If you’re feeling tired, don’t read this
I’ll make you a promise: I’ll tell you why sleep is the ultimate booster, why you’re not getting enough of it and how you can change that. In exchange, I’d like you to hold off reading this if you’re feeling tired – and hit the sack instead. No, really.
The definition of being well rested
How do you know when your body is sufficiently rested? When you wake up before your alarm clock goes off in the morning. It’s simple enough once you think about it, but chances are you – like most people I know, including myself until a couple of years ago – never stopped to consider this simple fact.
“But if I’m supposed to do that I have to go to bed at 8 PM! And then I won’t even fall asleep!”, you might say. To which I’ll reply that drama doesn’t get you anywhere (unless you’re planning a career in acting).
Chances are your sleep deficiency has built up over time, and the body simply doesn’t adjust well to major changes regarding its sleep pattern. It’s why jet lag becomes worse the older you get, for instance. What you need to do is to make incremental changes, which are easier to adapt to because it doesn’t feel as if though you’re losing valuable time.
Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual for a week and see how it feels. Then add another 15 minutes the week after that, and keep on going until your body (and perhaps significant other) signals it’s starting to notice the improvement. This way, you don’t wreak havoc with your sleep pattern – although it might take a little while for the full effect to kick in, at which point you can actually try to nudge things the other way until you find your sweet spot.
Remember, if you have a deficiency, you will most likely require less rest after you’ve caught up to your body’s needs.
I can’t fall asleep that early
Ah, the second most common argument after “you’re killing my spare time”. For some people, this is simply a biological trait, but for most people it’s a consequence of living in the 22nd century. Do you ever see animals prodding about restlessly or tossing and turning before they fall asleep? No? That’s odd… but not quite so if you stop to consider that they’re animals – not humans.
They don’t suffer the stress that comes from having a million things on their mind. They finish feeding well before bedtime. They don’t stay up watching TV or mucking about on the Internet on bright screens which delay or halt the release of melatonin, which according to people who know such things is our body’s primary tool to regulate our sleep pattern.
Quoting the National Sleep Foundation:
“Even if the pineal gland [which produces melatonin] is switched “on” by the clock, it will not produce melatonin unless the person is in a dimly lit environment”.
If you disagree, try substituting the last 30 minutes of watching TV before you go to bed with reading a book – or a Kindle, if you must. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll notice the difference soon enough. Trust me.
Sleep is the ultimate, universal booster
If you do have a sleep deficiency – and remember to ask yourself whether you wake up before your alarm clock goes off – there is one thing I can absolutely and unequivocally guarantee: you’re not performing at 100% of your capacity.
Again, if you disagree, just cut back the current amount of sleep you’re getting with 40% and observe the consequences. The exact same things are already happening to you – just on a smaller scale, and go unnoticed as you have grown accustomed to them.
Consider this: the only time when your mental batteries are recharging is when you’re resting. What’s that? Your most restful state is when you’re sleeping? Colour me gobsmacked.
The truth is that your body handles these things far better than you could ever hope to do. Just listen to it.