When you’re a startup founder or a CEO, life is busy. It can be hard — if not impossible — to turn off your “work brain,” even when you know you should be getting some rest.
I recently asked a series of New York City-based executives about their bedtime routines. One CEO said he mentally recounts the things he’s grateful for; another said he watches the evening news.
But the wind-down ritual I heard about most often was reading.
“I usually fall asleep with a book in my hand,” Alexi Nazem, the cofounder and CEO of Nomad Health, told me.
Some execs try not to read anything that reminds them of work.
“I don’t read business books at night,” said Elliot Weissbluth, the founder and CEO of HighTower. “I usually read things that have no practical significance, but I find interesting and curious at the moment.”
Scott Britton, the cofounder of Troops, said, “I like to read something that’s more of a story.” He opts for either fiction or biography.
Other execs read industry-relevant content or news pieces.
Dan Reich, the cofounder and CEO of Troops, reads news articles that he’s saved throughout the day or that people in his network have shared.
All these execs are in good company. Many highly successful people say they read before bed — including Bill Gates, who has said he reads for an hour almost every night, and Arianna Huffington, who only reads physical books (not digital ones) before falling asleep.
If you’re aiming to adopt the same reading habit, you’d do better to pick up a “real” book instead of browsing on your phone or computer. Research suggests staring at the blue light emitted from digital devices can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
You can also switch on an audiobook and not feel bad about it — as University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham told the Science of Us, in contrast to common opinion it’s not “cheating,” in the sense that you’re not absorbing as much of the story. Listening to your book counts, too.
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