Earlier I wrote a post called “Healthy Habits” to start a series about the value of incrementally developing a healthier lifestyle. And so I begin this series with my nemesis the ever-elusive good night of sleep.
I call it my nemesis because it taunts me. We square off every day. I try to capture it and it slips through my fingers. I desire it deeply, but I hate that I need it. I have to work very hard to even have a chance at getting it.
Adequate sleep boosts your energy, immune system, cardiovascular system, mood, judgment, memory and productivity. It also curbs your appetite! On the flip side of the same coin, chronic lack of sleep leads to other health problems including diabetes and mood disorders like depression and excessive anxiety. Logically, sleep is a foundation to good health because you’re more likely implement your other healthy habits when you’re not tired and cranky.
I burned the candle at both ends in college and have been trying to retrain myself ever since. I confess to occasionally having this thought: “Imagine how much work I could get done if I didn’t have to sleep!” It’s hard to make consistent, sufficient sleep a regular habit. Fortunately, our bodies know what we need and demand that we take a break, even while we push and torture ourselves. Why do we fight? Back in the good ol’ days before regular people lived by the clock, they went to bed when it was dark! (Okay, friends in Alaska and other high latitude locations, this logic does not apply to you.) We’re slaves to our culture, society’s demand to make the most out of every minute, for work or play.
Surprisingly, having kids has actually helped me sleep better. Sort of. While breaking up my sleep with middle-of-the-night demands definitely hasn’t helped, routine and consistency has. I go to bed roughly at 11 every night and wake up at 7. I don’t know the science behind the importance of sticking with your body’s rhythms, but I can feel its effectiveness. If I stay up too late, my body goes into rebellion.
I’ve experimented with different routines, such as getting up earlier to get things done, but I always fall back to this pattern. Since it works for me, I generally build the rest of my schedule around it, instead of making sleep my last priority. I try to avoid the temptation to adjust my sleep pattern so I can fit something else in, which usually ends up being counterproductive anyway (with exceptions of course–I’m not advocating fanaticism about the schedule when stuff comes up).
It takes self-discipline to sleep well, but in my opinion it’s worth the effort. My nemesis isn’t so elusive when I attack it with the same tried-and-true tactic over and over. On that note, it’s just about my bedtime.