Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Never quite enough sleep

As I so often do, I’m once again renewing my efforts to get more sleep.

This is nothing new. It’s a perennial resolution. The kind of perennial resolution that fails. I always tell myself I need to get more sleep, and I always try to design ways to get to bed earlier, but it’s a plan that never really materializes.

I shouldn’t say that so passively. It’s not as if anyone but me can effect this change in my habits. This change won’t magically materialize; I have to make it happen.

Late evening is just such a gold mine of productivity. Once everyone else is settled into bed, I finally have time to give my uninterrupted attention to other things. Paperwork, or article deadlines, or all too often the frivolity of Facebook.

A friend asked me recently why I use one of the newly popular sleep-tracking apps, a technology tool that tells me exactly how long I sleep each night and how soundly. “It’s the same thing as weighing yourself every morning,” I told her. “It’s not that I actually do anything different based on the number; it’s just that keeping track of it makes me feel like I could potentially use the information to make positive changes.”

“Six hours,” she said disapprovingly, checking the latest number on my sleep-tracking app. “You need to try harder.”

It does seem like there’s no better time for improving one’s sleep habits than midwinter. Bed is the warmest and coziest place to be once the sun goes down. Our evening commitments are few these days, and walks after dinner are no great temptation when it’s well below freezing out. If ever there’s a time for getting to bed earlier, cold dreary February must be it.

It takes effort, but I have to try again to improve my sleep habits, and I have to remind myself: all of these little tasks, the paperwork and the household details – not to mention the siren song of social media – will still be there when the sun comes up tomorrow. There’s no reason I have to attend to it right now.

Last week I came across this useful pointer in an article about stress relief: “Allow yourself a brief period of time to fully relax before bedtime each day—even if it’s only taking a relaxing bath or spending 30 minutes with a good book. Remember, you need time to recharge. Don’t spend this time planning tomorrow or doing chores you didn’t get around to during the day. You’ll be much better prepared to face another stressful day if you give yourself a brief reward of some free time.”

Yes, and I’ll be much better prepared to go to sleep, too, if I read or relax rather than trying to maximize the productivity potential of every single minute up to bedtime.

So, once again, I’m resolving to improve in this area. I’m redoubling my efforts to get to bed early. Yes, it’s a perennially broken resolution of mine. But that’s no reason not to keep trying.

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