How to Get More Sleep and Stop Walking Around Exhausted

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When was the last time you woke up and felt renewed, refreshed, and excited to get into your day? That’s what Matthew Kelly, author of The Rhythm of Life, wants you to experience — not occasionally, but every day.

The most important issue regarding sleep is when you sleep. Why do so many people feel they don’t get enough sleep? People of all different sleeping habits seem to want more. The issue here is not the quantity of our sleep, but rather the quality of our sleep.

You may think sleep is sleep. Yet numerous studies have revealed that people who sleep at the same time every night are considerably healthier than those who do not. They are affected by common colds less than one-third as many times as people who do not sleep at regular hours. The incidence of depression is also significantly lower with people who sleep at regular hours.

To implement the first instrument in our lives, to be able to get out of bed refreshed and energized in the morning, some preparation must be done. Once again, this preparation involves self knowledge. If you know you need to get out of bed at seven a.m. in order to get ready for your day in a calm and peaceful manner, and if you also know that if you don’t get seven hours of sleep, you become grouchy and miserable, then be fair to yourself. Be kind to yourself, and use your self-knowledge. It is powerful to live by what you know about yourself. Make sure that by midnight you are in bed, despite what problems emerge — schedules, stresses, social situations, and poor habits. Often these are what hinder our ability to get the sleep we need.

For example, to be in bed and asleep at midnight every night, you will certainly find yourself leaving some social events early. The question is, for the sake of a couple of extra hours at a party, are you prepared to throw your life into chaos?

Yes, there are exceptions. No, you do not have to be in bed every night by midnight for the rest of your life. But in our lives the exception has become the rule. There is no consistency to our sleeping patterns, and that is costing us dearly.

You may need only six hours of sleep, and you may decide your time is from eleven p.m. until five a.m. Or you may need eight hours of sleep and may decide to sleep from ten p.m. to six a.m. Each person must decide how much sleep optimizes his or her energy. Only you can decide what are the best hours for you to sleep.

Sleep should be used offensively, not defensively.

Many of us have been falsely led to believe that sleep is an expendable element and that it can be used defensively. Sleep builds us up. Sleep is one of the indispensable natural elements of our lives. Sleep is one of our legitimate needs. Sleep is intended to make us stronger, more vibrant, more productive, more loving, and more alert individuals. Sleep is important and should be given priority.

Our modern world works against this in so many ways. For instance, a great number of people uphold lack of sleep as a source of pride. Some people believe that excessive dedication to waking hours overrules the necessity for rest and regular sleep. They convince themselves that to be successful in their chosen field they must sacrifice sleep and rest — they even believe this to be heroic. These ideas are particularly common in business. Perhaps they need to return to the business school textbooks, reconsider the concept of “long-term residual effect,” and ponder it in relation to their own lives.

We have no greater evidence of the importance of sleep than in the habits of those who are highly successful. Recently I had the opportunity to meet Olympian Alberto Salazar after one of my talks in Oregon. He had a presence, the presence of a champion, a certain strength, and yet a profound humility.

Do you suppose when Alberto Salazar won the gold medal for the marathon at the 1992 Olympic games, he credited his success to sleeping less than all of the other athletes in his field? No, Salazar trained harder, rested more effectively, was more attuned to his dietary needs, was more in touch with his desire to win — and has been leaving parties early for years because he knows he has to get up early the next morning to train. If he doesn’t train well, he won’t compete well.

The truth is, people are walking around half-asleep all the time. Every day, people are exhausted. They are fatigued. Fatigue has become a pattern in our lives. This is a sad testament to how little we observe, know, and respect ourselves.

When was the last time you woke up and felt renewed, refreshed, and excited to get into your day? That is what I want you to experience — not occasionally, but every day.

On the other hand, do you remember the last time you had to get up early after a late night? How did you feel? Did you say to yourself, “I wish I didn’t have to get out of bed this morning”? Or perhaps, “I am never going to stay out late again on a work night”? How was your day? Were you a picture of energy? Did you enjoy the day? Were you efficient? Effective? Happy?

The real question is, will you let it happen again? Each of us should know how much sleep we require in order to function at maximum efficiency — be it six, seven, or eight hours. When will we begin to use this valuable information to our own advantage?

In this era of lust, we lust even after knowledge. Foolishly we believe that wisdom is the amassing of knowledge. We want to know more, but we do not want to live what we already know.

The first step is to sleep at the same time every night. In order to attune ourselves to the rhythm of life, we must adopt a regular pattern of sleep — going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time. It really is quite simple, yet on occasions when I have shared this idea with people, they have looked at me as if I were asking the impossible. It is perhaps a testament to how complex and cluttered our lives have become. It is perhaps a testament to how out of control our lives are. Begin to take control of your life — adopt a regular sleeping schedule.

This is the most basic way I know to create the rhythm of life, and it is the essence of the first instrument. It brings a consistency to the general structure and organization of our lives. In the area of physical well-being, it is the first step toward maximizing our energy and therefore the first step toward increasing our effectiveness in everything we do.

I have seen it work in my own life, and I have seen it work in the lives of others. If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, weekdays and weekends, in less than ten days you will feel like a different person. New energy, new enthusiasm, new passion for life.

It will be a challenge. It will be difficult at times. It will cost. It is simply a matter of priorities. This regular sleeping schedule will empower you to give your best to everything you do every day. You will no longer find yourself saying, “I just want to get through today and get home to bed!” That is no way to live. Every day should be savored. Being rested is not just about being awake — it’s about being able to devote yourself completely to whatever is before you in every single moment of the day. It is about living life to the fullest.

It is also important that you give consideration to how long you sleep. The secret with sleep is the same wisdom that applies to just about everything that affects the body — guard against extremes. Too little sleep is not good for us, and too much sleep is not good for us. If we sleep too little, we wake up fatigued; and if we sleep too much, we wake up fatigued. Test different sleeping times for several days. Grow to know yourself and what amount of sleep allows you to function most effectively.

Consideration should also be given to where you sleep and the environment you sleep in. Once again, try different things and get to know yourself. If it is too hot or too cold, how does that affect the effectiveness of your sleep?

How you sleep can also make a radical difference — whether it’s on your stomach, on your side, or on your back. Observe yourself. Know yourself. Use the knowledge you gain about yourself to live a happier, healthier, fuller life.

When I was eighteen and first in college under the spell of the “modern lie,” I used to believe that eating and sleeping were a waste of time. Twenty minutes was the absolute maximum I would dedicate to sitting at table for a meal, and mostly I ate on the run. When it came to sleep — two, three, four hours a night, and some nights I would not go to bed at all. Over the past ten years, I have learned a lot about myself, and I know now that without seven hours of sleep each night, I am no good to anyone.

It is time we began to see sleep not as a limitation or burden, but as a gift. Embrace this gift. Treasure the gift. Cherish the gift. Enjoy the gift. Use the gift of sleep to its maximum advantage. Use sleep to begin to create the rhythm of life.

Matthew Kelly, the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose (Copyright © 1999 by Matthew Kelly, Revised copyright © 2004 by Beacon Publishing), has been captivating audiences around the world since his late teens. Over the past decade, more than three million people have attended his talks and seminars in over fifty countries. Kelly is the president of Floyd Consulting.



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