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Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















Recently I posted about my morning routine, which led me to reflect on the changes in my sleep pattern since I swapped a very busy life for a simpler, greener and more frugal one.

When I had a busy London career, I often left my home by 6am, in hopes I could actually catch a bus and not be left with a two hour commute, for a journey which should take thirty minutes when not in traffic. My line of work was grueling and I was often only leaving the office around 9pm, if not later. When I got home there were chores to do (albeit a lot was pushed aside) and I would simply crash for another 2-3 hours before rolling into bed. Days off were spent either trying to madly do those things which must be done or ignoring it all and vegetating. I "managed" on six hours sleep a night, often not falling asleep until midnight. Needless to say I was constantly exhausted although I didn't really realize how bad it was until I stopped.

When I gave up that busy career, opting for part time work, it was as if years of exhaustion caught up with me. I was tired, constantly, which was not what I expected. Slowly my energy levels returned and I settled into a new norm. Only, I found a few things out about sleep that I didn't know.

- I needed a lot more sleep than I thought. I may have functioned on 6 hours a night, but when I began listening to my body and stopped setting an alarm, I found that my body told me it needed 7.5-8 hours a night.

- My body wanted more sleep before midnight and less after. I began noticing my body showing signs of winding down around 9pm and becoming alert and ready to act around 5:30am. I can't always go to bed by 9:30 or 10, but I notice if I listen to those signs I can usually make sure I'm starting to think about sleep earlier, which inevitably means I stop busying myself and begin feeling and listening to what my body needs.

- My body thanks me for getting enough sleep and following it's sleep cycle. I am less tired, more level headed, less emotional, able to get a lot more done; my skin is better, I choose healthier options for food and exercises. I now have the energy to tackle knitting challenges or try new recipes for freezing in the evening and don't need to rely on media technology to relax; and yes enough sleep even helps me stay on top of that laundry. Listening to my body when it comes to sleep trains me to listen to my body in other ways.

- My body can cope with the exceptional. Last night I couldn't get to bed until well after midnight and my body naturally woke up around 5:30. Yet I feel fine, I will make sure tonight I get an earlier night, but all in all my body can now cope with a short period of less sleep because it is more well rested.

I now honestly feel that sleep is a really important aspect of enjoying a simple life. Enough sleep means my body doesn't need the adrenaline of rushing around, caffeine, TV etc to keep going and it has the energy to rise to the challenge of new green endeavors like my allotment. My body now tells me what it needs and makes me feel able to enjoy my peaceful, simple, frugal and green existence.

How much sleep do you need? How did you determine this? Does it help you lead a simple, green and frugal life?

21 comments:

Myrnie said...

I'm giggling over here, realizing that I haven't had more than 6 hours straight sleep in over two years, thanks to baby. :) Sleep is definitely an important part of life, and one that is often the first to get pushed aside.

Pink Feather Paradise said...

I am looking forward to sleep... the children do tend to put paid to that for a lot of years though!

x Alex

Mandy said...

Ahhh, how I crave sleep! I haven't had even a 3 hour stretch of sleep since before Christmas time and I haven't had a full night in almost 4 years, thanks to the demands of two young children who sleep poorly, if at all. I call it being in 'the twilight zone' - you're functioning *just*, but everything seems fuzzy somehow and it's hard to concentrate. I'm really looking forward to a full 8 hours.... one day

Kate said...

I've had a difficult relationship to sleep since infancy. Just ask my mother. But it has oh-so-slowly improved as I have aged. I can now fall asleep in 5 minutes, rather than it taking hours, as it did when I was a child. I rarely get more than 7 hours of sleep, unless I'm sick. Like you, I find it feels best when it's early to bed and early to rise. I often get up before 6 am with no alarm, especially as the mornings lighten in summer.

I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to catnap. It still takes me a long time to fall asleep other than at night, which has always meant that I need to carve out several hours in the day if I want a real nap.

owlfan said...

I'm the opposite of Kate - I can fall asleep in moments during the day, but it often takes at least 20-30 minutes at night. As my kids get older, they are impinging on my "me" or "couple" time at night, so I feel I have to stay up later to get that time - but yet, they are morning people and get up earlier than I do. I don't know what the answer is, but I love my sleep!

The Younger Rachael said...

Years ago, I read a book called "Sleep Thieves" which proposed some interesting ideas. First, that the human body settles very quickly and naturally into a 25 hour day when the factor of the sun (and time clocks) is removed (Antarctica over the summer or winter, caving for long periods of time). Then, the book proposed, humans tend towards one long sleep and one short sleep in that 25 hours which usually add up to 8 or 9 hours. The sun can reset our internal clock, which is why cloudy days can be so difficult for some, which helps us work on a 24 hour day. The author had some much else to say that just made since, but its been nearly 10 years since I read it, so I make no guarantees about the details.

I do best when I have a physically busy day, and can crash between 9 and 10 pm. Getting up between 6 is 7 seems natural then. But we don't have kids and the cat sleeps when we do for the most part.

I do find I'm tempted to shun sleep so I have a little more time to get stuff done. There just isn't enough time in the day to really do everything I want to do, and something has to be undone.

Maybe I'll write a post of my own on this. I seem to have a lot to say! :P

Billie said...

I go to bed and wake up with 'enough' time but sadly that sleep is so fragmented that I probably get far less than I should for the amount of time I spend in bed.

Last night was a perfect example. I went to bed at 11pm. I was up at 2am for some reason that I am not sure of. I got woken up by a child going to the bathroom between 2am and 5am and my husband's alarm went off at 5am and required me to wake him up so he would shut it off. The cat woke me up at 6:28am and my alarm actually went off at 6:45am.

This is a pretty typical night for me in terms of being woken up repeatedly so I know I do not get the kind of sleep that is needed and I am continually exhausted.

KJ's Restart Button said...

I too use to exist on 6 hrs sleep. Now I need 7 to 8 hrs. When I don't get enough, I do not feel well and it affects my whole day.

Turling said...

Agreed. We try to get to bed by 9:30, thus getting up at 5:30 still gets us eight hours. It is amazing how noticeable it is when you don't get enough sleep.

Erin said...

Sleep is the one thing I don't sacrifice, no matter what. I feel so much better and think better with sleep. I get about 8-9 hours a night. I know when I've had enough because I wake up without an alarm. I am dubious about the cut in sleep when I have a baby.

-Erin

Missus @ Escape to the Farm said...

I have always been a "good sleeper".

And there is something about reading to my child before her bedtime, cuddling together on her bed full of stuffies, that hits me like a sleep drug.

Too bad it doesn't seem to have that effect on her...

Anonymous said...

You're making me cry. My husband is an insomiac with sleep apnea. His snoring and irregular breathing doesn't wake him up, it wakes ME up! He has a machine he can wear, but won't. So, after keeping me up until midnight or later (the only time he feels like talking), he tap-tap-taps on the computer (his office is in the bedroom for lack of space anywhere else) or flip-flip-flips magazine pages with the light on. Eventually he drops off, but his snorting becomes something I can't sleep through any longer at 5AM.

Left to my own devices, my body prefers 9 hours of sleep.

As soon as a bedroom is available (when a teen moves out) I am going to have my own room. I'll get my 9 hours in total, silent, dark bliss. It's bound to save our marriage.

Transit Antenna Home said...

I sure miss 8 hours sleep. New baby is keeps me awake all night.

Jean said...

My body likes eight hours, but if I'm working on an exciting project or I'm "just one more load of laundry" away from being done with everything then I will stay up a lot later than I should. I definitely sleep better when living a simpler life. I think it's because I feel good about what I've accomplished that day and haven't been "zoning out" in front of the TV.

Chiot's Run said...

One of the great things about working from home is that I can get as much sleep as I need. We try to go to bed around the same time each evening, and we sleep till we wake up, which is usually around 8-8.5 hours later.

I'm a bit of an insomniac though, so I sometimes have difficulty sleeping. I finally found melatonin and now I'm a happy well-rested gardener!

Kika said...

I feel best with 8-9 hours of sleep.

Wendy said...

You have a wonderful site, I think I need more sleep. I'm inviting you to participate in a photo meme if you like - come see my blog
http://ramblingvagabond.blogspot.com/ for the rules.

And again - thanks for helping me be greener.

louisa @ Recycle This said...

I go through cycles of needing less and more sleep - I'm in the "more sleep" phase at the moment and need about 9 hours a night, but it's usually 7-8. I'm very grateful that I work from home at the moment - I start work at the same time as I used to when I worked in an office, but my commute time is now extra sleeping time.

In my last full time job before I started my own business, I used to be constantly exhausted - I thought it didn't matter because I didn't care too much about my job so I'd rather have fun on my time, go to bed late, then be sleepy on their time -- but it left me feeling constantly drained. Occasionally a late night/early morning combo will leave me feeling the same way now and I can't believe I spent years feeling like that every day.

soonarmy said...

I was thinking about how much I like sleep just last week and wrote a blog entry in it's honour! I find that just the act of going to bed and resting each night is such a good closure for each day. I've had to learn to listen to my body when it comes to rest too - I currently have an afternoon nap most days (pregnant!)and plan on keeping that routine as much as possible over the next year! I've also noticed that my body does so much better on an early-to-bed and early-to-rise routine than the opposite. I remember hearing/reading that our quality of sleep is somehow better before midnight...can't back this with research of course, but either way it is so easy for sleep to become a commodity in our busy lives, rather than the backbone of existence it probably should be.
Amy

Lilith said...

what I wouldn't do for 6 hours sleep!!! Some really spot on points you make about our often warped priorities. I think about the only thing more important than sleep is tending to your children (who need you to be able to sleep). Of course so many mothers don't get enough sleep and cope just fine (mostly) if they have a quiet daytime life.

Simply Authentic said...

I learned long ago that I've got to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If I go more than 3 days with 6 hours or less, no one will want to be around me and my attitude. One of my major self care means is to ensure that I get enough sleep routinely. Not enough sleep also is a sure way for me to get sick......just another reason to keep healthy!