Our bodies have an internal clock, but it can’t actually tell time… something anyone who has ever experienced jet lag knows. I learned this when I started travelling to BC for work. It didn’t matter what time I went to bed the first night, I always seemed to wake up at 3:00AM, because my body still thought it was 6:00AM.
My 18 year old son Keith swears that he can’t fall asleep until his “body is ready” (which is generally very late). Every morning, when he wakes up for at 6:00AM for work, he’s always still extremely tired. I give him the same advice that my mother used to give me: “Why don’t you train your body to go to sleep earlier and you won’t be as tired when you wake up?” Like most 18 year old’s, he doesn’t tend to take my advice on this, but it took me a number of years until I finally took my mother’s advice. It’s funny, as we get older, we begin to truly understand how often our parents were actually right.
Unfortunately, the amount of sleep we get doesn’t always indicate how rested we really are. While we are told to spend 8 hours a day (or 1/3 of our lives) asleep, the overall quality of our sleep depends on several other factors. This short video helps clarify things https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVQlcxiQlzI
Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from our phones and other electronic devices—interferes with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle, as well as each phase of sleep we go through during the night.
A few weeks ago I took a friends advice and started turning off my phone by 9:30PM. As a result, I was actually quite surprised how good that I slept and how refreshed I felt the next day. For the last few nights I decided it was more important to get caught up on emails from the day before closing my eyes. Although I fell asleep around the same time, I found that the quality of sleep wasn’t as good and I still had to drag myself out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:30AM. I guess that just goes to show that when we’ve gotten used sleep deprivation, we forget how good it feels to get a good night sleep. Tonight, the emails can wait and the phone stays shut off.
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess not only where you fall based on the recommendations, but also to examine the quality and quantity of your sleep as it’s being affected by things like stress, room lighting, and more. To see how much sleep you should be getting, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations. http://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218%2815%2900015-7/fulltext
Our “fall back” this year isn’t until Sunday November 5th. Don’t forget, our bodies won’t know that the time actually changed so why don’t you try something different. If you normally shut the light off at 11:30PM, why not make better use of that bonus hour and fall into bed an hour early so you can catch a few extra Zzz’s. Your body and mind with thank you…guaranteed!