Are you getting enough sleep? How much is enough?
When a person is disciplined in one area, it often translates to other parts of life. Discipline in exercise often results in healthier eating choices. Who wants to chase a hard workout with a donut? The same goes with disciplined sleep. I’ve never seen a truly disciplined person who had lazy sleep habits. Some people sleep too much, while others aren’t quite getting enough sleep. But the disciplined sleeper sees the benefit of good rest and strikes a healthy balance between work and rest.
The Holy Club of Oxford apparently realized the importance of sleeping well, as they addressed this particular discipline daily in their twenty-two questions that they asked themselves daily.
Question 12 from the Holy Club questions asks the questions plainly:
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
Like many of you, I have fairly extensive first-hand experience when it comes to sleep. And I probably don’t have anything profound to share with you that you’ve never heard before. Nevertheless, perhaps I can restate something here in a helpful way.
Here’s the reality: life is better with enough sleep.
Sleep helps you recover from the day, giving your body much needed mental rest. Sleep helps your body heal itself; whether you’re recovering from exercise or from a head cold, restful sleep is good medicine. Getting enough sleep helps you to be alert and focused throughout the day without fatigue or afternoon exhaustion.
So if sleep is so great, isn’t more automatically better? Not necessarily, because more sleep than you need is usually a waste of time. Sleep takes time, and time spent sleeping could be better spent doing something more productive, whether work or spending time with people. (Side note: I’m am a firm advocate of the Sunday afternoon nap. Not because I have to, but because I can. But that’s a post for another time. )
Now, for the direct answer to the Holy Club’s question.
Getting to Bed On Time
If you’re anything like me, a night owl, this is considerably harder than getting up on time. There’s so much fun to be had, movies to be watched, and people to enjoy at night time! It makes going to bed at a decent hour a real chore. Getting my kids to bed on time is hard enough, let alone myself. So how does one do it? Here are two suggestions:
First, if you’re married, get on the same page as your spouse. Getting to bed at a decent hour is only possible for me with Sonja’s help. She’s even more of a night owl than I am, so she can be happily working until midnight with the lights on, clicking away on her computer. But if she knows I’m trying to be asleep by 10:30, she can help with that.
Sell your spouse on the value of getting to bed early and solicit his/her help.
Second, set an alarm to go to bed. Weird, huh? Try it. For instance, set an alarm for 8:00, and when that alarm goes off, so do the TV and half the lights. Start dimming the room and begin your bedtime routines so that by 9:00 you’re in bed, allowing yourself some reading time before actually going to sleep at 10:00. (These times are, of course, imaginary…from a kids cartoon or something.) So you can try something like that. I’ve done this, but without an actual alarm. But I’ve read about it and love the idea.
Getting Up On Time
Now I’m going to meddle. First, the key to getting up on time is getting to bed on time. I LOVE waking up, refreshed, on my own, one minute before my alarm was set to go off. But that only happens when I’ve gotten enough sleep, which won’t happen if I’ve been up until midnight watching a movie.
So set your alarm when you’re actually planning to get up. Don’t play mind games with yourself and plan to snooze for 45 minutes; you won’t need to if you’re getting to bed on time. If you want to get up at 6:00, set your alarm for 6:00, then develop the habit of getting up with the alarm until you can actually trust yourself.
Yes, getting enough sleep that simple, but it’s definitely not easy.
Parting Shot: Sleep as a Spiritual Discipline
It’s not surprising that a question about the discipline of sleep would make it on this list. Getting enough sleep is a matter of stewardship; you cannot exercise excellent stewardship of your body without getting enough sleep. I write that not as someone who has arrived, or who always gets enough sleep, but as one who is slowly progressing in this area.
Are you getting enough sleep? What’s your trick? Do you have any strategies to share?
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