It was late August. And everything I’d thought about sleep came crashing down in one fell swoop.
The likes of Lebron James and Andy Murray sleep almost 12 hours a night.
If you’re thinking “What?!” then we’re in the same boat. But since it’s working out pretty well for them, the question is then,
“If it works for them, can it work for you and me too?”
To find out, I set myself a 30-day challenge: to sleep at least 8 hours every night.
Here’s what happened.
Why I Thought I Should Sleep More
Firstly, what was supposed to happen? Well, find out in the Shocking Truth about Getting More Sleep, but I’ll run through the kick-ass benefits of getting more sleep.
- Makes you an awesome learner. Take in more stuff during the day, process more whilst sleeping.
- Gets the creative juices flowing. Linking un-related topics whilst dreaming = lightbulb moments.
- Decision Making easier. Less brain junk, more clarity of thought.
- Muscle repair and growth.
- Immune system on all cylinders.
- Better in social situations.
- Feel less hungry.
Now that’s what was supposed to happen. But also, the challenge included reading half an hour before bed. The idea was that reading would make me really tired, so I’d fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Plus, I’d be picking up nuggets of knowledge and wisdom, expanding my vocabulary, and getting downright inspired by reading biographies of downright inspiring people.
Yeah, But What Actually Happened?
First, reading. It was a massive success. I love this habit, and I’d invite you to try it out for a month.
Why is reading before bed so awesome? Well, what I hate about going to sleep is the bit where you’re trying to get to sleep. Tossing, and turning, and wriggling. It’s sooo annoying, and it’s soo inefficient. I don’t want to waste half an hour of my hard earned time trying to get to sleep.
But reading to the rescue.
Reading is brain exercise. This makes it tiring. And tiring is good. Because after 30 minutes of sponging up knowledge, I found it hard to keep my eyelids open. As soon as I’d put the book down, I’d sleep like a baby.
How awesomely efficient is that?! You’re basically replacing the annoying wriggling time with reading. Score!
And if you’re like me, you want to read but can’t seem to find the time. Well this is the way to create that time. Double score!
Let’s see… More benefits.
Needless to say, by reading every day, I also learned a ton of stuff. And by stuff, I mean the incredible lives of Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Lord Alan Sugar, and the 5th Tanks Regiment of WW2.
Reading biographies is simply epic. I love it how inadequate it makes me feel, and how it shows me what real courage is, what real hard work is, and what real duty is. With every chapter, I feel wiser, humbled, and eager to grow stronger. Also, it amazes me how human these historical greats were. Just normal guys, doing extraordinary things.
Biographies. For. The. Win.
Also, when you’re carving out time to read every night, and knowing you’ve got time to improve yourself and expand your knowledge every single day, it fills you up with satisfaction. Consider your thirst for knowledge quenched.
Lovin’ that word. Quenched.
One thing I have to mention; don’t pick books that fill you with too many ideas. I’m currently reading the Brownlee’s autobiography about their incredible triathlon adventure, and it makes me too excited to sleep.
Ok. Here’s the major discovery. If I’ve had a productive day, I have the best sleep, ever. Completely conked out, under as soon as the head hits the pillow kinda deal. If I’ve wasted the day, and not studied or been training, it takes me ages to get to sleep. Even after reading for half an hour.
It makes total sense. If you’ve been training and studying hard, then your body needs the rest. If you’ve not, then you don’t need as much sleep.
Which leads to another awesome cycle…
The more studying and training you do, the better you sleep. And the better you sleep, and the more you sleep, the more studying and training you can do the next day. Yeah!
On the energy front… If you sleep more, you become less tired during the day. Or so they say. During the first 1-2 weeks, I felt, at times, pretty groggy mid-morning after getting 8-9, hours of sleep. After the 2 weeks, I was fine, and felt razor sharp for the rest of the day. I guess my body was just adjusting.
In terms of energy throughout the day, I follow a paleo nutritional approach, so my energy is consistent anyway, so I can’t really comment.
On the likeability/socialising front then… Did getting more sleep help?
Well, I don’t really know. But what I can say, is that the number of spontaneous bursts of pure happiness went through the roof. Never before have I had so many urges to randomly air guitar before.
Another thing– dreaming! Now, I never really dream. Or at least I can’t recall anything when I wake up. But holy crap! During this challenge, it was weird dream after weird dream, every single night. I’m talking some of the most random stuff.. ever!
Why did this happen? During sleep, the brain reshuffles and reorganises your thoughts and memories. Inevitably, they collide, mix and match, leading to some very strange combinations of thoughts, creating some weird-ass dreams.
Was it a “benefit”? Was I more creative during September? I dunno. But it was pretty fun.
One thing I’d love to try is hypnagogic naps – where you fall a sleep for a split second. The idea: you have something metal in your hand, and fall asleep sitting on a chair with your arms on the armrests. Place a metal plate on the floor, so as soon as you drift off, the thing in your hand falls and clangs off the plate, jarring you awake.
As soon as this happens, you jot all your thoughts down in a diary. Apparently it’s amazing for creativity.
No More Alarms!!
After doing this challenge, I wouldn’t ever use an alarm again. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t need to.
During the challenge, I never used an alarm. I just let my body take what it needs. Now, I know that I’ll get up just before 6 if I’m finished up with reading around 10pm. My body then naturally wakes up early, allowing me get stuff done.
By not using an alarm, you’re basically writing a blank cheque to your body. “Go on, take however much sleep you need, bud.”
If you’re body needs more sleep, you’ll wake up a little later. If you need less sleep, you’ll wake up earlier, or be less tired before going to bed.
On a pre-final note, I was pretty damn consistent with this challenge, only missing 3 days or something. On the nights I didn’tget 8 hours, I’d take a nap after coming home from lectures. Naps are incredible! Would definitely love to do some nap-related challenges.
The 30-day sleep & read challenge is definitely a keeper.
My new philosophy: cram the day with as much stuff as possible, then enjoy an incredible night’s sleep because of it. The more you do, the better you sleep, and then the more you can do the next day!
Plus, I can’t see myself ever going back to an alarm.
What a great (and fun) challenge! Give it a bash!
And on that note, see y’all tomorrow!
Much Dream Big Start Small love!
Photo Credits: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25178143@N04/2582759421″>005/365: Snuggle buggles</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>