Sleep is the cousin of death.Does that phrase resonate with you? Are you one of those aliens who can thrive, even excel, on just a few hours of sleep each night? You know who you are. You shake your head in amusement when your friends talk about how “exhausted” they are even though they got eight hours of sleep last night, you drunkenly and without solicitation tell everyone that you need only four hours of sleep (and a whole lot of cocaine) to function, you high five yourself after pulling an all-nighter and gloat about it to your coworkers. I know who you are. And I’m here to shame you.
Sure, there are some people who have become wildly successful despite their poor sleep habits. Like Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci. And Martha Stewart. Did you know that the reason she’s able to bake one zillion pies a year is because she sleeps only four hours a night?
In any case, only a tiny percentage (i.e., 1-3%) of the population is able to function on just a few hours of sleep on a sustained basis. No offense, but the chances that you are one of those elite few is slim to none. If you were, why would you be reading this blog? Why aren’t you using your extra five hours of the day to track down ISIS operatives in their sleep? Go be useful.
Aside from the very real problem of identifying with Donald Trump, abundant research shows that getting good sleep on a consistent basis is critical to good mental and physical health and energy levels. First, let’s start with what “good sleep on a consistent basis” means. It means seven to eight hours of largely uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis. I imagine that if you have young kiddos at home, you are just LOL’ing at me in between wiping vomit and poo stains off your clothes. I never said my intended audience was newbie parents. Also, I said no offense earlier, so you can’t take offense.
Despite all of this research, 40% of Americans get six or fewer hours of sleep per night. This, to me, is baffling. What are Americans doing with those 18+ hours during the day? We clearly aren’t exercising during that time because all of us are giants and we are becoming more giant by the day. We also aren’t spending that time cooking fun and healthy meals with our families or even spending time savoring meals with our loved ones. And, we still haven’t cured cancer in all of our spare time, so there’s that.
Unfortunately, our fast-paced, work-obsessed society doesn’t value sleep for what it is–a meaningful investment in our health and happiness–and often pushes it to the side, like a necessary evil, or a homely stepsister named Jan. I’ve even met a few people in my day who wear their 4 hours of sleep as a badge of honor. Usually they sound like this: “Oh, wow, you get eight hours of sleep? And you can feel refreshed without coffee? And you don’t fall asleep at your desk during the day?” I can feel their eyes widening in condescension as they try to shame me for simply following literally every published recommendation on sleep.
But guess what? I don’t feel embarrassed that I get a good amount of high-quality sleep. This isn’t 4th grade anymore. It doesn’t matter what little Colin Clark says, I’m no less cool if my bedtime is 8 p.m. than if I stay up until 2 a.m. watching Dawson’s Creek and playing Super Mario Kart. In fact, I’d argue that going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting a good night’s rest actually make me cooler. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left a party early, only to have a friend tell me, “You are so cool, Nisha. I wish I could leave this party at 10:30 pm like you but I’m just chained to the booze. O-M-G, your hair looks fabulous! Are you using coconut milk shampoo? Can I smell your hair, just like a whiff? Let’s get brunch tomorrow! Mani-pedis afterwards!!” Of course, I decline the brunch invitation because I’ll be up at 7 a.m. making French toast and omelettes while Drunk Debbie is wiping regurgitated Red Bull out of her hair.
In addition to making you less cool, skimping on sleep disrupts your energy levels, mood, brain functioning, immune resistance, memory, and makes you more stressed out and way less sexy. Not getting enough shuteye is also highly correlated with being overweight and obese. Many people could literally lose weight by sleeping more. It’s simple math: the more hours you spend snoozing, the fewer hours there are for you to shove burritos and brownies in your face (there are also some other less obvious ways that lack of sleep leads to weight gain). The Sleep Diet is the hottest diet of 2016 and it’s also the easiest diet you’ll ever try. It might not sound as sexy as the Placenta Diet, but hey, I didn’t promise this blog would be perfect.
So how can you get the best sleep of your life? My first tip would be to invest in a high-quality mattress. In college and law school, being the mild hypochondriac that I am, I thought that I had a sleep disorder because my sleep was often restless. Once I tossed my cheap Ikea mattress and sprung for an adult mattress, I realized that I slept like an adorable baby. We recently purchased a mattress from Casper, which offers an award-winning mattress that you can test-sleep for 100 days, and we are in love with it. But if a Casper mattress isn’t in your budget or if you’re more interested in a mobile bed, I present you the wearable duvet bodysuit so that you can sleep literally wherever you want and also attract the confused looks of old people.
What are my other tips for getting the best sleep of your life? Stay tuned because, over the next four weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new tip or suggested practice every week to help you get a better night of sleep, and hopefully, on the path to a better sleep practice. I’ll be adopting these tips myself and will report back on my highly scientific findings.
This next week I’ll be trying out the following practice:
Schedule a bedtime every night so that I get 7-8 hours of sleep.
For instance, if I know I want to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to exercise before work, I’ll make myself go to bed around 11 p.m. If you struggle to get consistent sleep, try this practice with me and let me know how it goes.