I am the first to confess, that I was (and still am) a bit of a night owl. (Though in recovery!)
I always felt that sleep was a bit of a waste of time when I could devote more time to thinking or learning or reading or watching movies. But I have had a seachange over the last few years, and while I could put it down to getting older, (Most studies suggest that the older you get less you sleep) I think it has been more out of the results I feel when I have a great nights sleep.
For most of my life, sleep has been subjective, and I think that started at an early age, my Mother lovingly asked me if I slept well, and conversely dished out a few stern words if I was playing or annoying my little brother “GET TO SLEEP” was the usual admonishment. Not wanting to go to sleep, but as a child, it was hard to resist.
Hello insomnia, (the unwelcome guest)
I think I started to develop insomnia after my parents’ marriage broke down, and as a child I couldn’t process the fact that our family wasn’t together anymore, coupled with the fact my father spent a reasonable amount of time at the local pub, I sat up watching T.V until the test pattern dominated the screen. After that, I had periods of very poor sleep, with moments of stress amplifying the inability to get a good night’s sleep. Restless and watching the clock count down wee small hours knowing that soon I would have to get up and go to school and then work, was never a nice feeling.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
So when I brought my first Fitbit for fitness readings and cycling data, (See images below) I was surprised to learn about the sleep measuring application. Being able to see my daily sleep pattern was a real (pun intended) eye-opener. Seeing the disruption to sleep, the quality of deep sleep vs light sleep, vs REM vs Awake time, Time to bed, time to wake, breathing patterns, resting heart rate and skin temperature are all calculated and distilled down to a score.
At first, I discounted a lot of it as sort of interesting, but ultimately a gimmick. However, once I really got serious about sleeping I decided to become my own lab rat. I tried different times to bed, I looked at “Sleep Hygiene” started meditation and ensured I stopped reading work emails several hours before going to bed.
As with anything, it pays to be educated, just as in my breathwork blog, I delved into the science of sleep, watched programs, and videos, listened to Podcasts and really tried to come to terms with this very mysterious factor of our life.
Stats (General) and factoids
More stats here
|Hours sleep cycles||4 to 6, light, REM, Deep and waking|
|Rem %||Up to 25%|
|Circadian Rhythm||A chance for the body to rejuvenate|
|Body Temp drops||1-2 Degrees|
|Insufficient sleep||Upwards of 50% report not enough/poor sleep|
|Single parents||Sleep on average less than their married counterparts|
|Women & insomnia||Have a 40% higher rate than males|
|Drowsy Driving||The USA accounts for 6,000 fatal car crashes|
Breaking the Habit
By changing several habits I had formed I have now found that most nights, greater than 85%; I get a very good night’s sleep, with minimal disruption or wakefulness.
To break the habit, I looked inward and for many nights listened to hypnosis and adopted a beautiful practice called Yoga Nidra. Link to Youtube
- No work emails or reading at least an hour before bed
- Quiet music playing as white noise in the room (non-lyrical) I created this 11.11.11 long forest sound
- Go to bed at a regular time for me it is not long after 9 PM any earlier and I awake at 3-4 am
- Getting up at the same time at about 5.40 am
- No coffee after midday
- Valuing sleep!