So how does it feel to sleep for 7 hours a night for 10 consecutive nights?
I conducted my second LifeTest to see if consistently sleeping 7 hours a night would dramatically increase my mood, productivity, and overall awesomeness. (The original challenge was for 7 nights, but I later increased it to 10 just because I’m awesome like that). You can check out the full objectives of the LifeTest here, and the detailed log here.
I got pretty surprised by the outcome of this LifeTest – it totally didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I did get some cool perspectives:
Sleep Isn’t a Panacea
Here’s the biggie: Sufficient sleep might prevent your day from being crappy by default, but it doesn’t automatically change your day from crappy to awesome.
I was totally expecting sleep to automatically boost my productivity and mood… except that it didn’t. On most days, I was functioning at a pretty “normal” level of productivity. I’m not saying that having more sleep was completely useless though:
- Having more sleep helped me not to feel like killing myself every time the alarm clock went off in the morning
- Having more sleep minimized the instances of me dozing off in front of the computer, re-reading the same Excel spreadsheet for 20 minutes.
- Having more sleep reduced the deep dark eyebags that were so deeply etched into my face for the past couple of months.
But having more sleep also didn’t automatically transform me into the Super Amazingly Efficient Knowledge Worker that I thought I’d become. I did feel a lot less stressed, though I can’t be sure if it’s because I was having more sleep, or simply because I’ve been trying to engineer a new perspective on stress (more on that in a later post).
From my last 2 LifeTests, I’m beginning to see productivity as a function of many different factors: what my mood’s like, what I ate for lunch, how inspired I am with my work, etc. Sleep probably doesn’t hurt productivity, but I can’t conclusively say that it definitely boosts it either.
Quality Matters a Whole Lot more Than Quantity.
The nights where I’ve slept the best are those where I gave myself enough time to ease into sleep. That means getting into bed at least 20 minutes before my scheduled bedtime, and doing some easy reading with the lights dimmed low. Sleep quality was also great on those nights when I simply chilled – and didn’t have 1,001 things to accomplish on my to-do list.
Conversely, there were some nights when I worked till the last minute, hastily punching out a blog post and publishing it before jumping into bed with 2 minutes to spare. My quality of sleep sucked ass on those nights.
The body needs time to phase-shift from working mode into sleeping mode. Shutting down your computer early, dimming the lights and not thinking about work will help it shift phases. Being stressed will result in a lot of tossing and turning, as well as crazy dreams nightmares where an ugly monster tricks you into signing up for reservist.
Official Cut-Off times Are Key.
I’ve been trying to unofficially sleep 6.5 hours a night for months now, and it never worked. Why? Because I didn’t have an solid threat like I did in the past 10 days: Sleep 7 Hours A Night Or Risk Humiliation From Your Blog Readers.
I did have a self-imposed, unofficial Facebook ban after 11pm, but I’d sometimes still find myself surfing it after 11 because of some lame excuse like checking whether my blogpost got published.
With this LifeTest, I was forced to set an ironclad, no-exceptions rule of having no social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) after 11pm. That pretty much worked, because I managed to completely eliminate the distractions that were preventing me from sleeping on time.
I think that making a rule official is key here. By official, I mean that you should be held accountable every time you break it. To help me stick to my no-social-media-after-11 rule in the future, I might experiment with a service like Stickk , or an app like Freedom or SelfControl. We’ll see how effective they are to get me off surfing stupid videos of sneezing pandas.
The Young Person’s Sleep Conundrum
It’s obviously a good thing to get more sleep, but I’m not sure if it’s completely possible for a young, twenty-something person to regularly sleep 7 hours a night. At least, not with my lifestyle.
So on one hand, I’ve got a pressing desire to get my sleep on, and on the other hand, I feel like getting more sleep might eat into time for my personal projects and my social life.
So what’s an active twenty-something dude like me to do? Two things I can do to try to balance these two needs:
- Keep the “default” option to sleeping more. That means adhering to the 7-hour rule (together with the social media ban) as much as possible on regular, weekday nights.
- Schedule my social life and personal projects each week. That way, I can plan in advance when I’ll allow myself to have slightly less sleep and not feel all guilty about it.
Seeya in A Couple of Weeks!
I won’t be doing another LifeTest for at least the next couple of weeks, because I’ll be heading to Spain this Friday night! I’m expecting to take a lot of siestas during my trip – so I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
Image credit: epsos