“Sleep is for people who need it.”
These words were spoken by a friend when we didn’t care much about tomorrow, we were focused on the moment. At that time we felt that we didn’t need sleep at all. Today I realize there is much more to this saying then my initial thought. But for a different reason.
As I get started, I realize that I have probably half a book’s worth to say on the subject of sleep. To keep this digestible we will call this “Part 1 of n” and I’ll follow up later with more information.
Obviously all people need sleep but how much do we need? I know several people who function quite well on five hours a night. I need about seven and a half. Personally, I see a difference in my ability to problem solve and remember past events clearly when I don’t get enough sleep. This is critical in software development where problem solving occurs on a regular basis. Lack of sleep also effects my ability on the soccer pitch, understanding others, and learning new concepts.
Without proper rest neither the mind nor the body is ready to perform at maximum capability.
I once asked a body builder what the most important things were in his program. He said “diet, sleep and exercise”. I replied with “oh ya, exercise must be the most important” in which he followed with “No, diet then sleep then exercise”. Something to consider from someone who is focused on creating bigger muscles. You can’t repair damaged muscle tissue without rest. The best rest is sleep.
Ok, now that I have convinced you to get (or at least you’re consider getting) a good night’s sleep, how do we go about doing this. So many people I know have difficulty sleeping and there are various reasons.
Top of the list is stimulus. If you’re reading this you have an electronic device. That light is hitting your eyes and your brain is telling you it’s daytime and you should be awake. This is true for T.V., cell phones, and city lights. If you want to sleep better, make your room darker. Close your curtains, face your clock away from you, and turn off any unnecessary gadgets. If you have to stay up late and get your blog post done, consider using software like flux: http://justgetflux.com/ It will adjust the brightness of your monitor depending on the time of day.
Another big stimulus in the IT industry is caffeine. If you have any trouble sleeping, consider not having coffee after 3pm or giving it up altogether. We are also big users of energy drinks and caffeinated pop. All these beverages are messing with your bodies natural day / night settings. Consider having decaf or a herbal tea so your body still gets a similar experience while you remove the caffeine from the equation.
Thirdly, activity can be stimulating. Late night hockey or soccer games can be fun but going to sleep afterward can be almost impossible. If you go to the gym at night, consider going first thing in the morning instead. It will energize you for the day.
This seems like a good place to stop part 1. Partially because I’m getting tired. I have got myself into a routine of going to bed at 10:30 on work nights. Having the routine helps a lot so I can function better the next day.
Stay tuned for part two where I will discuss such interesting things such as what we are doing up in the middle of night and what we can do about it. Or, I might talk about the wonders of napping. I better sleep on it.