Many people I talk to are a bit off schedule right now, to say the least. Between working from home, or being laid off, homeschooling kids and activities moved to online, life has pretty much been upended. Although we don't have late night sports practice pickups to keep us up, we have thoughts like "are my loved ones safe?" or "when will I ever get an instacart delivery time?"
For most of us, myself included, our schedules are a bit more relaxed these days and there are more projects to work on "whenever I have the chance" and less 5 or 6am alarm clocks. In fact, my husband set his alarm the other day for a phone meeting and when the sound woke me up I thought surely the apartment must be burning down because why else would anything make that terrible noise.
Now, before we continue, I want to tell me something about myself. From the time I was young, I have been an 8+ hours of sleep per night kind of girl. I can go one night on 6 or even 5, but if that starts happening a few days in a row I am not a happy camper. I don't feel well, I can't think right, my communication strategies go out the window and I become generally just a miserable human.
You might think, "good for you but there is just no way I can get 8 hours of sleep." For some of you, this may be true but for the vast majority of you this is just an excuse. I have kept to this standard through college, grad school (getting a doctorate degree), working multiple jobs, exercising, moving 5 times in one year, and more. What this means is I sacrifice late night tv, I make sure to get all my duties done earlier in the day so there is no late night scrambling and when I say I am going to bed, I do just that go. to. bed.
Enough about me, I want you to think about your own sleep patterns. Especially right now, when you have a bit more time to sleep. How many hours do you feel best at? What time do you naturally go to bed? What time do you wake up? Do you sleep all of your hours during the night or does a nap during the day feel best?
Right now, for many of us, we are letting our bodies natural circadian rhythm take over to some level. For me, it is almost completely. I go to bed when I am tired and I wake up when I am rested (or when my puppy jumps up on my bed). Some of you may have meetings or kids or something else that gets you up early, but I would imagine most of you have moved at least SOMEWHAT in the direction of a more "natural" sleeping pattern than one that is governed by the rat race we call life.
So as a health professional, here is what I am urging you to do. Pay attention to this more natural sleeping pattern and see what you find. Do you actually prefer to stay up a bit later at night and sleep a bit later in the morning? Maybe that means when we go back to work/school/life that you shower, pick out your clothes and prepare your meals at night, and catch and extra 20 or 30 minutes of shut eye in the morning. Maybe the opposite is true for you, so it may be best to get to sleep ASAP at night, and wake up a few minutes earlier to finish preparing for that presentation, grab a workout and get food ready for the day.
The benefits of sleep on our health and happiness are numerous but include less depression and disease, better skin, weight loss, better relationships, etc. I think all of these are things we would all like so take this time as a bit of an experiment. With all the awfulness going on in the world I want to help you find some good in this time, and learn something that you can carry with you when the world opens up.
So examine your sleeping patterns, and think about what you can do to hold onto them, or at least move closer to them. If you want more information on this or to learn my secrets to always getting 8 hours of sleep per night email me at firstname.lastname@example.org