Sleep Less; Live More

In terms of my sleeping requirements, I’m an eight hours a night sort of person. I have been for as long as I can remember. It seems to suit me.

I go to sleep about half-ten and get up the following morning at about half-six.

Most nights I sleep very well. I go off to sleep quite quickly and I rarely wake up during the night. I would think it’s a quality sleep that I get.

But then it occurs to me that eight hours is quite a long time. It’s a third of my day – or, more sensationally, it’s a third of my life!

I know I need my sleep and that it’s good for me but in many ways it is wasted time. I’m not doing anything.

If I was to trim even an hour off that sleeping time so that I only slept for seven hours a night then that extra hour of wakefulness when added together over a year amounts to fifteen whole days.

That’s a long time; time that I am currently wasting, time that I could probably put to better use.

There are people who claim to only have five hours sleep a night. Over a year, that’s a month and a half more of life that they have than me. When quantified like that it makes me think that I need to change my ways. I need to sleep less and live more.

Granted, to go from eight hours of sleep a night to just five would I’m sure be a bit too much of a shock to the system but I do wonder if I should try to reduce my sleeping time by an hour.

What would that extra hour do for me?

So long as I used that hour productively then it would have to be beneficial. I could write more, read more, learn more, do more. There would be so many possibilities

I could try and gain the extra hour either in the morning or on a night. The selection probably depends on whether I think I’m an owl or a lark sort of person. If I woke earlier would I be up to doing anything or would I just drift around in a zombie like state. Likewise, there’s no point staying up for an extra hour if all I’m doing is waiting to go to bed. I have to make use of that extra time.

I would have to develop new routines and patterns of behaviour to ensure that my reduced sleeping levels become my normality. If I’m staying up later then I might eat later in the evening or getting up earlier might mean I go to the gym first thing.

It would take time for my body to adjust to having less sleep but I’m sure it would. The human body is very adaptable.

Would there be any downside – short term or long term – to having less sleep? Would I be less alert? Would I be more prone to illness? Would I suffer from more physical aches and pains? Would I become more irritable?

Science will have done sleep deprivation tests to investigate how a lack of sleep impacts on the body function but has it ever looked into an individual’s ideal sleeping duration. Am I at my best having eight hours sleep or could seven hours actually be better for me? By having less sleep, what, if any, are the drop-offs in my levels of cognition and performance?

I would need to experiment with my productiveness.

Perhaps it might be better to keep things as they are. The question has to be asked, in regard to my sleeping requirements, why am I like I am? Why am I an eight hours a night person? As individuals, do we naturally find our own perfect sleep duration? Do we eventually settle on what seems to work best for us?

Of course, our lifestyles and work commitments do impact on our sleeping time. They might mean that we don’t get what we would ideally choose to have.

Similarly, the amount of sleep we have may not necessarily be based on what we need or can fit into our lives but, instead, may be determined purely by what we want. If we have a nice cosy bed do we choose to sleep more? Being in bed might just be a place we like to be – a sanctuary. And so we sleep more even though we don’t need that extra sleep.

Of course, this whole idea of reducing my sleeping time could be pointless and unnecessary. Why don’t I just use my waking hours more effectively? When I think about the amount of time I squander each day – sitting blankly in front of the television, stuck in traffic on the way to work, pottering around the house – I don’t actually need more time. I just need to use it more wisely.

Yet, the old adage that life is short and we need to make the most of it does strike a chord. It is the wastefulness of sleep that rankles. Fifteen days a year lost by just having that extra hour in bed. I must be able to do something about that.