As the title says, I need more sleep. It should surprise no one that sleep is good for you and you generally feel better getting more of it.
And yet, I’m terrible at it. I’ve known for a while I’m terrible at managing sleep, but wearing a Fitbit over the last year really helped quantify how terrible I am.
Here is a typical week for me back in mid-October, 2016. As you can see, I was averaging less than 6-hours a week, and I would occasionally punctuate my sleepiness with a crash that would waste half a day by recuperating. By the end of the academic term, I was turning into a zombie. Things were starting to slide, I felt irritable, my weight had gone up; basically everything bad about not getting sleep was happening. The only thing that thankfully did not happen was falling asleep behind the wheel.
A small part of me wore my fatigue like a badge of honour. It was the natural consequence of hustling and being busy. The problem with this is it was impressing no one, it was wearing me out, and it was pissing people off who I was failing to deliver to on my promises.
Something needed to change.
… And the Clock Strikes Twelve – New Year, New Rules
While I’m not a big new year’s resolutions guy, I saw the start of January as a good time to try and reclaim my sleeping habits. I had wound down a bunch of my obligations, finished teaching, and was going to spend less time commuting for a long-distance relationship (the fiancee was moving back to my city), so January made sense to focus on cultivating a better sleeping habit.
Step one in any major change is to identify and isolate the variables you want to modify, and track the delta from your baseline. After all, you can’t change what you don’t measure.
I set 7-hours as a good goal to strive towards as it was more sleep than I was used to but not an unreasonable jump that would set me up for failure. I decided to track each day’s worth of sleep as a binary yes-no check in my notebook. The Fitbit would auto-track my sleep, and I would manually log my sleep to ensure I was consciously paying attention to sleep. I modified the Bullet Journal method and tracked the days I got less than 7-hours of sleep (alongside the days I read, and the days I exercised).
After one month, I look back at my progress.
Needless to say, if January is my baseline, then at least I have nowhere to go but up. I hit my target four times all month. My reading habit was fairly strong, and my exercise is still abysmal.
Light on the Horizon
There is one thing that has changed in February so far that has given me hope: my fiancee has started a new job.
As of writing, she’s in her first week at her new job, and I have only now given notice to my apartment managers that I will be moving in with her, so I’m spending a few nights a week at her place to help support her as she starts the job. This includes groceries, errands, and taking care of our dog.
Her new job is a few cities over, so she needs to commute about an hour each way, meaning she needs to get up before me and hit the road before I normal would wake up. As a consequence, she needs to follow a fairly strict bed time while she adjusts to the new schedule.
At one point, I would have let her go to bed, then I would have gone to bed whenever I felt like it, and set my own alarm. But, in the spirit of supporting her (and wanting to spend quality time with her), I’ve been going to bed at the same time as her, and getting up with her to tend to the dog’s morning needs.
The days where I’ve gotten 7+ hours of sleep have been the greatest I’ve felt in a long time.
Obviously, it’s too early to suggest that I’ve got my habit down, but subjectively I can report feeling better overall. I have wanted to wake up early for some time now, and getting up with my partner has felt great. I have time to enjoy my morning coffee while I read or listen to the news, and not feeling rushed out the door has lifted my spirits. Ideally, I want to keep this going, so it’ll be interesting to see how the system adapts to other obligations in my life (working at the bar being the harshest pressure on my sleep schedule).
I know that rationally, sleeping is good. It’s good for mental clarity, it’s good for decision-making, it’s good for general health as well as weightloss. But knowing the facts has so far proven to be a challenge for me. Perhaps focusing on my relationship and supporting my partner’s success is just the motivation I’ve needed to force me to take better care of myself.
We shall see where things go from here.