I cannot believe it’s May already. April went by entirely too quickly! And unfortunately, me trying to sleep more is not why April felt so short… because I’d say that I was only about half successful in focusing on my sleep.
I already wrote about my insomnia last Tuesday night, when I literally got less than two hours of sleep. Not good! I slept well Wednesday and Thursday nights, but Friday I picked up a stomach bug from my nephews (or maybe from someone else in my family, since we all seemed to catch it at some point this week) and woke up at 3am to be sick. Not fun! I spent Saturday feeling terrible, which was especially not fun given that a) it was my last day in Charleston and b) I had to fly halfway across the country to get home. Flying when you’re sick is the worst, though I was lucky enough to be able to sleep for two hours on the flight.
And then last night, after a day of resting because of that stomach bug, insomnia struck again. Not what I needed when I was trying to kick this thing! I woke up at 2:30am for no reason and couldn’t get back to sleep before my alarm an hour later, which was incredibly frustrating. (On the bright side, I used that time to start reading a novel that I’m thoroughly enjoying: Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. It’s excellent so far!)
In the end, this last week of my sleep challenge was probably my worst – only an average sleep time of 6:53/night. That two hour night on Tuesday really killed my average, even coupled with a nap later in the day! And in fairness, there were a lot of other sub-par nights weighing it down too…
While this last week’s sleep numbers look pretty abysmal, I did learn a lot from this challenge. The first thing is that it was really tough for me to be totally consistent with my sleep. All the studies say that it’s best to have the same bedtime every single night, but I found that to be incredibly hard to do in practice. Getting up at 3:30am on Monday mornings for my commute is not fun, and I definitely wouldn’t want to have to do that every day – but I can’t start my commute to work any later than that. Looking at the back side of things, a 3:30am wakeup requires me to go to bed at 7:30pm if I want a full night of sleep – but most days at that hour, I often haven’t even left the office.
I also can’t really imagine telling my friends that I need to be home in bed at 7:30pm on a weekend night. I definitely joke about being old and always wanting to go to bed early, but 7:30pm is pushing it even for me ;)
This month I tried to get more consistent about my sleep, but I found that my body tended to skew erratic even despite my best efforts. For example, last night I went to bed in plenty of time for a full night’s sleep, but I woke up at 2:30am for no reason. Darn you, body – you’re supposed to like getting consistent amounts of sleep! What’s with the sudden insomnia when I’m trying to do right by you?!
It’s possible that my insomnia was partially due to the time zone change from Eastern to Mountain (and now back to Central), but there was nothing I could really do about that. I was also kind of stressed about some things with work, and when I was trying to get back to sleep, I kept thinking about them. (I don’t think they are what woke me up, but they were keeping me from getting back to sleep.) So one of the first insomnia remedies I tried was making a quick to-do list of my stressors and the possible solutions – or at least whose advice I would seek to fix them, if I didn’t have a solution. That definitely calmed me down a lot… but still didn’t put me to sleep. Everything I’ve read about insomnia says that you can’t force getting back to sleep, so I tried to relax and just read, but that still didn’t work. #Fail
I know that studies say you can’t totally catch up on sleep on the weekend; however, they also note that it is possible to make up for small amounts of sleep debt – which is the kind that I tend to get anyway. Last Tuesday not withstanding, a bad night of sleep for me is almost never less than five hours, and that usually wipes me out enough to where I tend to crash hard the next night and make up for it immediately. Going forward, I think that I need to relax and just take a sleepless night as a chance to get caught up on a book, knowing that I’ll make time the next night to catch up on sleep before it becomes a real problem.
This month I also learned one rule that helps me go to bed much earlier than I otherwise would: no social media within an hour of bedtime. Social media can be such a huge time suck, and I find that I can read blogs/status updates for a long time before I get tired. However, even if a book is really engaging, I tend to get tired after a little while of reading that style of content. Strange, huh? (And I use Twilight and F.Lux on all my electronic devices, including my Kindle that I use to read books, so it’s not the device that is the problem for social media.) I don’t know why reading a book helps me sleep more than reading an article or blog, but I’m going to try to stick with this rule permanently. It’s not really any kind of sacrifice, but it definitely helps me get more sleep than I otherwise would!
In all, this month’s challenge showed me that I can prioritize sleep, and I don’t even have to give up all that much to do so (just the aforementioned social media, and perhaps sometimes some late night socializing with colleagues/friends that I should really be cutting shorter anyway). I had gone into April expecting that I’d have to bite the bullet and pay the price for late canceling some ClassPass classes if I wasn’t getting to bed early enough, but I was generally able to stick to my guns and get to bed early enough to make those classes without losing sleep. Hooray for priorities :)
So now with those lessons learned: onto May! Stay tuned tomorrow for the challenge I’ll be undertaking this month. (It is a DOOZY.)