Focus on Sleep

I have a longstanding issue with sleep – namely, I don’t get it nearly as consistently as I think that I should.

Along with a handful of other habits, sleep is one that I’ve targeted to improve on in 2021, so for the last couple of weeks I’ve been keeping track of how much I get each night and … it ain’t pretty!

As you can see, I’m writing this after my worst night of sleep of the year.

For quick reference – red is anything less than 6 hours of sleep and green is anything 7 or greater.

And there is way too much red in the last 18 days, that’s for sure!

One of the best articles that I’ve read about sleep and its importance lately is this piece by James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits (which I loved!)…

How to Get Better Sleep: The Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Sleep Deprivation

There’s a lot of stuff to digest in that article, but I think this is the line that sticks with me the most – “After two weeks, the six-hour group had performance deficits that were the same as if they had stayed up for two days straight.”

I say this because for most of my adult life, I’ve always just kind of figured that less sleep is what adults do and that six hours a night was a pretty good compromise. And that’s without even knowing how much I was actually averaging on a given night, particularly when I would stay up late crunching on a deadline for the next morning or more typically just screwing around on the computer.

And what’s interesting is that now that I’m tracking my sleep alongside other habits I’m trying to build like drinking more water and reading and especially writing more consistently, I can already see that there’s a direct correlation with having what I consider to be a productive day filled with these other things that I’m trying to improve and simply starting my day with having gotten a good night’s sleep in the first place…

…to the point where about a week ago I actually moved the column where I track sleep from the end of my spreadsheet to the beginning because it seemed like a symbolic move to help remind myself that sleep isn’t how I end my day, it’s what’s at the start of a good one.

Unfortunately, the only tried and true method for getting good sleep – at least for me – means getting to bed earlier because during the week I have to get up at a set time every day to get the kids off to school, so it’s not like I have a lot of opportunities to just sleep in to make up for a particularly late night. Which sucks because I’m very much a night owl and a lot of times I’ll find myself faced with a sudden bout of creativity at 12:30am when otherwise I should be calling it a night!

Luckily, I can say that falling asleep itself has gotten easier for me. Another habit I’ve been trying to form is including meditation into my day, so I’ll try to do five minutes of that before I head off to bed and between the sounds of waves or rain falling in the app that I use and making a conscious effort to clear my mind, I think it really does help. That and I’ve started dimming the lights in my office in the late hours, even if I’m still up writing or watching videos or whatever, because it seems to help set the mood that it’s time to start unwinding.

I’ve told myself many times that ultimately what I need to do is take a good two or three week period and just make good sleep my #1 priority – meaning that no matter what’s going on, at 11:30pm or whatever makes sense, I go to bed so that I can really aim for that 7-8 hours of sleep that my body needs. It’ll be a rough adjustment and I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m sacrificing other things I need to do for sleep, but pretty much all of the evidence shows that eventually I’ll be far more productive (and happier, too!) by allowing myself that time to recharge instead of perpetually trying to burn the candle at both ends until I eventually crash and lose a few days to complete and total burn out while I’m finally forced to recover!

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