Thursday, 29 April 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?