I need a lot of sleep. Some of my friends and coworkers claim that they can get by on as little as 6 hours of sleep – even less at times.
But, I am not one of those people.
I need at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably a bit more,) if I am to be a happy, sociable, relatively content person. For the good of the people around me, I strive for those precious 8 hours. When I have a busy schedule or a lot of late nights, I wear down fast. My energy level decreases, I get sick easily and I am very, very grumpy.
I am not a morning person, nor am I a night owl. My best working hours for productivity are roughly between 10:00am and 2:00pm. So, if I could write my own schedule, I would go to bed about 11:00pm and get up about 9:00am. Sadly, I don’t have this option. I have a job. I also have a dog.
What I don’t have is a fenced in backyard. This means that every morning I am up at roughly 6:30am to walk this guy around the neighborhood for a half hour. It doesn’t really matter what time I go to bed, and weekends don’t matter much either – Hermes doesn’t understand what a weekend is, he just knows that at 6:30, it is time to patrol.
Which means I try to get to bed around 10:00pm. I’m not always successful, and even when I am, I don’t always fall asleep right away, but that’s the goal. I also look for ways to improve the quality of the sleep I do get. Just recently I read this article on Lifehacker: How to Need Less Sleep by Getting Better Sleep Every Night. I’ve read similar articles, on Lifehacker and other places, and have put a few of their suggestions in place. Last summer I went through my bedroom and taped over almost all of the little electronic blinking lights in my bedroom. I also closed my curtains to try to get a bit more darkness. I have two sets of curtains in there – a light weight set and a heavy brocade set. I had been leaving the brocade ones open, in an effort to wake with natural lighting, but I’ve discovered the darkness is more important.
The one tip I read all the time, and never seem to actually do, is turning off all computer and television screens an hour or two before bedtime. I am not hooked on electronics, but I admit I like to check email and play a few silly computer games before bed. Last week, however, I had some downtime – actual evenings where I didn’t have any plans or meetings. I decided to take full advantage of them and go to bed early. For several nights in a row, I managed to turn off the computer early and get to bed around 8:30. I took a book and read a few chapters until I felt sleepy enough to turn out the light. I was amazed at the difference it made!
I slept hard, really deep, and I had wild vivid dreams – which is my normal. I have always been someone who has long, intense, colorful dreams with complicated plots and multiple characters, but I haven’t been having them lately. I’ve had dreams, so I didn’t really notice that they weren’t like they used to be – until last week. I don’t think I have been sleeping as deeply, so my dreams were shorter and more washed out. Last week, I realized what I was missing.
I also found myself regularly waking up earlier, and when I did, feeling much more awake than I do normally. I felt great during the day too. I could tell that the quality of sleep was much better. I think turning off the screen an hour before bed made a huge difference!
It’s not something I can do every night. I have all sorts of events that happen in the evening, so even getting in bed before 10:00 during the week can be tricky, but if it makes a difference on my overall mood and attitude, I think it is worth striving for.