Having written about life as practise, I thought I would show you how it works in practise, give you a worked example as it were.
I once used this idea when I wanted to improve the quality of my sleep. The mornings would see me waking up, but not feeling well rested. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for what seemed like ages. In the morning, I’d be slow to get going, and I didn’t like feeling grumpy all the time.
So, what do you have to do to turn “Improve sleep quality” into something you can practise?
Plan – Get a list of one or two easy things you can do
Action one was that to start googling, and read some books, filtering out the repeats and discounting sources that weren’t quite good enough. There’s a fair amount of hearsay in suggestions people make, so I decided to stick to science. There’s been a lot of research made into sleep and how to make it better, so that’d be a great place to start.
What I’d do is make notes as I went, building up a body of knowledge on the subject. What did I find? Let’s start with the benefits.
The Benefits of Better Sleep
The benefits of better sleep can be summarised by the following question:
If I were to offer you a performance-enhancing drug with no side effectd that was scientifically proven to boost your learning, cognition, physical performance, emotional balance and mood, what would you do?
The (My) answer is undoubtedly yes. Well that drug is more and better sleep.
So, the good news is that I will get a lot of other goodies in addition to feeling better rested and being less grumpy. This is starting to look like a very good deal.
What the Research Said Would Improve My Sleep
The main points I found were:
1) No screen time before bed. The blue light from screens acts as a signal to the brain that you need to wake up. It’s the mechanism our body uses to get going in the mornings, so if we get exposure just before we go to bed, our body will be trying to wake us up just as we’re trying to go to sleep.
2) Temperature – the room should be between 18 and 24 degrees. This is something that we have little control over right now, as we don’t have air conditioning, so I’m going to put this on a to-do list and work on it later.
3) Dark – This follows on from the no screen time thing. Good news is that we already have blackout blinds installed as my wife is quite light sensitive.
4) Stilling the mind – I have something that covers this in place already. I stretch before bedtime, to keep my back in good shape, and do a bit of meditation at just before I head up to bed. This is already somewhat covered.
5) The bed should be comfortable – No issues here, we have a good mattress and decent pillows. I don’t think we have an issue here.
Formulating the Plan and Metrics
The two options open were controlling the temperature, and no screen time before bedtime. Both of these are quite actionable, and the quick win is no screen time. I don’t have to spend any money, and it’s a very small thing that I can start doing immediately.
So, for the next week or so, I would try to not glance at my smartphone or tablet within 1 hour of bedtime.
As a rough measure of how well I was doing, I would log approximately how many minutes I’d spend looking at a screen of any description within one hour of bedtime. The goal was to get this number of minutes down to zero.
A second measure would be to log a restfulness score out of 10 the next morning.
The next step would be to do the plan, and see how this little action affects my life
Well, in practise it wasn’t as simple as I had thought. The call of social media seemed to be too much for little old me to resist. The first few days saw me peeking at my phone for up to twenty minutes at a time. This wasn’t good, because I hadn’t realised that I’d been looking at my phone for that long just before bedtime. No wonder I wasn’t sleeping well.
After a week I took a look at the results.
Here, we have the plot. It’s only a week’s worth of data, and I won’t make a firm conclusion, but there is a tendency to have better scores on restfulness after an evening of no minutes on the screen.
On day 3 I had no minutes and the following day I had a restfulness score spike.
On day 6 I had 20 minutes on screen and the following day I had a restfulness score plummet.
The conclusion after a week – I’m rubbish at limiting screen time, there is some evidence that I will get better sleep if I am successful.
Time to press on a figure out what I’m going to do to improve
What I wanted to find were small things that I could do that would help me limit my screen time.
One easy thing to do was to put a screensaver ony phone saying “No screen time after 9pm”.
I’d also put an alarm that went off at 9pm, and this would serve as a signal to me to stop doing whatever I was doing and start winding down to bedtime, pack my bags for the next day and also start the stretch routine.
Now that a suitable action plan was in place I’d monitor this and review after a month to see how things were going.