😴 Happy Habit #11: Sleep 7-8 Hours Per Night

• 4 min read

Sleeping 7-8 hours a night makes you happier, improves cognitive performance and increases your capacity for insight threefold.

Research Overview

One of the easiest ways to build a strong foundation of wellness in your life is to sleep 7-8 hours per night. Research has shown that reducing sleep to just 5 hours a night results in decreased mood, reduced cognitive and motor performance [1].

Getting enough sleep also increases your capacity for insight by three times by allowing your mind to restructure new memories, extract knowledge from learning and increase intuition [2].

On the other hand, just one night of sleep deprivation has a whole host of negative effects including [3]:

  • 4x greater stroke risk
  • Increased risk of death, diabetes obesity and even some cancers
  • Decreased immune function
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased physical attractiveness

Core concept

The most pernicious myth about happiness in our culture is that we need to strive to reach our life's goals in order to be happy. Not only is this not true, but it often inspires us to overreach, make too many commitments and sacrifice sleep in pursuit of productivity and achievement.

Sacrificing sleep in order to get work done is a big mistake.

I've been a huge culprit of this—mainly since I became a father, which seems to come with the territory.

Regardless of your life context, making an active investment in the quality and duration of your slip is one of the best returns on happiness invested (hROI). If you had to pick one thing and only one thing to improve your overall well-being, quality of sleep should be high on your list of candidates.

If you're suffering from a lack of sleep, it's important to understand that the quality of your sleep is related to a variety of factors:

  1. How much caffeine you have in your system
  2. Stress and anxiety levels
  3. The consistency of your sleep routine
  4. Exposure to blue light emitted by screens before sleep
  5. How much exercise you've had recently
  6. How much you've eaten and when
  7. Whether you've drank alcohol recently and how much
  8. Being a parent / caregiver
  9. Your sleep 'chronotype' (when you sleep best and for how long)

In order to create interventions that impact these factors, it's helpful to look more closely at the behavioral science surrounding habit formation.

Behavior tips

Habits are usually formed by a series of smaller behaviors. In order to design for lasting change it's important to look at the sequence of behaviors and figure out the key behavior that will make or break the sequence.

BJ curates key behaviors for various aspirations in the form of 'recipes' and you can find 20 Tiny Habits Recipes for better sleep on his free PDF here: 300 Tiny Habits Recipes.

I highly recommend you take a look!

Improving your sleep hygiene

All the factors that impact your sleep together form your 'sleep hygeine'. Better sleep is often the result of better hygiene. Here are the key behaviors I try and adhere to in order to improve my sleep hygeine. The main thing is to try and create a consistent routine that you follow at the same time every day.

This will help you develop a stable circadian rhythm that makes it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep deeply.

Below are the 5 sleep tips I have found the most helpful for me:

1) Don't drink caffeine after 2pm

Caffeine has a half-life of about 8 hours, so if you want to sleep by 10pm you don't want much caffeine in your system.

2) Plug my phone into a charger in a separate room at 8.30pm

Digital devices emit a blue light that is on a similar spectrum to daylight which tricks our brain into thinking we should be awake when we shouldn't. Blue light exposure has a HUGE effect on sleep quality and duration.

3) Read a real paper novel for 15-mins

This has an incredible soporific effect and is proven to increase quality of sleep. If you watch Netflix before sleep you should seriously consider reading a novel instead. eBook readers emit blue light so avoid them if you can!

4) Take a 25-min power nap if you need to catch up

Napping can help reduce your sleep deficit and give you a boost in your day. There's loads of research on the benefits of mid-day napping.

5) Don't eat any later than 6.30pm

Giving your body time to fully digest makes it a lot easier to sleep. There's a lot of energy required to digest food and I've found it helpful to have a cut-off point after which I don't eat.

If you're going to do one more thing I would highly recommend not drinking alcohol when you need a good

Conclusion

It's shocking how important it is to sleep 7-8 hours per night and yet how many of us delude ourselves into thinking we don't need sleep. If you want to boost your overall well-being—sleep!

See if you can adopt a playful and curious mind as you explore different sleep routines and methods for improving your sleep hygiene.

Citations

  1. David F. Dinges, Frances Pack, Katherine Williams, Kelly A. Gillen, John W. Powell, Geoffrey E. Ott, Caitlin Aptowicz, Allan I. Pack, Cumulative Sleepiness, Mood Disturbance, and Psychomotor Vigilance Performance Decrements During a Week of Sleep Restricted to 4–5 Hours per Night, Sleep, Volume 20, Issue 4, April 1997, Pages 267–277, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/20.4.267
  2. Wagner, U., Gais, S., Haider, H. et al. Sleep inspires insight. Nature 427, 352–355 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02223
  3. SLEEP, Cancer, University Hospitals, Annals of Internal Medicine, UC Berkeley, American Joural of Epidemiology research consolidated by The Huffington Post

Resources

  1. Sleep Foundation
← ⏯️ Happy Habit #12: Interrupt Your Consumption
😞 Unhappy Habit #2: 💸 Fixate on Money →

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