It’s pretty special to come in here tomorrow and have a chance to do that. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of reasons, but tonight I look forward to losing that sleep. It’s been a long hard grind…
Buck Showalter just managed his team to a division clinching win. No one will blame him for skipping (see?) out on a night’s sleep. We’ve all prioritized a various activity over a solid rest period, and most of us do it for less than an AL East title.
My current schedule has me arriving home from the studio most nights at around 11:00pm. By the time I answer emails, set my fantasy football lineup and finish up a post or two, it’s close to 1:00am. Regardless of when my head hits the pillow, I have to pop out of bed at 6:30 to get my boys off to school. They both kick ass at math and could tell you better than I that I slumbered for 5.5 hours last night. From Harvard Health:
A recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power…
Chronic sleep loss…I suspect I’m not the only one struggling to get a full night of zzz’s. Most of us know that we can’t actually catch up on sleep just by staying in bed longer on the weekends, but there’s a larger problem with this plan. From lifehacker.com:
We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too.
Well, that’s rough. Okay, so we need to all be shooting for our 8 hours every night, right? Hit snooze. From the Wall Street Journal:
Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers…”The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping.
So now I just have to make sure I go to bed, fall asleep within 20 minutes, and get up exactly 440 minutes later. That seems reasonable. Precisely 7 hours may or may not be optimal, but the real world doesn’t afford us the luxury to schedule our sleep that rigidly. We can’t always control the amount of sleep we get, but we can take steps to improve it. That 5.5 hours I got was delicious, and that was more valuable than 7 hours of tossing and turning. From the same Lifehacker article:
One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.
How can we make sure our sleep is quality? Start with something that won’t be a surprise to readers of this blog: exercise.
Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
I played professional baseball for a while, so I should have been a champion at this. Not so much, unfortunately. I’d often follow a long game by a not so prudent training session. Many ballplayers instead unwind with a couple of adult beverages. “It helps me sleep,” they’d spout.
Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
Right. I enjoy a glass of scotch every now and then, but if my sleep isn’t on point, it’s a no go. If I know I have limited time to sleep, I need to make the necessary adjustments. My coffee is a morning beverage, but I try not to imbibe within several hours of bedtime. For the rest of it…let’s face it, if you’re still smoking cigarettes, you’re probably not reading this blog. In case you’re just here for the pictures, while I have your ear, inhaling smoke is bad for you.
Life is a tradeoff. We can get good sleep and make the adjustments, or we can prioritize other things and suffer the health consequences.
There is a final alternative. You can be that guy or girl who says something catchy, cute and ultimately ignorant like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”