In December, I challenged myself to:
Be in bed, lights off, by 11pm every evening
Get up at 6.30am every morning
Well let’s say, it didn’t go quite to plan!
For the first five days of December, I followed my rules precisely. I was in bed with the lights off by 11pm every evening, usually some time between 10.30 and 10.59! I started winding down from 9pm and getting ready to bed from 10pm, which helped me to be physically and mentally ready for bed before 11pm. I didn’t always fall asleep straight away, so I was awake after 11 on some of the days, but I was in bed with the lights out.
Likewise, for the first five mornings, I got up at 6.30 with my alarm. This was a struggle, despite going to bed earlier! I find it difficult to get up when it is dark and cold. I dragged myself out of bed but felt very sleepy for the first half hour or so, and was tempted to get back into my warm bed! On most of the mornings, I was not very productive for the first couple of hours. I took it slowly, and on a couple of mornings I sat on my bed and read for about an hour, before even showering and getting dressed. Not that reading is unproductive, but it was about all I had the energy for!
On the 6th morning, my alarm went off, but I just couldn’t face getting up, so I slept in. From then on, my challenges basically got forgotten and I slipped back into my old routine of going to bed late and getting up late. For the rest of December (and the start of January) I have been going to bed any time between around 11.30 and 12.30 (or sometimes later) and getting up at around 8.30am.
Even though I ‘failed’ my challenge, it is not a real failure because I can still learn something from it. It makes me question whether it really is a good idea for me to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, because it feels so unnatural and unpleasant to get up when it is dark and cold. I have found it much easier to succeed at getting up early when I have done similar challenges in the spring or summer, when it gets light earlier. It makes me think, maybe in the winter we are just not supposed to get up before the sun, and perhaps it is natural to sleep for longer in the winter? I will do some research into this, and maybe experiment with different ‘sleep lengths’ in future challenges.
Maybe the answer is to go to bed later and get up later in the winter, and do the opposite in the summer. I could push forward or back my sleep and wake times each month, to match the rising of the sun. That clashes with the idea from Eden Energy Medicine that it is healthiest to go to bed before 11pm, but perhaps that time is not precise, and changes with the seasons too. And maybe our natural bodily rhythms differ between people – maybe I am naturally a ‘night owl’, much as I like the idea of being a ‘lark’. I still feel that I am not very productive in the evenings when I stay up late, but this challenge showed me that I am not very productive in the mornings either, when I am feeling sleepy and groggy. At least if I stay up later, I can enjoy a relaxed wind down, even if I am not doing anything productive – after all, relaxation has benefits too.
Another possibility is that I actually need more than 7.5 or 8 hours of sleep. I am a very active person, physically and mentally, so maybe I need more sleep than average to replenish and repair. I could experiment with sleeping for longer, and see if this helps me to find it easier getting up at 6.30 even when it is dark.
Talking of ‘failing’ challenges, I set myself a couple of challenges for January, but so far on January 4th I haven’t completed my challenges on a single day! I think challenges may be off for this month, as I have a general mix of things I need to work on, and sort out. I’m feeling a bit behind with some aspects of my life, and I also have several exciting ideas I want to get started on, so January may be a bit of a ‘catch up’, ‘sort out’ and ‘dabble’ month, before starting another challenge in February.