In our modern society we may be rich in stuff. But there is one thing that we are invariably all poor in, and that is in sleep.
I am the sort of person who needs a lot of sleep. Ideally I would like around nine hours a day. That might surprise people who know me, because I am kind of a go, go, go person who never stops. That’s probably why I like and need my sleep so much because otherwise I burn out.
Our modern lifestyle does not encourage sleep. There are too many distractions that keep us up late – television, mobile phones, Facebook, Instagram, electric lights. I am not suggesting that we go back to the dark ages and dispense with the light, but it is important to understand the effect that all these distractions have on our natural sleep cycles. There are very few people who go to bed with the sunset and get up at dawn. Yet if you think about it, this is one of the best things for our bodies and certainly, if nothing else, a great way to save on electricity and heating costs.
Years ago I read The Happiness Project. I came about it because I had been researching works about happiness especially by Austrlian authors (which this was not) in the context of the Taipei International Book Fair. I figured I then out to go and read some of these books for myself to try and figure out what could make me feel happier.
Chapter one, interestingly enough, became with sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep, the book argued, has been scientifically shown to be one of the best building rocks for happiness. You know what it feels like when you have been up half the night with a sick child or you are nursing a hangover. It is hard to feel positive and resilient or have energy to do much. I know this intellectually, and I also know that I personally thrive on a lot of sleep, but I am such a late night procrastinator. There is always one email I haven’t read yet, one more thing to do in the kitchen, more clothes to fold up or to hang out, or one more thing to to post on Facebook or to comment on. Before I know it, it is already half an hour past when I thought I would start getting the kids to bed. Or an hour. Then they are cranky or hyperactive, and then the home bed time routine becomes difficult.
Does this actually make me more productive? No, not at all. It means that I am late getting up the next morning, rushed, prone to getting angry and then find it easy to forget things. I also then feel tired at work and am less likely to go for a swim at lunchtime and more likely to indulge in over-sugared tea and chocolate to make me feel better. That then creates a rolling cycle – less exercise and too much sugar makes it harder to get a decent quality of sleep, which then makes me feel even more tired.
So it is not just getting to bed early that helps, but the whole healthier diet and lifestyle that is part of the process. On a recent holiday to visit my mother, she shared that she has given up eating anything sweet at least an hour before bed. She said she has noticed she sleeps much, much better when she does this. I was surprised that it had such a strong effect, but I must admit that in the few days I stayed with her I felt great. We all went to bed super early, and most days I was up before dawn. And what a beautiful dawn it was, watching the sun rise over the water at Southport on the Gold Coast. “Mummy, the water is all red as well!”, said Little A and he was totally right. Just magic.
In late Autumn I started cycling to and from work several days a week. One of the reasons I downsized into an apartment was to lead a more active lifestyle rather than just driving everywhere. It took a few months to implement, actually I put it off for so long it was nearly winter before I started. The first week I was exhausted, and every night I would come home and crash into bed by 9pm. But that week was also one of my happiest – even though I was still recovering from a relationship breakup I felt more positive than I could remember.
In the last years of my marriage I had terrible insomnia. I had big stresses at work, my marriage was unstable and also disrupted sleep because of young children. The worst part of broken sleep with young kids is when you finally get them to sleep only to find tht you are unable to get down to sleep yourself. This blog, then named Weekendparent, was started during one of those awful nights when I couldn’t get to sleep.
There is this almost sense of desperation when you have insomnia like I did. This worry that you won’t be able to go to work, won’t be able to function, worry aobut life in general. It snowballs until it is hard to focus on anything.
Why am I writing about sleep on a frugal website?? Well there are a few reasons:
- Sleep is cheap. Good sleep costs nothing yet is one of the best things that you can do to ensure good health. It increases your immunity, it promotes happiness, it ensures you live a longer life, and on a cold winter’s night is one of the best ways to spend a romantic night in.
- The early to bed and early to rise lifestyle is frugal. Rather than wasting a lot of electricity and gas keeping your home warm and bright late into the night, use solar energy and follow the natural rhythm of the sun where possible. I once read a frugal tip on Simple Savings years ago about a family who was on a strict budget. One day a week they turned off all the lights in the house and relied on candelight. They made it into a bit of a fun family time, using it as a way to decrease screen time and to actually connect as a family. I’m not that organized, but I have enjoyed the times I have participated in Earth Hour. There is something about being around fire as a unit, whether it is a campfire or even just a simple candleflame, that units us as a tribe and takes us back to our primitive roots.
- Turn off the heater at night. This should be obvious, but it isn’t to everyone (i.e. I have had my dad staying and he has different routines). I read once that optimally you need a slighly cooler temperature to get to sleep. That probably explains why it often fees cosier in winter than on a restless hot summers night. You will sleep much better if you room is cooler (and you have more blankets) than if your room is piping hot. You will also save on energy heating costs.
- Early morning is conducive for creativity. Earlier this year I did a four-week Write and Shine writing program. This blog post came out of that. The premise is that early morning is the most creative time for working. I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to get up the morning I first drafted this. I had a headache, it was dark and minus two degrees outside. But it was also quiet with no kids yet up. And I got writing done. Since then, on and off, it is my new routine. I get some of my best writing done this way now, and it is comparatively effortless. (Compartively, not totally).
- Lack of sleep costs Australia’s economy around $66 billion a year. Yep, you heard that right. According to a Deloitte report, that is how much it costs the economy when you factor in things like poor work performance, sick days etc etc. I must say that since I started a new sleep routine (disrupted at the moment a bit but still much better) I get less stressed at work and can focus much better. FOCUS. I can also problem solve issues as they come up more effectively. I am nicer to be around, and I haven’t had a cold since I took up cycling and started sleeping better around three and a half months ago.
What time do you go to sleep? How much energy could you save if you turned off the lights and heaters an hour earlier and went to bed? Join the conversation with us on the new Frugal Dare to Millionaire Facebook group.