I have come to realise that sleep is the single most important factor influencing my state of mind and productivity. I’ve suspected this for a while though the past month or so really has confirmed this.
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know I didn’t post much during December, for a number of reasons. Having recently taken a good look at those reasons, the common denominator during my periods of unproductiveness is tiredness. Putting it simply, if I’m feeling fresh and energetic, I’m ready to take on the world. If I’m feeling tired and lethargic, I can rarely muster the energy to get off the sofa and make a drink. I realise this isn’t exactly a huge revelation but if it really is that simple and widely understood, why do a significant number of us continue to lead lifestyles that lead to a perpetual state of tiredness?
For some time now, I’ve believed that I need a minimum of 7hrs sleep to function effectively the following day. In an ideal world I’d get 8hrs sleep, though I also believe that I can function on 6hrs sleep, though only as a one-off rather than during consecutive nights. Achieving that magical 7hrs is proving very difficult though. I can’t remember the last time I slept for 7 uninterrupted hours at night. I guess I wake up on average 2-3 times per night. At least once, often twice, due to my aging and weakening bladder (yay – thanks body – I love you too…) and often for no apparent reason at all. For the last month or so, I seem to be waking at 4am on the dot. I have no idea why but it’s a habit I’m keen to shake, especially as getting back off to a meaningful state of sleep when I know my alarm is often set for around 5.00-5.30 proves difficult.
So, what is the answer? I’m honestly not sure, though I do know I must aim for 7hrs sleep per night. I refuse to get up any later than I currently do as I’ve always been an early riser, I know those first few hours in each day are my most productive by far and I don’t want to stay in bed any later than I do now – it wouldn’t sit comfortably with me. For some time now I’ve been going to bed earlier at night and hoping for a solid night’s sleep. This means turning the light off and going to sleep between 22.00-22.30 (perhaps an hour later at weekends if I set the morning alarm for an hour later than on work days). I’ve been doing this in the main for around 6 months now and whilst maintaining that schedule isn’t too problematic, achieving that hallowed uninterrupted night’s sleep certainly is. It is bizarre as, when following this schedule, there are some days when I wake feeling as fresh as a daisy, whilst there are others when I wake feeling groggy, lethargic and tired. When this happens, I rarely shake the feeling – it tends to stay with me all day, resulting in one hell of a battle to be on top of my game and achieve anything of note. It is therefore clear that I need to try potential solutions other than simply lying in bed for 7hrs.
Since March last year, I’ve pretty much stopped drinking alcohol. I’ve drank on just 3 separate occasions. None of them saw particularly heavy drinking – one occasion was just a single bottle of beer – though I haven’t particularly enjoyed any of them. In a sentence I never thought I’d write, I’m really enjoying alcohol-free alternatives. I like the taste, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything as I still have a drink in my hand when I want one, and I love waking up hangover-free. The problem here is that the lack of hangovers is the only real benefit I’m noticing. Whilst I now wake up feeling much fresher than I used to, particularly at weekends, and consequently feel I have more energy than I used to, those spells of tiredness still occur too frequently for my liking.
During the past fortnight, I’ve been trying to go an hour without using my mobile or laptop before I go to sleep at night. It hasn’t worked every night (it’s a really tough habit to break…) though I have managed it more often than not. I can’t really say at this stage if this is proving beneficial or not, though I’ll continue trying.
Given that the tiredness remains, I know I now need to look at my diet and general health. Since working from home due to Covid, I drink little else but good old Yorkshire Tea and I know that needs to change. Back in the days of working from an office, I used to drink a lot more water and a lot of herbal tea / infusions (mint, camomile, lemon & ginger, and turmeric & ginger). I’m striving to get back to achieving more of a balance between all of these, particularly aiming to drink more water throughout the day whilst staying away from the tea during the evenings. I’m also conscious about my diet, in particular the amount of sugar I’m consuming. This is always heightened over the Christmas period but I’ve developed bad habits over the past year or so regarding the amount of chocolate, biscuits and ice lollies I eat. This isn’t to a particularly excessive degree though I know I’m eating more than I should be, so it’s absolutely the right time to be getting back into the habit of fasting between 18:00-10:00 at least 4 days per week, cutting down on cups of traditional tea (especially during the evenings) and eliminating as much sugar as possible from my diet.
Reading back on all the above makes me realise there is still much to do. However, more than anything else, I simply want to feel less tired. There are many benefits to be had from feeling more energetic and if getting to that point means I need to do all of the above, then I’m certainly willing to make a concerted effort. I’ll keep you posted on my progress but please do let me know if you have any other tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
As always, thanks for reading, stay safe and please do take care.