I didn’t understand the importance of good sleep until last month. Since the end of summer I’ve been actively changing my lifestyle in ways both big and small, with various results. Some of my new habits seem very strange to my friends and family, and will probably seem strange to you as well:
- I never drink caffeinated coffee or soda. I’ve habitually replaced them with tea and chocolate milk. When I drink coffee, I order decaf, and the only sodas I’ve drunk have been Sprite and horchata.
- I try not to use my smartphone after sunset. I use an app to automatically silence it while I sleep, and never answer electronic communications at night.
- I use f.lux on all of my computers to remove the blue light from their displays just before bedtime. (Blue light from your TV, smartphone and computer screens can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime when it’s not. Go do some research if you’ve never heard of this phenomenon.)
- I start my bedtime ritual around 8 PM every night. First I brush my teeth, then I write in my journal about the day, then I go to bed and sometimes I read Young Adult fiction to wind down my thoughts and help me go to sleep. (This last bit is probably the strangest part of my routine.)
- I try to always be asleep before 9 PM.
The reason I’ve formed these habits is to make sure I get at least 9 hours of sleep every night.
It makes me feel amazing.
Get enough sleep.
I know I’m not the first person to tell you this, but this next bit of advice might surprise you:
Don’t read any studies about sleep. Don’t shoot for the average recommended number of hours. Don’t be aware of your REM cycle and don’t track your sleep debt.
Everyone is different. We each sleep differently, and no statistical average can tell you exactly when to go to bed or exactly when to wake up. You need to fill your personal needs, not the minimum recommended sleep hours for your age. Chances are, you aren’t average. If you don’t feel good with the amount of sleep you’re getting, make some changes.
As much as possible, just sleep when you feel like it. Take some time to learn how much sleep you need and how you can schedule your life to make sure you get it. If you let your body dictate your sleeping pattern, you’ll feel much better every day. After adopting my new sleep habits I’ve felt more alert, productive, happy, energetic, and confident in general. I may be sacrificing a few extra hours of wakefulness that I could gain by drinking caffeine and staying up later, but I feel like I’m accomplishing way more (and better enjoying myself) in the hours that I have, despite the time sleep takes out of my day.
Feeling good is worth it. End of story.