During my 40’s & 50’s, I was an avid alarm clock user. It was set for 5 am, weekends included. I was either in the gym or outdoors doing something active every day at 5:30 am, no matter what. The daily morning engagement was a commitment. It didn’t matter if the evening prior was filled with late fun, the outdoor date with myself at 5:30 in the morning held.
To get up at five, meant I should have been in bed and asleep by nine the evening prior. That never happened. It was more like 11 pm, or sometimes 12.
In my 30’s I didn’t get up that early. But the idea may have been festering for years. During the time I lived in San Francisco, I met a young, upwardly mobile, apparently successful and vibrant couple, each running their own business. We became friends and occasionally jaunted up to Napa and Sonoma on our motorcycles for lunch. Curiosity led me to ask about their workout routine. They explained that they got up at 5 am to workout in their home gym so they could fit in their physical activity before their day jobs. Their answer to “what time do you go to bed and sleep at night” left me with my jaw hanging open. Nine pm they said. They were my age, early 30’s. How could anyone go to sleep at 9 pm every day I thought. But they did. They were not going to trade-off sleep.
It wasn’t until my later 50’s, that I was slapped upside the head (actually the neck). Yea, ok, I’m a (real) slow learner. Little did I realize that length, and of course quality, of sleep, is just as important as eating and exercising well.
Sleep researchers say that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a day. Throw out the 3rd standard deviation, and that leaves more than 80% of us requiring between 7.5-–8.5 hours daily — depending on our individual rem sleep cycles. If we trim or curtail our required sleep-time, we are not doing ourselves, or our bodies, any favors. In other words, cutting sleep short creates metabolic distortions. And, if we are getting the right amount of sleep we shouldn’t need an alarm clock to get out of bed.
Most of us have (self-created) demanding, competitive, activity-filled lives, hell-bent on productivity and getting ahead, that a major challenge is squeezing life into our waking hours. Unfortunately, sleep usually takes a hit.
It’s not surprising. Many business success self-help books extol the virtues of waking up earlier, burning the midnight oil, and other push-the-envelope advice, ignorantly neglecting the health repercussions of extended sleep deprivation.
We’ve all had to work on less sleep from time-to-time, but when it becomes a lifestyle, then long term health is compromised. The right amount and quality of daily sleep set us up for optimal physiological and biological performance. It’s just as important as exercise and diet, if not more so.
The challenge for most of us is not waking up early, but getting to bed, lights out/devices off, so that we can wake up, alarm free, after a full night’s sleep.
I still have the morning date with myself but without the alarm clock. It’s still a tug-of-war getting to bed on time. But seeing that compromising sleep-time is a health disservice, it’s worth protecting like gold.