Better Sleep Tips for 9-to-5ers
It’s hard enough getting cramming a good night’s sleep into 8 hours when you spend more time than that behind a desk, counter, or in a cube. It’s even more challenging if you suffer from insomnia, general sleeplessness, or you are just a natural night person.
The hours of today’s working world are not generally conducive to a good night’s rest. Because our natural sleep rhythms get interrupted by alarms in the early morning, we go to work very tired, out of it, and needing a shot of caffeine to get going. This habit cannot be healthy in the long run. So what can you do about it?
Too Much Sleep
“Give me 8 hours or give me death” is such a silly myth. Some people do need more and some do need less. It says here that people who live the longest (and are the healthiest) get no more than 6-7 hours. I don’t think this is an issue of causation (too much sleep causing you to die younger) but rather a result of bad health (like a bad heart requiring you to need more sleep, thus skewing the statistics.)
I think 6 and a half to 7 hours is a pretty good target, but you may be fine on only 5-6. Don’t let all the “8 hours or else” talk give you any funny ideas. You really don’t need that much sleep, I swear. If you don’t believe me, try getting 7 a night for a week straight. Most likely, you will notice that you are just fine. If you really are exhausted at the end of this week, maybe it isn’t your sleep patterns. Maybe it’s just your job!
The added benefit to changing from 8 hours to 6-7 hours is that you get an extra waking hour or more. Since you can’t steal back your time from your employer, you can at least steal it back from some silly preconceived societal notion of sleep. There! Feel more rested now?
Understanding Your Natural Sleep Rhythm
Not all of us are the same when it comes to rest. Some people are night people, some are morning people, some are werewolves and have bizarre cycles. If you want to determine what your natural cycle really is, you’ll need about a week off from any kind of work or planned activities (unless they are flexible.) Just go to sleep when you feel tired and never use an alarm to wake up. By the end of the week, if you find yourself sleeping in longer and longer each day, you are probably not a morning person. If you become a mumbling, babbling zombie a few hours after work before the summer sun sets, then you are likely not a night person.
You probably already know if you are a morning or night person, so experimentation to find your sleep cycle isn’t really all that necessary unless you are always tired or suffering from insomnia. In this case, it’s imperative. I have a theory that most insomnia really just comes from too much anxiety and not enough allowance of time for your body to give in to natural tiredness, no matter what time it is. For instance, if you are tired at 1:30pm after eating a huge pizza, then you should sleep for a bit. This is what primates do. Giving in to these natural feelings, no matter the time, actually probably helps insomnia in the long run. Of course, most jobs don’t let you monkey around like this.
At any rate, once you have determined your sleep cycle, you can take the next step. In order to cram the 9 to 5 job you are saddled with into your natural sleep patterns, you’ll need to do some planning.
For Morning People
You need to get to bed early. How early? Take the time of morning you normally leave for work. Let’s say it’s 7:45am. Now subtract nine hours from this time. That’s when you should go to bed.
“But Mike,” you might say, “that’s so early! If I go to bed at 10:45 I’ll miss my favorite show. I’m not tired by that time anyway.”
Oh really? It will take a short time to adjust, for sure, but here is the catch. When you are first starting out on this route, you’ll set your alarm for 5:45am every day. This way you’ll be forced to sleep no more than 7 hours, and when you wake up you’ll have 2 hours to get ready for work and relax. And I promise you that your day will be better. Like I stated in 5 Ways to Increase Productivity, if you do this, when you get to work you’ll feel much better, and you’ll just laugh at all the other zombies in your office who need coffee just to function.
So remember – get 7 hours of sleep max (if you want less, wake up earlier in the morning, don’t stay up later in the evening), then leave 2 hours in the morning from the time you wake up until the time you go to work. Since you are a morning person, you will be working within your normal sleep cycle, and probably be quite productive around 6:30-7:30am when the world is still asleep. Remember: maximize your natural cycle. Don’t fight against it! You’ll grow to love 6:30am like it was your new pet.
For Night People
So, you never outgrew your college days of eating Ramen and pizza and hanging with your friends until 4:00 in the morning, huh? Well, I have a solution for you to cope with a 9 to 5 job as well. Actually, I have two.
The first solution is much more sane and do-able. Simply stay up as late as you possibly can the night before. Shower at NIGHT, and put all your work stuff by the front door so you can just wake up and go in the morning. If you have to leave for work at 7:45am, you don’t need to go to sleep until a shade after midnight (if you employ my 7 hour or less technique.) Get up, throw clothes on, and go out the door. You can do this in 10 minutes if you plan right. I’m not even joking.
Just don’t forget to brush your teeth.
The second solution works better if you have no friends, don’t care about your social life, and don’t care about ever seeing the light of day. In other words, this is the ticket for true vampires. Here is what to do. Simply go to sleep the minute you get home from work. Just grab some food on your way out the company doors and eat it on the way home. Cram it down, but no so fast as to make yourself sick. Did you enjoy your dinner? Good. Now go home and go to bed. That’s right. Go to sleep at 6pm. Do the 7 hour rule and wake yourself up around 1:00am. Now you have plenty of time to be a vampire and enjoy the cold, dank darkness of the witching hours. By the time morning rolls around, you won’t have to deal with the sunlight because you’ll get to go to work.
There. You can still be a night person and have a 9 to 5 job. You can still have your cake and eat it too. (As if a 9 to 5 job and eating cake should even be mentioned in the same sentence not having to do with a co-workers’ depressing birthday party in the break room.)
The Ultimate Solution
This site isn’t called The Great Office Escape for nothing! The best solution is to find a way out of the 9 to 5 life and then you can sleep whenever and wherever you feel best fits you. No more having to cram that 9 to 5 into YOUR sleep cycles!
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