I have a somewhat unnecessarily complicated relationship with sleep. Some of these complications are unnecessary because they are created by me, most often in the form of staying up late.I am a night owl, and I enjoy staying up late, until there’s a morning when I have to wake up early. This type of situation manifested every week during my second semester in seminary. For the most part, I was going to bed around 4 and waking up around noon; still getting 8 hours of sleep, but in an atypical fashion. My night owl habits would be disrupted, however, every Tuesday, thanks to an 8 AM class. Since I would have worship band practice on Tuesday nights, I couldn’t go to sleep until after, making Tuesday’s very long days.
This trend picked up again in my last year of seminary, when I decided that I would stay up past midnight every night for no reason other than I wanted to. I made the choice not to schedule any 8 AM classes since I didn’t need to, which helped with the amount of sleep I was still able to get, but early mornings always made for long days.
This entire stream of thought leads me to today. I got three hours of sleep last night, thanks to a trend of staying up later, and an inability to fall asleep last night. I was wide awake when I got ready for bed around 12:30, and found myself still wide awake somewhere around three hours later. I’ve often found that, not only is it harder to fall asleep early when you’ve been staying up late, but it’s also harder (for me, at least) to fall asleep quickly when I’ve been staying up late and I know I need to be up early the next morning. Having to be up at 7 to be ready to get to church this morning helped with the difficulties in falling asleep.
On top of my (often poor) choices regarding when I go to sleep, I also have difficulty falling asleep. I don’t often nap, because it takes so long to fall asleep that I don’t end up falling asleep when I try to nap. Also, I think having an alarm set and thinking, “OK, if I can fall asleep in the next five minutes, I can get x amount of sleep,” leads to difficulty falling asleep. I’m so focused on the amount of sleep I won’t be getting, or, really, focused on anything at all, that it takes longer for my brain to shut off. I feel like getting my brain to shut off is difficult anyways. I find myself awake and thinking about something over an hour after going to bed many times a week.
All in all, today has been a long day of not doing much. I didn’t even try taking a nap because I was too busy doing nothing, so being as tired as I am right now is my own fault. Some of the problem, though, is that I caught a second wind (or maybe my first wind; I was very tired this morning). Catching a second wind is always frustrating, because it often comes after a couple of hours of being tired, getting ready for bed, and then laying down to find myself suddenly wide awake. There is a direct correlation between my frustration with catching my second wind and how late at night it is.
One thing I am interested in regarding nights I don’t get enough sleep is how I’m still able to function that next day. The difficulties usually come on the second day after a bad sleep night, especially if there end up being multiple in a row. The joys of those experiences are enough to make me want to get 8 hours of sleep a night.
I don’t really have suggestions for how to get to sleep more quickly or anything like that. Two things I try to do once I’ve shut the lights off is to not look at the clock, and to keep the lights off if I need to get up for some reason. I don’t really use sleep aids other than the occasional use of NyQuil when necessary. Many of these products say that they are not habit forming, but I feel like that’s a claim that can’t be made. Can’t almost everything be habit forming? Even if by body isn’t physiologically addicted to the product, couldn’t there still be a psychological piece, taking the product because it becomes part of the routine or because I feel like I won’t be able to fall asleep without it? It just seems like a bold claim to make (especially when some of these products contain things like alcohol or high-fructose corn syrup (seriously, look at a bottle of NyQuil: high-fructose corn syrup)). (Also, I don’t drink coffee or really get any caffeine, so staying up is all a matter of willpower)
One of the interesting things in this “technology age” is that I can often still be on my computer while being incredibly tired, but apparently not be using enough of my brain to be getting more tired; vegging out would seem to be a thing. This has been a way to prolong my nights when I want to still be up but don’t feel like I’m awake enough to do something else (even like reading a book). I’ve heard that this is indeed the case (scientifically speaking); I’ve also heard that the light from the computer can affect you well after you’ve closed the computer, which is why using something with a screen just before going to bed is not advised.
Thankfully, I’ve chosen to focus on sleep as a part of my Fitness Challenge 2k17, so I’ll be looking to reform some (or most (or all)) of these habits. How funny it was that a three hour sleep night would come on the heels of deciding to start making better decisions about sleep. Hopefully, though, tonight will be the last night where my lack of sleep is the only thing I’m able to focus on (leading to posts like this one, among other things). It is currently just past 9 PM here in Denver, and I’d like to be asleep before the next hour chimes, so hopefully I’ll make that choice. I’m also starting to watch a dog tomorrow morning, so that’ll be some incentive to get to sleep so I’m awake enough for tomorrow.