My bedtime is usually late, and then I wake up early. What happens if I go to bed at 8 pm every night for a week? Can this chronically sleep deprived mother learn how to get to sleep and get some real rest?
We've all heard that it's important to get 8 hours of sleep a night. I usually only clock in around 6. I often wake up tired and cranky and sometimes I feel foggy or weird. I never nap. Who's got the time? But lately I've started to wonder if getting so little sleep is such a good idea. I mean, it's not like I'm doing anything super important. I watch too much TV, snack, and mess around with my phone and computer. In fact, I usually climb in bed around 11 every night and stare at my smart phone for a weird, trance-like hour before actually falling asleep.
Turns out, lack of sleep is pretty terrible. Dozens of studies and articles tell us that getting too little sleep can wreak havoc on our bodies. As The New York Times succinctly puts it, "According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, among others, a number of bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep: the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function."
Ok, so if I go from 6 to 8-10 hours of sleep, will I feel wonderfully rested? Will my brain become filled with healthy, vigorously pumping blood? Will I become witty and quick, showering my shocked and open-mouthed friends with pithy little golden nuggets of comedy rain? Will I lift heavier weights and run a faster mile? Will I become an unflappably patient and creative mother, whipping up glow-in-the-dark sidewalk chalk when everyone gets bored instead of yelling and then turning on the TV so I can lie face-down on my bed and look at the pictures of Ryan Gosling on the inside of my eyelids for 20 minutes?
- 8 pm - physically in the bed.
- No phone.
- I try to sleep, but if I can't I'm allowed to read a real book.
- 7 days.
8:15-Just got the kids down. Immediately have to get in bed. What a bummer!
9:00-I lie in the semi-dark listening to my husband watch "The Master." I want to watch "The Master!" I don't feel sleepy at all.
9:25-I creep out of bed and crouch by the corner of the couch, secretly watching the movie. Ahhhhh, sweet entertainment!
9:50-Husband wants to know why I'm lying on the floor behind the couch? Busted. I slink back to bed without answering him. He thinks I am insane.
10:20-Check my phone. Just to make sure there aren't any emergencies! No emergencies. Really cute picture of my bestie, tho. She's wearing a fake mustache and holding her french bulldog, who is also wearing a fake mustache. I "liked" it, ok?
11ish-Fall into a fitful sleep.
Morning After: I feel like my regular self and didn't get much more sleep than usual.
8:30-In bed after putting kids down and am PISSED. It's so, so heinous in here!
9:00-I can't sleep. It's grossly warm and kind of humid, like someone's stank breath. Also, it's so boring.
9:15-Pity Party: Everyone else is having so much fun drinking cocktails in sparkly dresses and flirting with lumbersexuals. But I'm stuck in the grody breath chamber with flat pillows and faded memories of my 20s.
9:40-I go out to the living room to see what my husband's doing. I stand silently behind the couch. He asks if I'm doing that weird thing again. I am, but I don't answer him because if I don't talk it's like I'm not here. I go back to bed.
11ish-Fall angrily asleep
Morning After: Slightly more rested than usual.
9:30-Because my husband says he's going to divorce me if I don't, I postpone bedtime until 9:30 and then he comes with me.
9:40-Read a book.
10:00-Turn off the lights and snuggle and fall asleep.
12:45-Both kids awake and barfing. Stomach flu has arrived!
1-5:00-Up various times to deal with barf.
Morning After: Really tired. Barely got any sleep.
10ish-Bedtime. Listen, when you're cleaning up vomit all day, you NEED a drink after bedtime. This requires time. I did try to keep it somewhat early, heading in around 10 intend of 11 and forgoing the phone. I ended up reading a book instead and that is a lovely, peaceful way to end the day, even if your night is punctuated with screaming toddlers and miserable kids and fevers and such hilarity.
Mornings After: Fine.
Ok. Everyone's better. But it's actually my 10 year wedding anniversary! Why did I schedule this bedtime trial over such a huge landmark? Because I forgot. And I'm disorganized. And I'm sleep deprived! But you'll be happy to know we had a great time and probably aren't getting divorced anytime soon unless I take on more weird assignments that turn me into a lunatic.
Morning After: Tired and kind of hung-over. But it was worth it.
Conclusion: If you have small children and a busy life you might not be able to sleep in or get to bed super early. But lying down sooner than later and giving your phone a break certainly help. Also, maybe what I do in between sleeping is so wonderful and so filled with love and laughter that I can sleep when I'm 80. For now, I'll just be a little tired and happy. Really happy.
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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson