I used to say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead and that sleep is for the weak.” I often stay up til 3 or 4 am at night, working in the night, as it is the only time of the day I can work in dead silence, without interruptions. Sometime last year I realised I wasn’t getting enough sleep. For someone who has always been a night owl and prides herself on getting by with only 4 hours of sleep, this is a big problem. People say that your body automatically adjusts to parenthood and interrupted sleep is programmed into your system when you have a baby. I don’t know who came up with the theory, but it does not seem to be true for me. Before Zoey came along, I could sleep 4 hours a night for a week and still be able to function. Once she arrived, I found myself needing more and more sleep. 18 months later, I was really feeling the effects of constant sleep deprivation. I was constantly tired, grouchy and often just plain exhausted. With that, I would lose my temper and my patience was non existent.
This would not be a problem if not for the headaches I was getting. I never used to get headaches, but for the past few months, once I accumulate a certain amount of sleep debt, the headache comes. I wouldn’t be able to get rid of it easily and would end up having to sleep it off. This was extremely unproductive. I decided to do some research on sleep and how to find out the optimal number of hours to sleep. From my own experience, I know I need to sleep in 2 hourly cycles. 4 hours or 8 hours is ideal. 2 hours or 6 hours is tough, but doable. Anything else, I will wake up grouchy. What I did not realise was sleep cycles are more complex than that and there is actually a fair amount of science that goes into sleep monitoring and planning.
After asking my friends for their opinions, I ended up buying a MiBand 2 weeks ago. While many people recommended the Jawbone UP or FitBit, I chose the MiBand because I didn’t need a fancy gadget at a fancy price. What I needed was the bare minimal – tracking my sleep plus number of steps per day. At RRP $19.90 (I got mine for only $18.80 off a Qoo10 promotion), it is great value for money. It doesn’t have the many functions that the other trackers do, but it does the job. For less than $20, there is really nothing to complain about.
I’ve worn it daily for the past 10 days or so. In this time, I’ve learnt that I really don’t get enough deep sleep. The nights that I do, I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. The nights that I don’t, I struggle to get out of bed and often feel crappy for the entire day.
On this night, I only slept 6 hours but woke up feeling refreshed cos I got a higher percentage of deep sleep than usual.
Although I slept for 8 hours last night, my deep sleep was only 40%. I woke up tired and feeling quite lethargic. I ended up taking a nap this afternoon.
So based on the data from the past 10 days I am beginning to see a pattern. The 2 hour cycles holds true for me and I believe it is because instead of the common 90 minute sleep cycles most people have, my cycles are 120 minutes. Therefore waking up in 2 hour intervals are more optimal for me. The only problem is I need to find a way for Zoey’s sleep cycles to sync with mine. I am still breastfeeding so if she wakes up at a point of the night when I am actually in deep sleep, it throws my entire sleep cycle off and forces a reset of my sleep cycle. Since my body does not seem to have that magical ability to absorb this sleep debt accumulated due to parenthood, I must actively hack the system. For now, the way I am doing it is to sleep about 90 minutes to 120 minutes after she has fallen asleep. This way our sleep cycles are somewhat synced and she won’t wake me out of deep sleep to nurse. Hopefully when I wean her in a month’s time, this will be less of an issue and I can concentrate on hacking my own sleep schedule for optimal sleep and minimal sleep debt.
Do you often feel tired even though you sleep a lot? I really recommend tracking your sleep. Just 10 days of data was enough for me to start implementing changes. I am sure I can optimise my sleep within the next few weeks and I look forward to feeling more rested, becoming happier and healthier.