I remember always having two groups of friends at my high school before a test. The ones who stayed up as late as possible to study and came to school with a bare minimum of sleep. And the others who didn’t change going to sleep no matter how important the test was. I was always the latter. No matter how little I felt prepared for the test, I didn’t replace studying with sleep.
The night before my doctorate dissertation submission, the night before a piano competition, the night before an important deadline… Every hectic moment of my life, even though every minute would count, I stopped and went to sleep.
Looking back, it was more physical than mental. I instinctively knew that my primary need to function at my best was to go to bed early and sleep well. I had boundaries. That meant I had to find ways to spend my waking time more efficiently.
That also meant that I didn’t party at night in my youth. I was the one sleeping in the corner while everyone else talked and had fun all night at all sleepover parties with my cousins or friends. (My friends called me Grandma in my teens.) Maybe I was a party pooper. But I promise that I really tried. No matter what I did, I somehow always found myself falling asleep.
When I went through a difficult season of life, sleeping was also my salvation. I looked forward to it every day. I felt that I could pause my emotional pain for at least those hours. For the most part, I felt slightly better after sleep. The hard emotions were always easier to deal with in the morning than at night.
I often heard the old school slogan in Korea that encouraged people to sacrifice sleep for doing. “Sleep less, do more!”
I remember feeling guilty for prioritizing sleep. You could get a lot more done if you slept less, Jeeyoon!
Thankfully, nowadays, I hear that new scientific studies emphasize the importance of sleep for the brain and mind. Important figures in the field say that one can never replace a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is detrimental to long-term physical and mental health. In fact, insufficient sleep appears to be a key lifestyle factor linked to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and even weight gain. Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day—Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.
THANK YOU! Finally!
I never depended on the newest trend in sleep, but it is still great to know that I have been good to myself all along without knowing the facts. This is what Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the UC Berkeley, has to say;
"A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as a preeminent force in this health trinity. The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise."
“Do you have a night routine?”
I am not sure. At this point, everything I do is automatic. However, I do many things at night, which might contribute to a night of good sleep.
On an ideal day, I do the following at night:
1. Wear my Oura ring - This is preparation for the morning report. I absolutely love to see how I slept through the night. As nerdy as I could be, the everyday data, including my deep and REM sleep time, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, average oxygen saturation, and all the geeky information about my sleep, is very satisfying to know first thing in the morning. Then, I consider that information for my activity for the day. (The ring can also measure my activity during the day, but I wear it only at night, as I don’t like to wear it when I play the piano.)
2. Take a hot bath - A hydrotherapy for me! This is my favorite way to end a day if I can. At least 15 to 20 minutes of hot bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts and 3 or 4 drops of various aromatic oils. I rotate the scents depending on the mood.
3. Wear blue ray block glasses for 2 or 3 hours before sleep - The experts recommend not using the phone or computer for two hours before sleep. Well, that’s great advice…maybe one of these days, I will break this habit. For now, I have a cheating solution. Since not looking at a screen at night is not a simple task, I wear blue ray block glasses. I find that it doesn’t affect my sleepiness even when I use a computer or phone. (They say the Kindle screen doesn’t affect sleep. That is great!)
4. Put on mouth tape - right before I lie in bed. I have been doing this for over a year. It helps me a lot by guiding me to breathe through the nose at night. (Because of this, I trained myself to breathe more through the nose during the day.) Double score!
5. My last cup of matcha (or any other caffeinated drink) is 5 to 6 hours before going to bed. Normally no more after 3 p.m. Yup, I learned it the hard way.
6. Drink only salty water (electrolyte) before sleep - I try not to drink water (or any other liquid) at all for the last 3 hours, but if I want to, I try to drink only electrolyte salty water, which seems to help me not to wake up at night to go to the bathroom. It is ideal if I can sleep through the night! I generally have about 70% success.
7. Having about a 4-hour window without eating before sleep is my life habit. - I can’t sleep or lie down when my stomach is full. Apparently, this is very good for your body! No effort is necessary for me to keep this principle. Done!
8. Sleep at about the same time within a 2-hour variable - I do my best to sleep at the same time as much as possible. But traveling and late concerts make it tough. You know what, though? I discovered my ultimate weapon: I can sleep on demand. I close my eyes and can fall asleep easily, even at irregular times. Isn’t that great? I am very proud of myself for that. It is quite useful at times.
9. Save work or study for the morning - I rarely have a boost of energy to start something new at night. I save it for the morning as I often feel I can tackle a difficult task at about 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning. If I have energy at night, I usually write what to do tomorrow rather than doing it then. Experts say this is a very good tactic, as mental stimulation can disrupt sleep and make falling asleep harder.
10. I have blackout curtains or an eye mask to block all the light when traveling.
Lastly, and importantly for me, I do not use an alarm clock. I think this might be one of the most luxurious things in my life. I know my body rhythm. I let my body dictate for how long it is appropriate to sleep. If I go to bed on time, I wake up naturally after 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
What is your night routine? Are you struggling with sleep these days? What is your secret to a good night’s sleep? Please share it with me!