Sleep Hygiene

I visited a friend earlier this year, and we were out with his wife at a board game party having a grand ole time. At some not-unreasonably-late hour his wife said “I have to go home now, it’s my bedtime.” I thought this was strange: I haven’t personally had a bedtime since middle school. I responded “It’s fine: tomorrow’s a holiday, so no one has a bedtime!” She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Well, *I* maintain good sleep hygiene.” Can’t argue with that! We left the party and (one hopes) got back in time for bed.

I had no idea what the phrase “sleep hygiene” meant at the time. What she said to me made me wonder if I was somehow a dirty sleeper. I mean, sure: I drool. Luckily for me, another friend soon recommended a book which explained everything. It’s by Matthew Walker, and it’s called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

Other than the basics of what exactly we mean by “sleep hygiene” (a simple google search can answer that), the book describes research on the phases of sleep and each of their relevance in our waking lives. It answered some questions I have always had such as:

  • Why do I work on a math problem for hours and feel completely stuck only to wake up from a nap with the correct solution?
  • Why do I show more improvement in piano the next day than after an hour of practice?
  • Why do I feel more hungry if I didn’t sleep well the night before?
  • Why do I have worse self-control if I’m sleep deprived?
  • Why was it so hard to wake up early and go to sleep early as a teenager?
  • Why do old people sleep less?
  • Can you actually die of sleep deprivation?

Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It’s one of my bibles now, along with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code. Though I am not quite as strict about bedtime as my friend’s wife, I have learned a lot from the book about the myriad of benefits of a good night’s sleep and the perils of not sleeping enough. Plus, now I have science on my side when I argue that it’s good for me and not just pure laziness that I sleep as much as I do!

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