Having rested up from my vacation, it’s time to do my sleep check-in for the month of July. During my last check-in, I set the goal of hitting my sleep target at least 10 times in the month.
Let’s see how I did:
July proved to be a good month for sleep! I hit my target 11 times out of 31 days, or 35%. This is the best I have achieved since I started tracking my sleep at the start of the year.
Having said that, I do want to provide some context that will dampen the accomplishment a bit. The blocks of sleep at the start and end of the month (6-days) were during vacation periods – the start of the month was the Canada Day long weekend, and the block of time at the end were when I took 2-weeks off from my jobs and went to the cottage with my fiancee. Because she took time off, we both were able to sleep in and get lots of rest.
This means that had I not had that time off from work, I would likely have only hit my target around 5-6 times, which goes against my stated aim last month of hitting my sleep goals by being more mindful and intentional with my bedtimes.
So, while I can celebrate this month of more concentrated rest, I have to keep in mind that my habits themselves have not changed around sleep.
Therefore, I will keep my target going, and I will aim to hit my goal another 10-times in August. This will be a better measure of whether I can keep the trend going strong.
At the close of my May sleep check-in, I indicated that if I didn’t improve my sleeping habits over June, (that is, to be more mindful of the process), that I would set targets in July. Let’s see how I fared.
On the surface, I would say that I’ve done better during June than I did in May. In May I only hit 4 nights of 7+ hours of sleep, and in June I hit my target 7 times. Superficially, I have succeeded.
However, I don’t consider this a success as I’m clearly not mindful of my habits. You can see this manifested in where I’m most commonly hitting my targets: Sundays. Four out of the seven instances where I slept 7 or more hours were on Sundays where I was allowed to sleep in, and I didn’t work at the bar the night before (where I would normally be awake until 3am or later). This is not the result of me being busy most of the week, but instead the result of me not being mindful of my night-time routines and not getting into bed until 11pm.
And so, as promised, in July I’m setting a target. I will be aiming for 10-nights of getting 7+ hours of sleep. It’s a little ambitious as I typically don’t do better than 7 nights per month, but I think it is a manageable target.
Happy Canada Day weekend for those who are observing it!
In preparation for the holiday, I’m writing this post a little early as I will be sans networked connection at the lake. As of writing, I don’t yet have all of my sleep data recorded for June, so the typical sleep update will be delayed one week.
Instead, I want to briefly give some further health and fitness thoughts that I’ve been mulling over recently, in no particular order.
1. “I’ve put on some weight…”
Exercise was a bigger part of my life last year, but I’ve recently recalled that my gym habit waned in the days before heading off to Scotland in July 2016. Prompted by the realization that July starts next week, I looked up my weight stats for this time last year. Ugly truth time!
Needless to say, that’s a little disappointing. Finding a system that I can stick to has been a challenge for a number of reasons that aren’t particularly compelling, and I’m disappointed in my progress so far.
2. Goal Setting with a Deadline
I realized that last Saturday was exactly 63 weeks away from our wedding day. I’m hoping to leverage the not so far off wedding date as a concrete goal in my mind to spur action. Every week that I do nothing in regards to exercise or fitness brings me one week closer to the wedding where I didn’t prepare. With lots of lead-in, I have plenty of time to exercise safely to look good for my future-wife.
3. Tracking Excuses
I found a nifty idea on Reddit that I’m implementing in my notebook called the Excuse Log. This will have the dual purpose of aiding purposeful reflection on why I don’t exercise when I plan to, and what I can do about it in the future. In my notebook, I’ve penned in the table below:
*What is the reason why I’m not going to the gym?
*Is this a legitimate reason? I.e. would a good friend or professional excuse my absence based on this reason?
*If the excuse is not legitimate, reframe the problem to better reflect reality for next time. If the excuse is legitimate, what solutions can you implement to help you in the future.
This will help me be more mindful of those times when I didn’t exercise as I planned because I let my baser monkey brain trick me (you’re too tired, YouTube is more pleasant, you ate too big of a lunch, etc.).
4. Enjoy What You Do
I stopped rowing, ultimately, because I don’t enjoy cardio exercises all that much. While it might be true that I like rowing over running, I truthfully don’t like rowing or running that much as compared to lifting weights, especially when it’s the only exercise I’m doing.
Going to the gym to lift weights comes with a whole host of mental barriers that I’ve thus far proven to be weak against. I give in to temptation when I’m tired, I don’t have the discipline yet to hit the gym in the morning, I’m still self-conscious around others, and I seem to have an aversion to sweating. Stacked together, I’ve got a lot of friction to fight against just to do the right thing.
A trick I’ve seen consistently in the exercise literature and the self-help sphere is to pick activities you like to do, because you’ll be more likely to stick to them. I genuinely enjoyed going to the gym when life was simpler a year ago. Now, having been away for so long, it’s hard for me to build up to the same level where I can coast on the routine. I need a catalyst to help push me forward. I need something I enjoy to be the keystone habit/activity that will force me to exercise. John Green talked about it recently after completing his first half-marathon on his 100 Days YouTube channel. In the video, he takes the advice that sticking to your fitness habits can be aided by signing up for competitions that you need to train for.
Recently, I participated in a crash course introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some friends. To say that it kicked my ass is a bit of an understatement; I was a hot, sweaty mess afterwards. As of writing I still have bruises and broken blood vessels marking my upper arms and chest, and in the days afterwards I felt as though I had been run over by a mid-sized American pick-up truck.
And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In the past, I had also participated in a similar session for Krav Maga, and while I enjoyed it, too, the BJJ session was a lot more fun for me. Despite what you may think about me moonlighting as a security guard, I’m not a big fan of striking combat. I prefer grappling and restraint over throwing punches, so BJJ spoke to me on some level.
I’ve since looked up the fees and schedule offered by the recreation centre and I’ve been pondering whether I would want to join in on some of the drop-in classes. To keep up and learn BJJ (or any martial art) would require me to improve my flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance; I’d also be more inclined to hit the weights to gain strength as well. I haven’t made any decisions or commitments yet, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.
Of course, this is all talk. My problem is that I don’t translate talk into action. All the best laid plans come unraveled when you can’t put the rubber to the pavement (worn cliched metaphors and all). Or, as Mike Tyson has quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. In this case, lacking a solid fitness plan opens me up to the punches of day-to-day life, where every available excuse becomes a valid reason to not commit to exercise.
As I review this post, I realize the order I laid things out in creates a pretty good reflection of 1.) identifying the problem, 2.) setting a realistic timeline, 3.) anticipating roadblocks, and 4.) setting good plans of action.
I don’t know where this will go, but I’m curious to see what comes of it.
Reviewing May, I have a number of observations I’ve noticed:
I had one really good stretch where I, for the first time, hit 3 out of 4 nights in a row of 7+ hours of sleep. This coincided with my partner being out of town (not correlated, but something I am noting), and it also falling on the long weekend. With the long weekend, I was able to sleep in on the Monday.
I had a couple weeks with a lot of meetings and extra work, which might have created a new spiral of: little sleep -> tired -> weak will -> making bad choices -> going to bed later. Without a system (e.g. an enforced, bed time), I’m letting my whims dictate my actions.
There are a number of nights were I’m in bed for 7-hours, but I’m experiencing restless period of sleep, which lowers the amount of sleep I’m tracking for. Generally, if I’m getting between 6.5-7-hours of sleep, I’m likely to have been in bed for at least 7 hours. Anything less than 6.5-hours means I’m probably not going to bed until closer to midnight. Again, this is just an observation. My main conclusion is that I need to increase the amount of time I’m in bed (i.e. go to bed earlier).
Here’s hoping that I learn from my mistakes and do better next month. One thing I’m going to test in June is to see if this level of failure will motivate me to be more mindful of sleep. If things don’t improve by the time July rolls around, I think I will set a concrete target for the number of nights I want to hit my sleep target.
Last week, I gave my fourth sleep check-in for 2017. With four months of data, I thought I’d put it all together to see what trends shake out and what I might learn from the experience so far.
The single best day for sleep for me are Sunday’s. This makes sense, as I typically don’t work Saturday nights at the bar anymore, and I consider Sunday to be a down day – I don’t set alarms unless I have something planned. Therefore, it makes sense that I hit at least 7-hours of sleep 10 our of the 18 Sunday’s in the first four months (55.5%).
If Sunday’s are successful, why aren’t Saturday’s? I attribute this largely to working at the bar Friday nights. When I work a bar shift, I don’t get off work until 2:30am, which means that by the time I get home, wind down, and finally push myself to go to bed, it’s 4am or later. Since I don’t like sleeping too late on Saturday’s and wasting the day, I’ll often get up by 10 or 11am, well before I hit the 7-hour sleep mark. Because of this, it doesn’t surprise me that Saturday’s are displaying the worst results.
With the Monday through Friday results being largely similar, I can offer some brief commentary on their successes. Sleep results from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the most likely to be successful for me since I often have those nights free, and am able to go to bed around 10pm. In this case, I’m not successful because I’m usually not in bed until after 10:30pm, meaning any kind of restlessness while I sleep cuts into the narrow margins. While the opportunity for success is there, poor execution on my part is to blame for the poor results.
Thursday’s results are curious. Thursday’s come after I work the Wednesday night shifts at the bar, so you would expect me to have as poor of results as Saturday. However, what’s not captured in the graph is the time I go into work Thursday mornings. While I’m *supposed* to start work at 9:30am, I’m often sleeping in Thursday mornings and not getting to work until 10am. That probably accounts for the times I’m hitting the 7-hours.
Friday’s are a little anomalous, as I would expect them to be on par with Monday through Wednesday. I suppose there’s a few things going on there: I’m a little fatigued by the end of the week, so I’m making poorer choices; or perhaps my sleeping schedule shifts later because of Wednesday night. It’s also possible that there are other externalities that I’m not accounting for, such as other events in my calendar that I’m not including here for simplicity.
Of course, it needs to be pointed out that we should not draw a lot of inferences here. All things considered, four months is not a lot of data, and I’m still performing poorly in terms of the sleep challenge. In the four months (120 days), I hit my target 25 times (20.8%). Not accounted for, as well, are the near-misses where I slept over 6.5-hours in a night, but less than 7-hours. Also not accounted for are the nights were I was asleep for 7 or more hours, but due to restlessness, getting up in the night, or being disturbed by my partner and pet, I was tracking less than 7-hours on my Fitbit.
Still, near-misses are failures, and I must accept those instances where I barely fail my goals. With more intentionality, mindfulness, and better systems, it is possible for me to improve over the next four months.
No progress to speak of, as I kept pace with 7 nights of sleep for the month. I’m starting to notice a few trends, having the month laid out for me in full. For instance, I see that my most common day to hit my sleep target is Sunday. While it’s not reflected here whether that means I’m going to bed at a reasonable hour (my gut tells me this is probably not the case), or if I’m sleeping in, it’s something worth reflecting on.
Over the next week, I’ll review my sleep progress for the first quarter of 2017 and see what the stats say, and what I can learn from my experiment so far.
I decided to hold off on posting the March sleep check-in in favour of discussing the job related stuff while it was fresh and ongoing. However, now that the bulk of that is out of the way, I can return to updating my progress on getting more sleep.
As you can see from my daily tracking, basically no change over February. I did get one less night of sleep over 7-hours last month, but overall I stayed consistent with the previous month in the number of nights with over 7-hours in a month. Obviously February and March don’t have the same number of days per month, but I’m treating this as a rough estimate. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen an improvement, so it’s something to keep in mind for the rest of April.
Hope you had a great Easter weekend! Talk to you next week.