In order for this to make absolute sense I’m going to have to put it in a larger context. My response to too much or too little sleep is somehow installed backwards. If I oversleep I will be lethargic, soporific, and packed with extra inertia at the beginning of my day. If I don’t get enough sleep it’s as if I’m trying to compensate and will be anxious, jittery, and give the impression I must have had too much coffee. “Enough sleep” is somewhere between six and eight hours.
So if I’m having trouble sleeping it’s very easy to get caught in a feedback loop. It makes me anxious, restless, and all the more difficult to sleep the next night. I’d like to move on from here to discuss two things, how I personally work on my sleep habits and how it might affect my social life.
Sleep Hygiene — I have a bedtime routine. I’ve not been sticking to it very well recently, but in general I turn off the computer and television at least an hour before bedtime. This provides me with time to do a few things I enjoy doing but might otherwise neglect–mostly reading and guitar practice exercises. While still brain-engaging activities, they’re far more calming and soothing than harsh back lit screens.
The only thing I’ve had to give up in the name of sleep hygiene that has been a lifelong love of mine is reading in bed. I avoid naps if at all possible, sticking to ~45 minute naps if I’m lagging severely. The only things I use my bed for are sleep and sex. My days of reading Star Wars EU novels in bed all day are long behind me, but it does help with the insomnia. Not that I’d have the time for that anymore, even on the weekends.
My absolute minimum is taking my medication with a snack (usually a granola bar) so it doesn’t upset my stomach and brushing my teeth in approximately the same way every night. It’s simple to the point of being trivial, but it’s a routine and routines help me feel better. An additional option if I’m anticipating a particularly difficult time sleeping is a shower about half an hour before bed. Something about the process of being warm and then cooling down is good for the being tired.
Being a Party Pooper — When you seemingly robotically go to bed at the same time every night you may miss out on some good times with your more spontaneous night owl friends. When it will make the difference between being able to function the next day or not, I generally find it to be an acceptable sacrifice.
Since it can disrupt the social flow nearly all my close friends are familiar with my eccentric sleeping habits. My tortoise shell glasses and favorite tweed sport coat betray my desire to get a jump start on being an old man in my late 20s, so it usually doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Nonetheless, I have plenty of fine folks in my life who are willing to take some extra time out of the earlier parts of their days to spend some time with me. Which keeps me well fed socially and tends to also help with my introverted, hate-large-parties nature.
Even so, it’s easy to feel like one is missing out or being a drag. And I can’t really helpfully articulate how I or anyone in general may cope with that. So I’m going to hand it over to Hank Green (who is talking about chronic illness in general, but mostly specifically IBD, so hopefully I’m not being a jerk co-opting it for my own non-severe-physical-pain-inducing illness):