Sweet sweet sleep

Over the past few years I’ve been trying to gradually improve on a few things that I consider really important to my health. I started with exercise, moved on to diet and then I concentrated on getting better sleep.

The quality of sleep is really important to your overall health. There’s no shortage of articles and research in this area:

When I started in VFX, I would pride myself on how long I could work, or that I would pull an all-nighter if it was required, no questions asked. Looking back, I can see how stupid that was. Not only does a lack of sleep put your health into jeopardy but according to this study one night of sleep loss impairs innovative thinking and decision making. I’ve made the following changes:

First, I installed blackout blinds in my bedroom. The goal is to have a completely dark sleep environment. I went so far as to put tape over the alarm clock and removed my phone from the bedroom. This made a dramatic change in the speed in which I fell asleep and if I woke up in the middle of the night, I get back to sleep faster. Since I live in the city, there’s constant light pollution at all times. The room isn’t completely dark yet, there’s still light leaking in at the sides and top of the curtain, but the difference so far has been amazing.

The second thing I did was realize that if I stay up late, I pay for it the next day. If you get home around 7-ish, then by the time you’re done making supper, eating and cleaning up, it can easily be close to 9.

I often felt like I deserved some ‘me time’, and would stay up late watching TV or surfing the net. I tried an experiment for a week where I would start getting ready for bed at around 9:30(!) and try to have my head on the pillow by 10pm. It made such a huge difference in how I felt in the morning that I generally continue to do this as much as I can. When you get enough sleep, waking up and getting on with your day is no longer a difficult process.

The next thing I did was buy this. Now, I know what you must be thinking, ‘how can you waste $100 on an alarm clock!’ Here’s the thing, it’s an alarm clock that has a light attached to it. A half hour before you have to wake up, the light gradually gets brighter and brighter. When it’s time to wake up, the alarm goes off quietly, and then get gradually louder.

I know it’s expensive, but it’s the best damn $100 I ever spent (and Phillips has made a newer/cheaper version since I got mine). Being awoken by light is very gentle, it’s not harsh like your phone going off suddenly. I’m not going to say that it’s life changing, but it has made my mornings much nicer. Coupled with the dark room and a few more hours of sleep, all these changes have added up to a much better sleep for me.

I’d be curious to hear if any of you have any sleep strategies for yourself. Or is this even something you think about? Let me know in the box below.