Updated: Apr 30
I’m going to take it for granted that at one period in your life you have done an all-nighter. I’ve done it myself, obviously. It was cool. Stay up with your friends all night long – can’t think of anything better. Did you make it to your usual bedtime the next night? Do you remember the following day? Eating non-stop, couldn’t finish conversations, couldn’t say your own name – almost like you’re drunk. Well, that’s a little extreme I’m sure. However, according to neuroscientist and sleep researcher Matthew Walker , there are extreme consequences for people who are sleep deprived over long periods of time. And by sleep deprived, I don't mean a bunch of all-nighters, I mean a bunch of nights with just six hours of sleep.
'Why We Sleep'  is a book by Matthew Walker, which brought light to something in my life that I had never previously put much thought into (don't worry this isn't a book review, or a promotional article). I’ve always been a person of routines and habits – I like the structure and stability. When my routines fall apart, I fall apart. That’s one of the things I hate the most about my new job; working in a fast food restaurant with day and night shifts in random order.
A bedtime routine does many wonderful things for me. Lately, I’ve had the privilege of being able to control the times I go to bed and get up. At the moment it’s looking like sleeping about midnight and waking up at eight in the morning. That means I’m in bed, teeth cleaned, showered and so on, by eleven in the evening. Why? Because I do two very important things before my lights go out:
1. I sort out my next day.
2. I read.
I have a day journal – yes, a paper one. The entirety of the following day is organized the night before. I put down what has to be done, and what I want to get done. The organization of my day is a topic for another article. However, sorting tomorrow’s plan tonight means that I get to sleep on it. In the morning I might suddenly have a better solution as to how to approach my day. I get time to think and process the plan in the back of my head - or wherever it usually takes place.
Making reading a part of my bedtime routine means I don’t miss a day of reading. If I don’t read, I don’t sleep. Simple. Like most of us, I’m not a happy person with only a little sleep. Being able to read each evening means that I get to read an average of about a book a week. Again; happy me. What does reading really do for me? Surely it’d only get my brain flares going rather than relaxing? That’s what I thought at first, but not how it actually turned out. In reality, a little learning and engaging in novels at the end of the night calms my mind drastically. Everything that was occupying my mind beforehand is just eradicated and forgotten. If I don’t write it, I tend to forget it all together.
I’ve come to find that it doesn’t really matter what you do before going to bed. Sure, reading, writing or meditation would help more than going for a jog before getting into bed, however, what I’ve come to understand is more important, is consistency – you must do the same thing every single night, and generally around the same time. If possible avoid doing it in any other part of the day. Lets take my reading for example. I read every single night, in bed, with my Himalayan salt lamp on, blinds down, and tomorrow’s plan completed. So if I read in any other time of day will I get tired? No. It’s about how you do it, in what order, and the time of day. This is what I mean: it’s usually night when I get ready for bed; I drop my blinds; get into bed; sort tomorrow; and then begin to read. This process is what signals to my mind that it’s bedtime, rather than any one individual act. So if I read at any other time of the day, I won’t be tired, and I won’t feel like going to bed, as long as I don’t read in bed with my blinds down, at night, and having no intentions of going to sleep.
In his book, Matthew Walker suggests that we should make sleep more of a priority in our lives; rather than our sleep revolving around our lives, our lives should revolve around our sleep. That’s something we could all come to agree on. In most of our lives today, is this suggestion practical? It was for me, before I began working wondrous hours of the night. At that point, I had to make the money, so my sleep moved around that. Theoretically the idea is viable, though for most of us, it’s not realistic.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article. I hope what I’ve said has helped in some way. It’s simply just what my thoughts and experiences are on sleep and routines, and how they’re similar or different from the research. There’s one more thing I would like to add: I do agree that society in general should be making more of an effort to limit the sleep disruptions. And as Walker points out, this is happening, but slowly, and only really with the huge organizations like Google and Apple. From my experience, it takes days to recover from lost sleep, and supposedly it is never retrieved again. I truly recommend the book, it was hugely educational in unconventional ways, and it hugely benefited how I do some things in my day-to-day life.
Jack, at Interconnected.
If you guys want to watch a short summary of Matthew Walker's research, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MuIMqhT8DM
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