I woke up every morning at 5 am and either go surfing or study something of interest outside of work (or dealt with emails when I was busy). However, my bedtimes were quite irregular, and I stayed up quite late doing various things. For the last ten months or so, I've been writing a blog every day, which has meant that I've been up quite late, sometimes after midnight.
I like to write down what I learn and what I experience, so I've been enjoying the blog, but recently I've been feeling a bit under the weather. I have meetings with the European Union project at least twice a week, and the meetings usually go on until 9 pm, sometimes as late as 11 pm or midnight. I started to feel more and more like I was losing my mind. I don't know if it's because I exercise every day or because I don't eat strange foods, but I'm very fit and haven't been sick for the past ten years. And even if I feel a bit tired, I'm always willing to push myself for the sake of future results.
However, when I get herpes on my lips, I slow down because my body is screaming at me. I've had a couple of herpes outbreaks in the last month or so and felt a bit depressed, so I decided to look into it.
Jean-Philippe Chaput, Caroline Dutil, Ryan Featherstone, Robert Ross, Lora Giangregorio, Travis J. Saunders, Ian Janssen, Veronica J. Poitras, Michelle E. Kho, Amanda Ross-White, Sarah Zankar, and Julie Carrier. Sleep timing, sleep consistency, and health in adults: a systematic review. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.45(10 (Suppl. 2)): S232-S247. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2020-0032
This paper, published last year, is a meta-analysis of 41 studies conducted in 14 countries in the previous ten years. The first time such a meta-analysis of sleep has been carried out, the paper says. Meta-analyses are efficient because they look at studies that have already been done and compare them with other studies, but they can be challenging to make reliable. This paper was difficult to reach because the population sampled was diverse; 63% self-reported their sleep duration, and the study was not a continuous study. As a result, the results are only moderate to not very reliable as a meta-analysis. However, it was still beneficial to understand my situation.
What I found interesting was that there were six studies on depressive symptoms, all of which found that sleep duration and consistency harmed depressive symptoms. Two studies suggest adverse effects on the brain, and five of the seven studies also suggest a cognitive decline.
There were no death-causing results, but there may be an effect on heart attacks. Even if we don't go that far, two studies suggest that inconsistent sleep may lead to increased obesity, and three studies suggest that short sleep duration may also lead to obesity.
Inconsistent sleep may be detrimental to your health, but three studies suggest that a longer night's sleep at the weekend may help.
I'm not sure if this applies to my gender or ethnicity, as 73% of the studies didn't have subgroups, but I've decided that I've been sleeping too little. It's affecting my mental stability and intellectual activity.
So, as well as deciding to get up at five in the morning, I decided to stop all activities at ten and just get ready for bed. After a couple of weeks of this, I felt noticeably less sluggish and mentally depressed.
I still sleep about 6 hours a night, which is on the low side, but as far as I can remember, my sleep has always been about 5 hours, so this is a significant improvement. I take a 15-minute power nap after lunch, which is about an hour's worth of sleep, so I'd say I'm getting about 7 hours of sleep, including that.
I'm also trying to be more aware of my OKRs (Objective, Key Results), both at work and in my own life, so I've decided that getting a good night's sleep is more important than writing a blog every day. It's a good idea to make sure you get to bed at the same time as you get up.