From the ubiquity of cheap coffee to the increasing multiplicity of jobs, it seems every city across America is turning into that which never sleeps– but these habits have perilous implications for our health.
All too common in today’s society is the mindset that a four to five hour rest nightly is enough to get a person through the work week, followed by one night during the weekend (i.e. if you don’t have a second or third job) that is meant for sleeping in and “catching up.” Whether you have an acute mind-body connection or a less developed one, the amount of sleep received per night has a direct impact on physical and mental wellbeing.
The bottom line is that the less you sleep, the more you increase your likelihood of becoming sick, over-consuming caffeinated beverages, gaining weight, and developing depression. When any of these happen, you either experience fatigue and distractions that significantly decrease your optimal productivity rate, or you find yourself in bed, unable to move. You inevitably lose valuable time.
I’m not about to advocate throwing away your alarm clock and indulging in tardiness on a daily basis, but I will suggest ways to create a healthy balance in your lifestyle.
How to Calculate.
Because every body is different, individuals require varying amounts of sleep. To find your magic number, after a few nights in a row where you feel well rested, go to bed around 10:00pm and wake up the following morning without alarms and without distractions. The following morning, calculate how many hours you have slept, which usually falls between six and nine.
If you have a family or distracting pets, seek help from a loved one to make this experiment possible, and for best results, you would do this again the following week and average the results. However, if you can only afford to do this once, that is still sufficient.
How to Integrate.
Once you have found how many hours of sleep your body naturally wants, do everything in your power to achieve this number each night. Partners, children, work, and insomnia may make this a challenge, but you must develop the ability to prioritize.
One suggestion to achieve this is developing a detailed weekly schedule. On this, you record all your responsibilities, outlining everything from meetings and lunch appointments to the time it takes for you to dress and eat breakfast in the morning. Account for time you want to spend with loved ones and time you spend exercising, as well as time you spend working outside the workplace– though you should limit that as much as possible. Then sketch a plan to achieve your magic sleep number every night, and follow your schedule closely. For optimal energy, you would fall asleep between 9:00pm and 11:00pm and wake around 6:00am, but this ideal is unrealistic for many.
If your schedule simply does fit your busy lifestyle, compensate elsewhere and seek help if necessary. It may also just be a matter of you learning to say “no” to certain tasks.
After following this pattern for a few weeks, your body will feel completely reborn, and you may even feel your schedule is beginning to embed itself within the authentic flow of your life. At this point, you can choose either to continue meticulous scheduling or to start living an unscripted life that incorporates the proper amount of sleep.
How to Fall Asleep.
If you have any degree of insomnia, try experimenting with the following.
- Finish eating and drinking at least two hours before you sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit alcohol intake, especially before bed.
- Drink sleep-inducing herbal tea before bed.
- Put away all technological devices an hour before sleep.
- Drink a few sips of cold water before sleep.
- Make your sleeping space as dark as possible.
- Make healthier your diet.
- Journal and meditate to relieve emotional stresses.
Only once adequate sleep has become a regular practice, can your body work in accordance with your mind to enhance virtually all areas of your life.