Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sleep or die!

I don't get enough sleep. I'm not sure I ever have. I average about 6 hours a night, and it's not uncommon to dip below that for 2-3 nights in a row, which inevitably catches up. It's a combination of trouble falling/staying asleep, and staying up too late because night time is the only time I have to get things done. Like writing, for example. If I didn't stay up after my son goes to bed, I'd never have time to write.

A story in the Guardian this week has me re-examining my routine. Called The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science, it echoes a number of other studies I've seen over the years (and recognizing I fall into the category they're describing, I generally click through when I see such headlines). In summary, the brain and body need X number of hours of sleep each night to clear out all the crap that accumulates throughout the day. By depriving your brain and body of this opportunity, you massively increase your chances of cancer, dementia (including Alzheimer's), diabetes, obesity-related issues, and on and on. It's not happy stuff to think about.

The recommended average is 8 hours, which I don't think I could do even if I lived alone without distractions in a biodome. I get restless and my body starts to hurt if I lie too long in bed. It's hard to go more than 7 hours for me. But I need to make an effort to stretch my average. And I'll have to be more efficient with the time I do have to get the same amount done. Instead of easing into the evening with a game of Hearts (confession: I'm an addict), I'll have to get right to it. As I'm currently in editing mode, I'm going to try printing out my manuscript and marking it up, which I can do anywhere in the house, even when I'm puppy-sitting (she still can't be trusted not to get into trouble when you turn your back, and when she follows me down to the basement, well, let's just say she goes a bit mental with all there is to get into).

I was determined Monday (the day I read the Guardian article) to get to bed earlier and get more sleep. My target was to head upstairs by 10:00, ready for bed by 10:15, read for half an hour, lights out by 10:45 (exactly 7 hours before the alarm goes off). I wound up going upstairs at 10:20, ready to read by 10:43, lights out at 11:09. Then I couldn't fall asleep, probably because I couldn't stop thinking about how badly I needed to fall asleep. It was well past 12:30 before I finally stopped tossing and turning and drifted off.

Tuesday night, however, I hit all my marks, and fell asleep quickly, getting nearly the full 7 hours. So, there's 1 night in a row of good (for me, anyway) sleep. It's a start.

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