Monday, September 26, 2016

How to Get Enough Sleep


I need nine hours of sleep to function. I have mentioned this before, but never posted a full post about it. To be honest, it is only over the past two years that I have finally figured out my optimum number of hours. When I say "optimum" I mean that that is the amount of sleep I need in order for me to be efficient, aware and at my best physically (no head-aches, drowsiness or body fatigue). How did I figure this out? Read on...

I learned it from my mandatory Wellness course at Wheaton College. Full disclosure: this is the only course in my entire life where I got a D. Yup. Not because I hated it, or sabotaged it. I just got a D because I didn't care about it. I liked being in the class. The professor was great! But now when I see him around campus I like to hide in bushes so that he doesn't see me and think, "There goes my D student from two years ago. What a loser."

Ok. Getting back on track, my Wellness professor taught us a surefire method of figuring out how much sleep your body needs. Each person varies slightly on this. Some people need nine, some seven and some crazy individuals like Margaret Thatcher only need four.

This takes about a week. A vacation is ideal for this, because the extra sleep takes time. Each night of that week you go to bed at the same time. You allow yourself to sleep without distractions from alarms or anything that will wake you up unnaturally.

Each morning you record the time that your body naturally awakens. At first you will be likely to sleep longer because you are atoning for a sleep deficit. But once the time of your waking becomes somewhat similar each morning, you know you have hit your optimum number of sleep hours.

For instance if you go to bed each night of the test week at nine and being waking up consistently at around six in the morning your optimum number of sleep hours is nine.

Once I figured this out, I still didn't get enough sleep. I got about six or seven a night. This year I have been giving my sleep higher priority. There are a couple of changes in my life that have enabled me to do this with greater ease.

I am no longer living in a dorm environment. Living with other students on campus means being around many other people who are living with a similarly unstable and busy schedule. That atmosphere in itself makes a regular bedtime hard, especially if you live in close quarters with insomniacs.

My job at the smoothie bar. Because I work at six in the morning I positively have to get good sleep the night before. Otherwise I do not have the energy to work a four hour shift and then be in classes for another five hours.

I have to get to sleep by nine on Mondays and Wednesdays. That has kind of shaped my sleep schedule for the rest of the week as well. I find that I become tired around nine and end up going to bed earlier even on nights when I don't have work the next day.

No internet. This has actually become a huge factor for getting more sleep. Because I don't have internet I have to work more during the day to get things done. As a procrastinator this has been huge. I have been able to structure my time more effectively, meaning that by the time I get home I have taken care of much of what I needed to do for that day. Even if I haven't, I physically can't get it done, so I just have to go to bed.

Sheldon. Without my husband Sheldon I would be lost. In more ways than one Sheldon enriches my life. One thing that he has been doing this semester is taking care of our household. By taking care of this responsibility he has freed me up to work on other projects.

Sheldon makes dinner and cleans and does laundry. This means that when I am at home I can be reading for classes, working on my blog or just enjoying being with him. He has been so gracious in helping to take the pressure off of school by helping at home.

Does this mean that I don't do anything to help around the house? No. I still help. But Sheldon takes the brunt of the responsibility right now. That is just the arrangement that works for us as I am a full time student with several part-time jobs.

Better awareness of my body. Being older just means that I am wiser about what my body needs. I had experiences with mental health as a teenager that were partly a result of sleep deprivation. This was the first thing in my life which triggered my awareness of my body's needs.

It was more like an unpleasant wake-up call than one would like, but it helped me to see that I needed to be treating my body better. The more I get to know what makes my body run at its best the more I can see how sleep makes a huge difference to my mood, my outlook, my interactions with people, my stress levels and my ability to function at a high-powered institution like Wheaton College.

Not everyone has the same conditions as I do when it comes to sleep. Perhaps you are a parent of young children. Maybe you struggle with depression or anxiety. There are so many factors to sleep, which I am not able to address in my limited knowledge. But I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me in a hope that you will feel encouraged to strive for better sleep patterns.

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