Sleep is one of the most natural activities in our life. And hence we tend to take sleep for granted. Some days we sleep too little and some days too much. In this blog post, I want to bring awareness to the role that sleep plays in our day-to-day and long term success. I will also talk about how you can master your sleep schedule for a great mind and high productivity. I have also shared my own sleep story for inspiration.
I read an interesting article on inc.com on the effect of sleep on you professional success. Philip Cri,. the CEO of Casper said, talked about how sleeping increases your focus and memory.
“Sleep solidifies information into long term memories. Make sure you rest before presentations to go in with confidence.”
Also, a meta analysis (study of studies) was done in 2016 on work-and-sleep effect. It suggested that a good night’s sleep can improve overall quality of life.
“A good night’s sleep fosters a positive environment for you and those around you”
Let us take a look at how deprivation and excessive sleep can affect our body and lives.
We all have had sleep deprived nights while we studied, worked or even partied. And how has it made you feel the next day? Lazy, exhausted, sleepy, irritable and many other adjectives that are certainly not positive. Short term consequences of sleep deprivation can be frustrating like increased stress responsibility, somatic problems and psychological issues.
It is still acceptable if you are having such sleep deprived nights once in a few weeks or months. But if you are being sleep deprived for a long period of time, understand that things are getting serious. Long term consequences are as serious as cardiovascular issues and metabolic instabilities.
So if your job, education, friends or general lifestyle is keeping you sleep deprived on a regular basis, understand that you need to change it soon. You need to prioritize getting enough sleep.
It is quite common to talk about sleep deprivation and its effects. But there is very less awareness regarding excessive sleeping. If you are sleeping for more than 9 hours a day, you may also face various problems. Some of the major physical problems include increased risk of diabetes, obesity, back pain, headaches and impaired fertility. You may also dive into depression with excessive sleeping.
I haven’t met many people who have an excessive sleeping issue, but if you are going through it, visit a medical professional.
How many hours should you sleep?
Research says that an adult should get anywhere from 7-8 hours of sleep every single night. While focusing on the quantity (no. of hours) it is also important to focus on the quality.
The sleep foundation has considers 4 key points to measure your quality of sleep –
- Sleeping more time while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once per night; and
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
7-8 Hours of good quality sleep is what we will be aiming at for to master your sleep schedule.
My Sleep Story
Like any normal child, I had no sleeping issues when I was a child – my parents are so thankful. But ever since I entered the teen-age (after 14 years of age precisely), I found it very difficult to fall asleep. The biggest reason behind it were my school studies since I was preparing for my SSC Board exams (which is a big deal here in India).
I would sleep for about 6 hours every night till the age of 19. When I was pursuing my Engineering, I started going through frequent phases of insomnia. I wouldn’t sleep for 4-5 days in a row. It never made me feel drowsy or tired. Like a careless teenager and a young adult, I did not pay any attention to this situation. I had these phases of insomnia visiting every 2-3 months till the age of 22.
After I moved to the city to pursue my masters, I developed a new sleep pattern. I would sleep for 5 hours on weekends and sleep for 11+ hours on the weekends. I felt as if I would payoff my sleep debt on the weekends.
I need to bust this myth right here – Sleeping for too long on weekends, disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and makes it much harder to make up on Monday mornings. (No wonder, everyone hates Mondays)
At this point in my life ( I am 24 – almost 25) and I have developed a stable sleep cycle and that has reflected on my daily productivity, energy levels and overall mood cycles. But I need to work on improving the quality of my sleep.
Master Your Sleep Schedule
This isn’t a step by step method but just 3 powerful ways to actually master your sleep schedule.
#1 – Create a bedtime ritual
If you know how habits are created, you know that every habit is associated with a trigger. For example, eating chocolate may be triggered by unstable emotional state, or going to the gym can be triggered by putting on workout clothes. You need to implement this concept to your sleeping habits.
If you follow the same routine over and over again for more than 21 days, it becomes a habit. Every time you wake up, your mind and body knows that you brush your teeth or wash your face and you don’t have to convince yourself to do so. Similarly, create a bedtime ritual and go to sleep right after you are done. Do this for 21 days and then, whenever you do that routine, your mind will go to sleep.
My bedtime ritual –
Reading 10 pages of my book, washing my face with warm water, saying a prayer and then putting my socks on. If I do this routine in the middle of the day, my brain will ask me to sleep! You can create a soothing bedtime ritual for yourself as per your liking.
#2 – Track your sleep hours and quality of sleep
Tracking your sleeping hours is such a powerful way to visually see how your body responds to when you sleep. You can associate your sleeping hours with the quality of sleep to master your sleeping schedule.
For example, when I tracked my sleeping hours for 1 month, I found out that I had a better quality of sleep when I slept from 11 to 6 as opposed to 12 to 7. Also, this changed according to the season. In monsoon season, I had better sleep when I slept from 11:00 to 7. My body needed more sleep during this time of the year. I also need more sleep during my periods.
You can understand these things with sleep tracking. I also maintain a dream journal because I dream a lot and remember a lot.
I have a sleep and dream journal to track your sleep and dreams. You can grab it right here!
#3 – Maintain Your Cycle
It is very important to maintain your sleep-wake cycle. When you maintain this cycle, your body will start feeling sleepy and will wake naturally at those times. Also, waking up naturally results in higher productivity and better mood, than waking up with an alarm clock.
When you force yourself to maintain this cycle for a few weeks, it will become natural – i.e. You will master your sleep schedule for massive success!
Let me know you sleeping hacks and practices in the comments below.