Sleep: How much is enough?

Hey, it’s me, the sleep obsessed one again. I did say I was gonna write a continuation of the previous article and I deliver on my promises. Not that anyone was waiting with bated breath. If you read my previous post and the accompanying links, you’d know by now that sleep is really important. Like really really. But knowing something, and actually doing something about it is a whole different ball game eh? Like I totally know that I should spend my Sundays out there frolicking in the sun and absorbing tons of vitamin D and fresh air so I don’t get cancer and all the other nasty stuff. But nah. I decided to lie in bed all day in my pyjamas reading wolf hall. My house mate left the house in the morning, came home 7 hours later and found me in the same exact position she left me. But I digress.

sleep chart

So…how much sleep do we really need and how do we go about getting that? I got the above information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute based in the US. Tons of information on their website on sleep that’s well worth checking it out. According to them, teens 13-18 need 8-10 hours of sleep. 9 on an average. A simple google search would turn up a gazillion websites all touting the same number. Why is this number of hours optimal? I will write about that in another post, but even if you don’t trust me, trust in the truth of the almighty INTERNET. What happens if you don’t get 9? Well, then you incur a sleep debt and your brain won’t be able to effectively synthesize information, recall what you studied, establish neural pathways to make information recall faster and more efficient (so you can ace your 3 hour economics paper) AND you get sick tons and the list goes on. I think most people wouldn’t need convincing that getting more sleep is GOOD. But how?

A lot of students ask me where they are going to find those extra hours to put into sleep when as it is, they are struggling to find enough time to get everything done! I don’t have an easy answer for that. I empathize with your work load. It’s not easy to be a JC student juggling a thousand things at the same time. I think though that ALOT of our time is spent in an unconscious, less-than-mindful way. When I say that, I speak for myself too. Sometimes I look up at the clock and think holy cow, is it REALLY 10pm already?! I gotta stop looking at super cute videos of the Echidna. Isn’t the Echidna just absolutely adorable?!

But I digress again. I wonder if one day I were to consciously log down the amount of time I spend on my iPhone each time I pick it up, what I would find out, and how much of my time is really going to unconscious ‘screen time’ (see Adam Alter’s TED talk above). Maybe a good experiment for me to do when I have nothing better to do next time. The hypothesis that I’m putting out there is that the time that we need is there. We just gotta be more efficient at doing what we do, more mindful with the amount of time we spend unconsciously on ‘screen time’ (which, in the absence of ‘stopping cues’, can be ALOT). And then maybe the extra hours we need to put into sleep wouldn’t feel like such a far fetched idea anymore. Maybe it’s all a matter of priority and getting your game face on.

Students like to ask me how I managed to sleep 9 hours back when I was a JC student. There’s no basis for comparison because for one, I did not have a phone. Instead I had a PAGER. Yes. You read that right. A bright and cheery yellow pager. So time unconsciously spent on screen time wasn’t a big issue then. That said, I was loathed to have anything stand in the way between me and sleep. So I made sure I used every moment I have during school time, every recess break, moments before the teacher comes to lesson, moments between end of lessons and start of CCA, moments right after school and I got my game face on whenever I could so that I don’t have to stay up late like ever and can crawl into my sweet bed as soon as possible.

As an idea/experiment, I wonder what difference it would make if the next time you’re sitting down to do your school work, you either put your phone very far away or set it to airplane mode? Or what difference it would make if we built in stopping cues (as suggested by Adam Alter) the next time we scroll through feeds, fan fic, youtube or whatever and bring intentional consciousness to an activity that can unconsciously take up so much of our time. In fact, i think I might give that a go this national day break and give myself a break from the screen! Have a good National Day break everyone! 🙂

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