I have terrible sleeping habits.
Terrible. I have arrived in my business life that I have a little more flexibility in my schedule. I work at home as much as I work in the gym, if not more. It’s pretty great, because I get to see my three-year-old more, and I can fit in my training for Ultraman each day, usually twice a day.
This is possible because I have amazing staff, and enough systems in place to allow that the flexibility. The challenge is, I tend to then stay up too late, and then I don’t get enough sleep, but more importantly, I sleep at odd hours each day.
I started the year working to get at least eight hours of sleep a day, to at least get that going. It was okay and worked for a while, but as I research more and more I realize now that getting eight hours of sleep isn’t enough.
It’s also about when you sleep too and sleep pattern issues can lead to body fat storage as well as energy issues. If you are a parent, you know this.
The other day our three-year-old was, for various reasons, late going to bed. REALLY late. Like, after 10 p.m. late (bedtime is 8 p.m.)
I am here to tell you that our wonderful little boy was a nightmare. He was jumping around, yelling, carrying on, having fits, and fighting us at every turn. He was telling us that he wasn’t tired, he didn’t want to sleep, he didn’t want to sleep here, or there, he wanted this, or that. It was so tough!
We knew that he really needed to just get to bed and get to sleep so that the next day we could get him back on schedule.
When he is on his schedule, he is awesome! He is happy, reasonable, and a great little kid. When he is off schedule, he is a little bear.
I believe that adults are the same.
The body is always running on rhythms and budgeting hormones and fuel supply. If our use of all those resources is completely random, the body has a hard time predicting when to release hormones and regulate energy.
We all have a natural circadian rhythm and some of us are night owls, and some early birds. True, but we can also all adjust, and whatever your natural version is, consistency seems to play a role.
If you are a night owl, but one night you go to bed at 10 p.m. the next at 2 a.m. then midnight, then 1 a.m. then 11 p.m. then your body doesn’t know what to do.
When should it release sleep hormones (melatonin), or when to block melatonin to keep you awake and alert.
Watching TV or a computer screen late into the night can have an effect too, because you suddenly realize it is late and turn off the bright light (that simulates sunlight) and then try to go to bed, but the body takes time to shift the hormones over so you might fall asleep right away, but it likely won’t be a great quality sleep for a while. Then you wake up tired after the third or fourth snooze button press.
By turning off electronics an hour or so before bedtime, the body has a chance to realize it is night and power down.
Another interesting bit of research is that sleep happens in cycles of 90 minutes. So when you go to bed, try and set your alarm for a multiple of 90 minutes.
Interestingly enough then, 7.5 hours is better than eight hours! By getting 7.5 hours sleep, you may awaken feeling better than if you slept another 30 or 60 minutes, because at eight hours, your alarm goes off in the middle of a sleep cycle and all your body wants is more sleep.
If you have been sleep-deprived for a while, try going to bed at a consistent time for a few weeks and if you can, no alarm clock, wake up when you wake up.
After a few weeks, you should re-regulate.
My wife and I plan to get on to a 7-11 plan for the next month and see what it changes. Up at 7 a.m. and getting ready for bed by 11 p.m. (sleeping by 11:30 p.m.)
I will let you know how it goes!
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.