Happiness is a good night’s sleep

laugh and sleepToday I am sulking. Yes, I am a happiness evangelist and yet I am sulking. Why? Because for the second time this week, I spent most of the night calculating how much sleep I would get if I fell asleep now.

Or now.

Or now.

On both occasions my brain and I did this numerical dance until 6am. Perhaps most worryingly, I could actually feel my heart taking strain as it battled through each revolution of the clock. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not conducive to a happy day.  Or the operation of heavy machinery.

It’s no secret that sleep is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. Most of us were raised on the line “early to bed, early to rise makes a man (erm, or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise.” But despite this we all seem pretty darn determined to live on less and less sleep. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, we say, or – and with no small amount of pride –  “no rest for the wicked.” Like presenteeism at work, we love being seen to be busy. Busy, busy, busy. Sure, it means we get lots of other things done, but are we really enjoying them to the full or performing at our peak?

Personally, I know I am not which is why I have decided to stand up to my insomnia and recalibrate my capacity for happiness by declaring June the month of good sleep. Having spent much of today reading up about the art of sleep from my horizontal position on the sofa, this is what I plan to do:

Give up alcohol

The notion of a nightcap is understandable when you consider that a wee tipple may indeed help you nod off. However, the London Sleep Centre warns that alcohol reduces how much time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the stage of sleep where dreams generally occur and when our bodies carry out important repair work, even reorganising our memories to make more space for the next day’s short term memory requirements. I am not a heavy drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but I absolutely notice the effect it has on my sleep pattern and quite frankly, my body could use the break.

Say goodbye mobile, hello old school alarm clock

birdie clock

A better way to Tweet from bed.

Many of us keep our mobile phones next to our beds at night, mostly, we might claim, to use the alarm clock function. In fact a recent HuffPost/You Gov survey revealed that 63% of smartphone users aged 18-29 actually sleep with their cell phone, smartphone or tablet in their bed! As we’re starting to see, this really isn’t a very smart idea. Not only are our bodies more sensitive to the blue light emitted, their mere presence leads to hypervigilance, a state in which our subconscious feels compelled to ‘keep an eye’ on our phones in case someone calls or texts. Researcher Russell Johnson, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University says that smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep: “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.” Time to snap up one of these little birdie clock (available from Amazon) methinks.

Wind down before turning in

I know, this is hard, especially if, like me, you don’t often get home before 8.30pm. It’s very tempting to try and milk each hour but we’d probably find ourselves more efficient during the day if we set aside at least 45 minutes to wind down before bed. My goal for the month of June is to get into the habit of switching off by 9.45pm. That means switching off computers, mobile phones, and, most importantly, my brain!

Get up earlier

This one may not appear to make sense, but for me the reason I find myself staying up so late is to try and fit in all those personal things I didn’t have time to do during my work day. The upshot is that I don’t wind down, have a rubbish night’s sleep, and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. And I’m not particularly effective during the day as a result. To remove the concern that there are not enough hours in the day, I figure if I go to bed earlier and get a better quality sleep, I should have no problem getting up earlier. And by doing so I’ll gain an hour or two to get all those nagging personal tasks done.

I confess, I am not sure exactly how I am going to fare but if Arianna Huffington can do it, well then I really don’t have any excuse. She is in fact one of the most vocal proponents of getting more sleep. She installed two nap rooms for her staff at the Huffington Post, gave a popular TED talk on the benefits of adequate rest, and dedicates a large part of her book “Thrive” to the subject. I am no expert – yet – but I reckon it’s all down to planning, discipline and respecting your body. And I’m rather looking forward to giving myself permission to turn in early with one of my many neglected books – happiness is! 


One Response to “Happiness is a good night’s sleep

  • Loved this blog. I’m a huge fan of Gretchen Ruben and sleep scores highly in my happiness project. I found Liz Earle’s superskin oil a great tonic to help nodding off as well as centering on breathing. Here’s to springing out of bed each morning!

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