I’m doing one Basic Lifestyle Guideline (BLG) per day for 2 weeks. There are 8 of them, so that leaves one day for an introduction (that was Monday) and one day for a summary (that should be next Friday). So far, I’ve done “Balance“, “Purpose“, and “Hydration“. Today, it’s “Sleep”.
So much can be said about sleep, and has been, and will be, and I’m gonna say some things about it right now too. Sleep is critical to the healthy function of the human body. The various stages of sleep each play a role in the recovery and vitality of different systems of the body. When you sleep, your body temperature drops, your breathing slows, your blood pressure decreases, muscles relax and their blood supply increases, tissues heal, repair, and grow, hormones such as growth hormone are released, and energy is replenished. Really deep sleep is restorative and regenerative for your nervous system as well.
So, far from being a waste of time, sleep is actually one of the most important things you do with your time. When measured up against other activities, it is probably the thing you will spend the most of your lifetime doing. Without it, you’ll go crazy and die. What’s the point? Take sleep seriously, respect sleep, and make sleep an ally.
Here’s how the OPEX crew worded it,
“Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to maintain a great circadian rhythm.”
I think there are a handful of big ideas contained within this statement:
- Beginning, middle, and end
- The value of consistency
- Circadian rhythm
Beginning, Middle, and End
Going to bed typically requires a series of preparations. If you’re conscious of this, you can turn these into evening rituals and time them to ensure you’re getting into the best possible sleep state at the optimal time. For example, you lower the lights in your house to signal your brain to wind-down, you turn off screens (TVs, computers, tablets, and phones) to de-stimulate your brain from the blue light wavelengths and constant stream of new information, you lock doors and turn on outside lights to create a sense of security, you put kids to bed, you floss and brush your teeth and use the toilet, you read to relax, you write nagging thoughts into a journal for tomorrow’s consideration, and you pray or meditate to end your day, then the lights go off, head hits the pillow, and you’re soon in a deep, restorative sleep.
During the night, you want to stay asleep. This is where lowering the temperature in the room, getting some black out curtains, and keeping all electronic devices (that might beep, glow, or vibrate) in another room will help. If you do wake up for some reason, you want to return to sleep as quickly as possible, so don’t look at the clock or turn any lights on. Pee if you have to, or poke your head in to make sure the kids alright, or go look to see if someone really is breaking into your house, but once the thing that woke you up is resolved, get that head back on that pillow! One thing that helps is to try remembering the last dream you had and returning to that. One thing that doesn’t help is counting the hours until you have to wake up and pondering/planning all the things you’re going to do the next day. As my lovely wife often says, “tomorrow will take care of itself.”
When it’s time to wake up, WAKE UP! Do whatever you gotta do to make sure you get out of that bed at the time you planned for. Put the alarm clock in the other room and turn off snooze mode. Then, similar to the ritual you created for going to bed, be conscious of the things you do first thing in the morning and organize a ritual around those. Maybe it involves some mouthwash, a toilet, and then a big glass of water with vitamins. I don’t know, you figure it out. Everyone’s life looks different, so all I can do is provide some principles and then let you ponder those and find ways to practice them in your own life. Putting a strict line between sleep and wakefulness is one of those important principles.
The Value of Consistency
You must have noticed that the things you do only once don’t have much long-term effect, but the things you do on a regular, habitual basis add up to large effects over time. One example of this is compound interest at the bank. Put $100 in a savings account every month and pretty soon you have a big pile of money there. Sleep is like that too. Go to bed at the same time every day for two weeks straight and you’ll notice that you are getting to sleep more easily, falling into a deeper sleep, and feeling more rested and recovered by morning time. Likewise, wake up at the same time every day for two weeks and you will notice that you no longer need an alarm or an obligation (like going in to work) to force you to wakeup. You’re just waking up naturally at this point. Invest in the value of consistency with your sleep.
This is a term that refers to any and all the biological rhythms that happen on a 24-hour cycle. I’ve often explained this to people by having them imagine a dull, lifeless rock of the Earth. This rock would still rotate around its axis, each region alternately facing towards and away from the sun in a 24-hour cycle. Consequently, the minerals on its surface would be heated and cooled in an alternating 24-hour cycle, as would the air. Add some water to that planet and now you have oceans that are affected by the pull of the moon to create tides, seas lakes that heat up and evaporate by day, then cool by night, and an atmosphere with weather systems moved by the pressure differentials this rhythm creates. Put plants on there and we have them growing towards the sun for photosynthesis. Add the animals and you find them either diurnal (day walkers) or nocturnal (night walkers). So, who are we as human beings to think we can just invent electric lights, automobiles, and computers, then completely ignore all the biological rhythms we are a part of? It doesn’t work like that. Humans who work night shifts have significant increases in all-cause mortality, which means they are more likely to die from EVERYTHING than people who stick to a diurnal circadian rhythm.
In conclusion, take sleep seriously, respect sleep, and make sleep an ally.
6 thoughts on “Sleep”