I recently heard a fantastic TED Talk by Russell Foster: Why Do We Sleep? (video below) that got me thinking about sleep.
Actually, I don’t need a great TED talk to think about sleep – I am already a bit obsessed with it. I have to be. I know there are people who survive on lesser amounts, but I’m one of those folks that needs a good, solid eight hours of sleep a night. When I don’t get it, you can really tell – it’s in my personality: I am agitated, short-tempered and slow-witted. You can even see it in my face. I am extremely fair-skinned, and after as few as just two nights of short sleep, I get deep, dark, puffy circles under my eyes. I do what I can with concealer, but it is pretty obvious to anyone who looks at me.
Yet, getting enough sleep is hard. I have a set time I need to be at work in the morning, plus I need to walk the dog, get a decent breakfast and get ready for work. (You really don’t want to see me if I haven’t eaten breakfast!) Lately I have also been adding weight training and even the occasional run to my morning routine.
So logically, I should just go to bed at the same time every night, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Frequently there are necessary and important social things I want to do… like spending time with friends or catching up with my boyfriend. Even the weekends don’t help much. I am still up early – the pooch’s bladder doesn’t understand why two days of the week are different from any other day. The only upside is that sometimes on the weekends I get to crawl back into bed after our walk, (which I looooove). It’s such an awesome treat to grab an extra hour or two of sleep that way, but again, it depends on how busy I am if that is going to happen or not.
I’ve mentioned before that I have another journal where I track my weight, exercise and sleep. I find it useful because it reminds me when I am running low. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes I kind of forget how a week has gone. All I know is that I am blurry eyed and ornery. Then I glance back at the journal pages and can see in a glance that the problem is lack of sleep. It helps remind me to do something about it.
I do have a couple of techniques I use to sneak in a few more precious Zs. Sometimes, I have to skip working out in the morning. It isn’t my favorite choice, but there are times I dearly need those precious minutes of sleep. I’m more likely to go that route if I know I can move my workout to a different time that day – go for a run after work instead, for example. Another technique is taking a nap in my car on a lunch hour. I know it isn’t elegant, and in fact, it’s a little embarrassing, but if I can find a quiet shady spot to park my car, I’ll throw the seat back, set the alarm, and get an extra hour of rest in. If I am particularly crabby at work or have a big project to work on and feel like my brain isn’t working, it’s the best way to shake off the sleepiness and function again. Finally, I also try to prepare and make up for lost sleep by getting to bed really early on days when things aren’t so busy. It’s a great concept, but not that practical in real life since I’m never not busy. The absolute best thing is to just head up to my cabin for a weekend. That resets all my buttons. I spend the whole weekend just relaxing, napping and restoring my mental health.
The in the talk below, Dr. Foster talks about how sleep effects us. I’ve also read some compelling articles that getting enough sleep is important for weight loss. However, just knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to do. How about you? How much sleep do you need? How do you try to insure that you get it?