In defense of sleeping less: What to do when you just can’t get 8 hours
It has felt awesome to stumble upon a week where I am caught up on work, on time for things and organized because they sure don’t happen often. Summer proves to be as busy as ever which has me squeezing in my workouts at funny times of day, but they are getting into my schedule regularly which is all I care about.
If you have been a long time reader, you will know that sleep is my Achilles heel. For real.
Between my aggressive love for coffee, my deep rooted fear of missing out and the fact that I am the socialist of social butterflies leaves me cutting into my sleep time in favour of adventures, fun and getting all my things done.
I have talked about the importance of sleep before, but I wanted to take a bit of a different perspective today. Letting it go.
Every time I set my month goals, the first one that comes to mind is adding more sleep in. It is something I WANT to do, but it is very hard for me to find the time. I truly love everything I do in life and feel as if I would not benefit from cutting anything out. The other perspective I take is that I do feel rested most days and I sleep as much as I can which averages out to about 7 hours and 24 minutes a night (according to my Sleep Cycle app) which puts me pretty on track for my goal for 2015 to sleep 7.5 hours a night at least 5 days a week.
There are days that I worry about the amount of sleep that I am not getting because I hear that most athletes should get 8 – 10 hours a night for proper recovery. I found that worrying about it made me focus on fatigue if I was tired and perpetuated the problem. My goal is to sleep as much as I can but not worry if I don’t hit a perfect number.
Here’s what I do
I don’t have any screen time at least an hour before bed. This may be crazy to believe, but I haven’t even had internet at my house since April 1 and I haven’t missed it! Summer evenings are spent training, hiking, swimming or playing soccer, beach volleyball or golf outside. If I am not playing sports or training, I am on a patio. Outside. See a pattern? I find that this helps me be alert and being outside helps to regulate my circadian rhythm.
I know my sleep chronotype. Are you a morning person? A night hawk? Work with your natural rhythms. I took a chronotype analysis and it turns out that I am a moderate early type which means my ideal wake up time is around 5 – 6 AM and bedtime is 9 – 11 PM. I found that to be fairly intuitive because my schedule doesn’t change much whether I am on vacation or during the work week. I still get up at 6:30 am on days off where I don’t set alarms but this just means I need to try and get to bed as early as possible.
I don’t waste time before bed. Often, I will burst through the door after a long day of working and playing hard, brush my teeth and hop into bed. I don’t read, relax or drink a cup of tea – it is 100 to 0 in about 2 seconds. It is like a challenge to get the most amount of sleep possible.
I nap whenever I can. It doesn’t happen very often, but if I have an open block of time where I don’t have any work or socializing to do, I will drop off for a nap. If I am truly struggling with fatigue, I will take a 10-15 minute nap. I have attached a resource at the bottom which is a great explanation of how to nap and for how long for optimal results.
I drink coffee. This isn’t necessarily the most healthy option but I am deeply committed and truly addicted to coffee. Through my years of working with my naturopath, where we have nixed other vices such as Nutella, peanut butter and cheese for periods of time, never has she touched my coffee. I drink it black and limit myself to 1 -2 cups a day and love every moment of them. I don’t take anything caffeinated after 2 PM.
I try to keep everything as balanced as possible. I find that at the end of the day, the recommended amount of sleep is just that – a recommendation. In the summer, I find I need less sleep than in the winter. When I do sleep, I sleep deeply and well. Could I get more? Yes. But as long as I continue to perform well at work and on the race course and have a high quality of life, I am going to keep on doing what I am doing! I also strive to make sure other areas such as nutrition, hydration, mental health and general well being are as balanced as possible as well.
How many hours of sleep do you get in a night?
The Definitive Guide to Napping – Mark’s Daily Apple
Deep into Sleep – Harvard Magazine