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
Munich Chronotype Questionaire
Deep into Sleep – Harvard Magazine
Jen @ Pretty Little Grub says
I usually only get 7 hours of sleep a night. I know the recommendation is for more but honestly I feel good most days. I mean coffee helps life but it works for me. I can’t see myself going to bed any earlier. Give me less than that 7 hours though and I’m a train wreck the next day.
I have done less than 7 hours and LET ME TELL YOU, it is not pretty…
Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat says
Ooh great post lady! You and I have had lots of sleep chats, and like you, I don’t waste much time before bed when I know I’m really tired! These days I’ve been getting about 7 hours per night, and typically after my long training sessions on the weekend I’ll have a nap in the afternoon. It’s amazing what a difference it makes! To be honest, I’m feeling really tired today so I’ve got every intention of having an early night!
I need to take a tip from you and start fitting in more naps for SURE. An early night sounds LUXURIOUS.
I am a coffee-aholic! And I know its because I am a Bad Sleeper!
I am not above trading sleep for coffee. The addiction is real…
Kim Osborne says
I’ve found through trial and error that my ideal is 8 hours a night. I used to use sleep cycle but recently started using my Garmin VivoSmart to track my sleep – I know if I’m under 8 hours for a few nights in a row I’ll be grumpy and craving sugar. I
I don’t like sleeping, but I know it’s important!
I am with you on not loving sleeping either, but it is SO dang important.
You and I are very similar!! From the coffee (always black, after 2PM is bad news) to our wake up/sleep times. I need to try the no technology at least an hour before bed thing. I usually get around 7 hrs, but sometimes I get 6hrs when I work at 4am.
Yeah this one strikes close to home! I have the same vice as you do, too! Truth be told, leaving Starbucks has done wonders for my sleep habits, both by having a regular 9-5 routine and by cutting down on my (previously terrifying) caffeine intake levels. I had the hardest time picturing myself as the guy actually getting 7 hours plus a night.
Annnnd how are you managing without the internet???? I moved in June and was about two weeks without it. Thought I was going to lose my %#&*$ LOL
HA – I go to Starbucks when I need it but I watch almost zero TV and don’t waste time on the internet which helps with the whole sleeping thing. 🙂
Great tips and they all make good, smart, sleep sense to me.
I am a sleep lover. I think my ideal is about 8 to 9 hours a night although I usually only get that on weekends. My idea of nap is anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (oops) and I have been known to drink a cup of fully caffeinate coffee and then nod off to napville minutes later. In fact, my Hubby is envious of my ability to fall asleep almost instantly. It’s a skill I’ve perfected over time.
With all that being said, I could use a little bit more unplugged time in my evenings and I’m going to figure out to way to incorporate that. Thanks!
I love the idea of caffeine naps. You drink a cup of coffee, nap for 30 minutes and wake up JUST when the caffeine is starting to take effect. #winning.