“Oh boy, sleep! That’s where I’m a viking!” — Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons
You spend roughly a third of your life sleeping and that time has a much bigger impact on your waking hours than most people realize. Problems sleeping can bleed over into almost every area of your life. Lack of sleep can mean a lack of willpower. It can make you cranky and lazy. It can mean the difference between being good and bad at your job, having a successful and a failing relationship, or being healthy and sick.
I know a lot about sleep, in part because I’ve studied it, but also because I’ve gone to different extremes. When I was working on becoming a blogger full time, I spent years getting only 4-6 hours of sleep a night because I was doing the equivalent of two full time jobs and something had to give.
On the other hand, after I went full time as a blogger, I learned a lot about optimal sleeping habits. Whether it’s handling an eight-hour drive on three hours’ sleep, staying up 24 hours in a row, switching from a first shift schedule to third shift and back again in the same week, or getting up at 3 AM — I can handle it. That’s not to say that it’s always a piece of cake, but you would be surprised at how much better your sleeping habits can become with a little practice and how much of a difference it can make in your life.
So, how do you do it?
1) Have the right equipment: At one point in college, I was bedding down on a cheap, 20-year-old, sunken mattress. To sleep on it I had to curl up into a fetal position so that my body didn’t end up sinking down into the bed trench — which would have left me with a backache when I woke up.
This may go without saying, but that’s LESS THAN IDEAL.
If you’re going to spend roughly 1/3 of your life asleep, then it actually makes sense to put some time and money into selecting your bed. Go to a number of stores and lie on different mattresses. Find out if you like soft or hard beds. Don’t get the cheapest thing available, but don’t assume that you should buy the most expensive bed in the store either. After hitting multiple places, the last mattress I bought — which I’ve been extremely happy with — ended up being about half the cost of the most expensive beds I considered.
Additionally, your pillows are important, too. As a general rule, you don’t want to fall asleep with your neck jutting out at an odd angle and I’d recommend using a thin pillow between the knees to keep the spine aligned. Beyond that, there’s a lot of personal preference involved so this is another area where you need to experiment. Keep in mind that sometimes very expensive pillows don’t necessarily sleep all that well. Additionally, if you find a pillow you like at a hotel or a friend’s house, write down the brand name and buy it.