Entrepreneur insomnia – dealing with the 2 am night sweats

Waking up with a start at 2am in a pool of cold sweat isn’t anyone’s idea of a good night’s sleep. And while it happens to us all from time to time, if you have your own business then chances are these night-time disturbances are a bit more frequent than you’d like.

Running a small business is hard. Whether you’re thinking about marketing, sweating over payroll or working to a tight deadline, there is always, always something going on.

For some, this aptly named entrepreneur insomnia is caused by a hyperactive mind, for others, it’s their competitive nature that does it. Or, it might just be a case of burning the midnight oil a little too much and messing with your sleep patterns. Whilst anxiety is a normal human emotion and waking up from time to time is too, when business worries spill over into your sleep those wakeful moments in the dead of night can become all too frequent.  

Sleep: the facts
The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is eight hours a night but according to one survey, many of us are getting a lot less than that. In fact, the average is around six hours and 32 minutes with just 6% of us managing to get our full quota. If you combine that with nocturnal disturbances caused by anxiety about your business, the amount of quality sleep you are actually getting is even less.

Lack of sleep makes you grumpy, more judgemental, snappy and working below par but according to the NHS, the effects can be far more profound than that, having an adverse impact on your physical health. As well as putting you in a bad mood and causing lack of focus, it can increase your risk of serious medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Dealing with entrepreneur insomnia

Entrepreneur insomnia doesn’t have to take over your life and there are plenty of things you can do to tackle it, but it does require a two-fold approach – tackling your sleep routine and tackling the things in your business that are stressing you out.

  1. Business worries

Getting a handle on your business issues can go some way to breaking the 2 am wake up cycle. If you have less to worry about, you’ll be less likely to wake during the night, churning things over in your mind.

  • Give yourself business hours – I struggle with this one I admit but it really makes sense to limit the time you spend on your business for your own sanity. Recently, I’ve stopped answering emails on a weekend and do you know what? My business is still surviving.

If you want a 40-hour week or less, you can have it – you just have to be ruthless with your time, create a schedule and most importantly, stick to it. Do you really need to be answering client emails at 11pm? Or taking a phone call in the middle of your family dinner? Probably not.

  • Delegate – When running a small business, you tend to try and do everything yourself, but this can really impact on your time…and leave you lying awake at night worrying about everything you’ve still yet to accomplish. Payroll is not my forte, in fact, I wouldn’t know where to begin. When I first got staff, I gave it a go, got stressed and gave up. Yes, it’s an added cost, but paying the accountants to deal with it for me is a weight off of my mind.

Concentrate on the areas you thrive in and delegate the rest to outside contractors or your staff.

  • Brush up your time management skills – Get organised with a diary, keep track of how long tasks take, use project management software to stay on top of it all and delegate the unnecessary things to others. By making more effective use of your time, you’ll be able to finish on time.

  1. Sleep routine

Nailing the business side of it is only half the battle to getting a good night’s sleep. You need a routine that promotes sleep and relaxation, not one that heightens your anxiety.

  • Have a set bedtime – Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. It might take a while to adjust but your bedroom should be for sleep, not an extension of your office and a place to cram in some extra work.

  • Digital detox – Choose a time when you stop checking emails, writing content etc. and stick to it. Give yourself at least an hour before your bedtime where you turn everything off. Light from laptops and mobiles can stimulate your brain rather than prepare it for sleep, meaning you take longer to fall asleep and your sleep quality is lower. Switch off the phone, invest in a proper alarm clock and read a great book instead.

  • Get a good mattress – Your sleep could be disturbed because your mattress needs an upgrade. Invest in one that’s supportive. Pay for decent bed sheets and pillows too – we spend a third of our lives sleeping so make sure it’s in a space you find relaxing and comfortable

  •  Drink herbal tea – Yep, I know this one sounds a bit hippy-dippy but trust me, it does help! I’m not talking about chamomile which is supposed to be relaxing but rather valerian. You can find it in different blends in the supermarket but my go-to is Dr Clipper’s Sleep Easy tea. Unlike caffeine in builder’s tea, which keeps you alert, this stuff makes you feel relaxed and ever so slightly sleepy, setting you up for a good night’s kip.


The importance of decent night’s sleep cannot be underestimated and knocking the night time wakefulness on the head is an essential part of this. Sort your sleep and you’ll find you function better, work more effectively and enjoy greater productivity during the day.


Written by Fay Millar