies report that the number one side effect of sleep deprivation is moodiness and irritability.”
Further side effects of sleep deprivation include reduced problem-solving and a lack of motivation. While your day may be go-go-go well into the night, and you feel as if you’re successfully juggling a million balls at once, the fact is that you may just be keeping things moving enough to stay afloat. An individual with a healthy recommended amount of rest may have the clear head needed to create a business plan that not only completes the tasks at hand and avoids last-minute scrambling, but also looks at what’s necessary to continue growth in the future.
Having problems finding your keys in the morning? Can’t remember the name of that reservationist you hired last month? Try getting plenty of sleep. In a study conducted in 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the areas of the brain where short-term memories develop to where long-term memories are stored. These sharp wave ripples occur mostly during periods of deep sleep. Studies have also linked lack of sleep to the development of Alzheimer's and dementia.
While it’s imperative that you be well-rested in order to be at your best, as the owner of a luxury ground transportation business, it’s equally important to promote healthy lifestyle choices with the literal driving force of your business—your chauffeurs. Sleep deprivation has been named a major contributing factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl to name just a few. While these incidents are truly monumental in scope, nothing would be more disastrous to a ground transportation company as a major (or even deadly) traffic accident. Exhaustion due to lack of sleep is a big public safety hazard every single day. Drowsiness affects reaction time as much as drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S.
While some people manage quite well with shift work—and some even thrive—it can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. When starting a chauffeur on an overnight/early morning schedule, particularly a novice driver, it’s beneficial to give them time to adjust to their new schedule. Most people can reset their biological clock, but only through appropriately timed cues. Just as it can take a full week to recover from severe jet leg, the same is true when switching to the night shift.
If you or your staff is planning on catching up on some shuteye during the weekend or a vacation, this only works as a proverbial Band-Aid. An extra hour or two will pay back a bit of that sleep debt, but it never makes up for a week’s worth of late nights. Further, sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday on the weekends can affect your sleep-wake cycle so that it is much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up bright and early on Monday.
"An individual with a healthy recommended amount of rest may have the clear head needed to create a business plan that not only completes the tasks at hand and avoids last-minute scrambling...”
OK, let’s say you’ve finally created an ideal sleep schedule, and you’re getting that wondrous 7-8 hours of rest each night, but you’re still tired and irritable in the morning. While the quantity of sleep you get is important, it's the quality of your sleep that you really have to equally consider. Sleep disturbance may be the result of your diet (coffee, anyone?), a side-effect of certain medication, or a serious medical issue, like sleep apnea. Consult a doctor or medical professional if you have a concern about your visits from the Sandman.
Sleep isn’t just a time when your body shuts down; while you rest, your brain stays busy and performs biological maintenance that keeps your body healthy and happy. Turn off Game of Thrones and put down the phone: If you make time to get the sleep you need each night, your energy, efficiency, and overall health are likely to improve.