Tonight, while walking in the park, I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast. The latest episode is Part 1 of The Economics of Sleep. It is a very fascinating episode, although I typically find their topics very compelling. It brings to mind my evolved relationship to sleep.
Back (way back) in my University days, I used to think of sleep as something necessary that had to be gotten out of the way. I would squeeze it in wherever I could fit it. In some instances, I would sleep at least four hours and then schedule naps during the day. I guess this was some sort of polyphasic sleep, which changed over time.
One year, my roommate was amazed that he ever saw me. I would be up and out of the dorm before he woke up. I'd go to bed long after he'd gone to sleep. Of course, he never saw me slip in a nap here and there while he was in class during the daytime.
In short, I had little regard for sleep other than getting in minimum quantities and little recharge sessions here and there.
When those days were over, I continued to stay up past midnight and wake up early for no good reason. My natural wake-up time is around 9 am. So, whether I went to bed early or late, I'd wake up around 9 am on my own. Of course, life requires 6 am wake-ups to deal with family needs. During those turbulent, non-college days; I was lost. Much of my life is a blur. I did a lot; but, I had no focus or direction.
I finally started getting to the point where I realize that there was no need to be pushing myself so hard if I wasn't going to strive for anything bigger. I got to a point where I was very unhappy with where my life was headed. I had one of those life-changing realizations that I needed to change my life around, I was going nowhere. Life could be better; and I had to make it happen.
Part of that change involved going to bed at a decent time. It is still very easy for me to stay up late doing things like reading blog posts, watching videos, or other non-essential things. However, I had decided that I should at least try to go to bed by 10 pm and sleep shortly thereafter.
Since that time, my life has slowly changed for the better. I no longer worry about my future. I am more clear-headed, which I thought was something I had lost forever. Overall, I'm a happier person.
To be fair, I can't say that the good night's sleep is what is changing my life around, or the decision to practice a better lifestyle. Let me just say that now that I have grown accustomed to getting a full night's rest, I do not enjoy doing without. Even an hour or two of sleep deficit makes things difficult for me. Mundane tasks become a challenge.
It makes me wonder if a good portion of my struggles and life were in part caused by poor sleep habits. It is apropos to say "sleep habits" because I have always been a good sleeper. Once I'm unconscious, there is no more world until morning or a full bladder. I don't know how I can sleep through disturbances, yet have no problem waking up to an alarm. But, that's another issue.
So, could my life have been better if I were more disciplined about going to bed on time and waking up with a full night's rest? I can only say that things are better now. I'm more focused and I drink less. These also contribute to a better life; but, does sleep make these possible?
I look forward to listening to Part 2 of the podcast when it comes out. Some of the data thus far seems to show that sleep does have correlations with income and health. I could not help but compare my experiences to the lives of those studied for sleep data.