Subtle hints are not my thing.
For example, my husband gave me a FitBit for my birthday after I blatantly told him, “I want a FitBit,” no less than 12 times. As I writer, I spend tons of time sitting at a desk, which according to everyone is slowly killing me. Hence, the FitBit to get me off my lazy ass.
And it worked.
My high tech wrist buddy enticed me to pick the farthest parking space or always choose stairs over elevator. It also forced me confront an unexpected health obstacle: The eight hours of sleep I thought I was getting? It was actually more like six. And the quality of sleep? Just so-so.
Research links lack of sleep to a slew of health problems, including weight gain, impaired cognitive function, hypertension, diabetes, depression and cancer. And if that isn’t enough to motivate you, a recent study by UC-Davis showed just an extra hour of sleep may result in earning five percent more annually. (You can learn more about it on Freakonomics’ two-part sleep episode).
Show me the money!
There are some simple tips to getting more sleep nightly, and on paper they sound really easy. Don’t drink caffeine after noon, get up and go to bed at the same time every day, don’t chug wine before bed, exercise, eat well, and quit screen time an hour before bed.
For the last two weeks, I focused on just that last one in a very specific way:
I slept with my phone outside of my room.
“What’s the big deal?” I thought. “I can totally do this,” I said. And then on night one, as I lay my head on the pillow, I panicked.
I use my phone as an alarm clock… how will I wake up?! I fixed that by setting an alarm on my FitBit (who am I kidding though. The dog wakes me up at 6:30 every morning). What will I do if I can’t lay here and scroll through Instagram? I decided to read a book. And the kicker: My dog looked so cute laying next to me in bed. I wanted to send a pic to my husband (who was out of town for work), but alas, no phone. So I took a picture with my brain and kept it to myself.
I was appalled at how many times I reached for my phone that first night– as I tried to fall asleep, and then the FIRST thing in the morning. It’s like my adult pacifier! But on night two, the interest in my phone waned and continued to do so.
After a week, I went from getting a nightly average of 6 hours and 35 minutes of sleep to 7 hours and 10 minutes.
By week two, I averaged 7 hours and 27 minutes. The last two nights? 8 hours, 8 minutes.
What’s especially interesting to me is that I didn’t intentionally go to bed any earlier than normal. I simply didn’t look at my phone every night while laying in bed. I fell asleep faster and slept more soundly. How great is that?
I recently interviewed a sleep-specific doctor for an article I’m working on. His words struck me:
“Sleep is no luxury. Sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise. Healthy sleep provides an opportunity to promote the health of our heart, brain, digestive tract, hormones and muscle mass. But there are benefits beyond the physical – sleep is vital for balancing stress and promoting our emotional well-being and mental health, too.”
If you care about your health, getting enough sleep should be right up there with eating well and exercise. And if you’re looking to get healthier, maybe just start with trying to sleep better. It’s more fun than running, and tastes better than a kale smoothie.
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More sleep-centric posts: How I changed my diet to get more rest every night, plus why I hate taking naps.
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