Re-establishing Sleep on Spring Vacation
I keep my iphone by my bed. It’s turned on airplane mode, of course, so it doesn’t emit harmful electromagnetic frequencies. I know I’m a nerd when it comes to stuff like that, but I also know that sleep is important. So important, in fact, that I track it on my iphone using an app called sleepbot. It tracks when I go to sleep, when I wake up, how much I move, how much noise I make, and it gives me an idea of how much sleep I get each night and how much of that is quality sleep.
Research tells us that we need 8.5 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Of course, this is an average of what we require to operate and function at our highest levels. Some of us need 6 hours and some need 10 hours. I am not perfect. As a matter of fact, my alarm goes off at 4:07am so I can get to the gym by 4:40am. With 4 kids to get to bed, I’m lucky to get 7 hours most nights. Since I can’t live my life around sleep, I have learned what’s important, why it’s important, and how to adapt.
Every time we don't get enough sleep, we acquire sleep debt. Sleep debt is the amount of sleep below what we actually need for optimal function. Sleep debt builds over time. 2 weeks of 1 hour less than optimal sleep time is the equivalent of a full 24 hours with no sleep. It continues to build. We don’t magically get to a certain point and then re-start. As we take on more sleep debt, we think we feel less tired at a certain point. In fact, we are just unaware of what optimal feels like. Basically, we get so tired that we think tired is normal. Knowing that we are the worst judge of what is normal, since most of us have sleep debt, I like to use some kind of a measurable for sleep. This way you can track what is actually right for you.
How do you know how much sleep you need to function optimally? That’s where spring vacation comes in. One of my favorite things to do on spring vacation is to re-set my sleep clock. It takes 5 to 7 days and it’s simple. Here are the steps to actually finding out how much sleep you need to be optimal. Remember, optimal refers to a lot of things. When you have the right amount of sleep, you make better decisions, perform better, have clearer thinking, utilize hormones optimally, and lose weight efficiently. You are also at a lower risk for obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Here is how you find out what you need:
Go to bed when you get tired
Don’t set an alarm. Just wake up naturally. The first few mornings you will probably feel groggy and fatigued. That’s normal.
You will slowly start to feel better each morning and you will require less and less sleep.
Eventually, you will find a consistent amount of sleep that naturally occurs for you, most likely between 6 hours and 10 hours. You should start to wake up feeling refreshed and you will be more productive.
When you get home from vacation, do the best you can to get the same amount of sleep consistently every 24 hours.