Getting plenty of sleep is very important for a healthy life.
Writes Matthew Walker in “Why We Sleep”:
I doubt you are surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.”
Perhaps you have also noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you still want to eat more. It’s a proven recipe for weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike. Worse, should you attempt to diet but don’t get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since most of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat.
Add the above health consequences up, and a proven link becomes easier to accept: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span.
Adds Russell Foster in “Life Time”: “In the past few decades, there has been an explosion of thrilling new discoveries in and around the science of the body clock and the 24-hour biological cycles that dominate our lives. The most obvious of these cycles is the daily pattern of sleep and wake. Surprisingly, most books discuss the body clock and sleep separately. However, new research tells us that such a disconnected approach tells only part of the story. You cannot properly understand sleep without understanding the body clock, and sleep in turn regulates the clock…[T]he body clock and sleep [need to] be considered together as two intimately linked and intertwined areas of biology that define and dominate our health. In so many cases, your ability to succeed or fail, from driving home safely after work or dieting to achieve weight loss, will depend upon whether you are working with or against these 24-hour cycles…If you want to embrace life, be creative, make sensible decisions, enjoy the company of others, and view the world and all that it has to offer with a positive outlook, then embracing biological time will help you do this.”
As I wrote earlier: “I wake up daily by 4:30 am. I set two alarms: 4:24 am and 4:27 am. To ensure that I still don’t oversleep, I have made a habit of listening to the BBC World News 5-minute bulletin (via their app) at 4:30 am. There is no exception on weekends – my waking up time daily is the same… To wake up on time, one has to sleep on time. I normally sleep by 9:45/10 pm. This gets me about 6.5 hours daily. On some days, I will take a short nap during the day – when I wake up, I feel fresh and it is almost like having a second morning.”
To do this, it is important to recognise the 24-hour body clock. It means making sure there is a daily discipline. I try and ensure that I don’t change my waking up time irrespective of what time I sleep. (There are a few occasions when I cannot sleep by 10 pm, but I still ensure I wake up by 4:30 am. On these days, I will take a short nap during the day.)
I am very much a morning person. I like the silence of the dark early mornings. I do my writing and thinking in these hours, so I don’t like to delay my waking up time. Which also ensures an on-time sleep the previous night.
I tend to sleep in the afternoons on weekends – without an alarm. I will typically go to sleep thinking about an idea or a problem to solve. And many a time, I will wake up with some direction on the way forward.
The idea of a “second morning” came from something I had read about Jim Collins. Here is August Birch: “Collins’s favorite sleep schedule is unconventional, but he says, gives you the power of dual mornings. Since mornings are our most-productive time for our brains, this dual morning secret is worth a try. Collins takes a nap in the afternoon and goes to bed from 10PM to 3AM. He then performs his deep work from 3AM to 7AM. He works until he’s tired and goes back to sleep from 7AM to 10AM. Giving him eight hours of sleep total, but with two mornings. At 10AM he starts his second day. Collins says the second sleep session feels like “general anesthesia.” The second cycle appears to send him straight into deep sleep without cycling through the early phases.”
So, for a productive day and life, do not compromise on your sleep. Work out your cycle (wake up with alarm or without, sleep during the day or not, awaken early or late) and stick with it. A very good tip from Matthew Walker: “Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Set an alarm for bedtime. Often we set an alarm for when it’s time to wake up but fail to do so for when it’s time to go to sleep.”