Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Get Eight Hours of Good Sleep

I think I've said that in a working habit, the cue is the routine is the reward. The cue beomes part of the routine, the routine becomes its own reward. That's how it works; when a habit gets to be self-reinforcing, that's when it gets to be habit.

A good example of this is the only non-food habit I've had for most of the year, make the bed and wash the dishes, the first thing I do when I get out of bed (the cue) is make the bed and wash the dishes (the routine) and then I feel good that I made the bed and washed the dishes (the reward). But there are also tangible rewards to making the bed and washing the dishes: straightened sheets to sleep in, clean dishes to eat off of, clean kitchen to not lose my mind in.

Or for my food habits, say breakfast, at breakfast time (the cue) I eat eggs and vegetables (the routine) and then I feel good that I ate eggs and vegetables for breakfast. But it's also rewarding that eggs and vegetables taste good, and also that eggs and vegetables are good for you, protein builds your muscles, vegetables repair your muscles, and also not eating starch so much is less stress and less excess on your body.

So when I'm talking about sleep, I'm saying that at bedtime (the cue) I straighten the sheets, turn down the temperature, and turn down the light, and... well, I don't lay in bed feeling good that I straightened the sheets and turned down the temperature (actually even in winter, I have the thermostat programmed ten degrees lower at night) and the lights, I lay in bed falling asleep. Perhaps I will get to the part when all this is self-reinforcing, when I'm as confident that sheets/temperature/light gets me sleep as tautologically as washing a dish gets me a washed dish. When falling asleep is as transparent as washing a dish, will that happen? For now let's presume that good sleep habits get you good sleep, then what, good sleep gets you what. Ha actually, here's where I just feel good that I got good sleep, who could ask for more. But there is more, better sleep gets you better health, better fitness, better performance, better body composition, and if I can't convince you not to care about weight loss, fine, it gets you weight loss.

I think I've said that my least favorite saying is I'll sleep when I'm dead, ahhh sleep is not for when you're dead. You're alive when you sleep, you know, not not alive. You don't sleep less so you can live more, you're still alive the same amount just with less sleep. You sleep better so you live better, and possibly longer. Just saying, it's so much healthier to think of sleep as included with life and of life as including sleep. I know it's shocking that we seem to be designed to spend a third of our lives asleep, but I do believe this is one of those instances where you should have the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, followed by the curiosity to play with what you can do as designed.

I really stress sleep to my clients and really to anybody who will ask me for the time (not really, I will just tell you the time), but perhaps in a vague and woolly fashion, and I've been meaning to write about sleep forever and ever to pick it all apart, so that's what this week is: picked-apart sleep.