the sleep system (stage one?)

Ok, so in my last post, I mentioned that I was going to devise some sort of system for fixing my sleep. I’ve had some time to think about this, and have come up with something that might work.

Realistically, the only two things I’m interested in when it comes to sleep is the quantity and quality – that is, the actual number of hours of sleep, and whether or not this sleep is restful. This was a good first step because I don’t want to have to evaluate and record ten different factors of sleep every time I wake up in the morning. That would be a sure-fire way to make me stop using it.

But then I have the problem of having a quantitative measure and a qualitative measure side by side. Ideally I’d want them to be the same unit of measure, so that I could just add them up, or average them, to get a single score for each night’s sleep. “Number of hours” is clearly already going to be a numeral, so that was ok; the hard part was figuring out what to do with evaluating sleep quality.

The obvious solution is probably to go with a rating system: a scale of one to ten, or maybe just one to five. It’s a finite thing with set limits, which is good. But then what about hours of sleep? That could be anything from four hours (thankfully I haven’t done that more than a handful of times, and hopefully never go lower than that either!) up to about twelve hours (on week-ends, that is, but I don’t think I tend to sleep in that much).

The question, then, was whether or not I should rank my hours of sleep as well. I could do a simple conversion table – one number to another – but this would mean adding an extra step, which goes against the principle of keeping it simple.

Since, realistically, I’m just making stuff up, and don’t really know if this is going to work, in order to make this less daunting, I told myself that whatever system I devised, I would allow myself to change it as I went. At the very least, I would evaluate and revise it at the end of each month. This step was arguably the most important one in this whole system development process because by acknowledging that this wasn’t the be all and end all, I could move forward and commit.

Yes, I realise now that I could’ve just Googled sleep diaries or found some kind of app for this, but I just need something simple, preferably handwritten (coz I’m old-school like that), and something that worked for me.

Side note: At one point I was marvelling at how I’d never thought to do this sooner, since it’s reasonably common practice to encourage people with chronic conditions to keep diaries. This way, they can find patterns, weed out any aggravating factors, and track their medication usage. And besides, this whole blogosphere is essentially one gigantic global diary.

Anyway, going back to the notion that it’s worse to get eight hours of broken sleep than to get six hours of restful sleep, I decided to keep the duration measure as it was, in hours, and make “quality of sleep” a modifier.

To keep the calculations simple, instead of a ten- or five-point rating scale, I reduced this to three. To make it even simpler, I decided that the three possible scores would be one, 0.5 and zero, corresponding to restful sleep, suboptimal but ok sleep and poor sleep, respectively. Zero might seem harsh (and I am expecting I will get quite a few zero scores) but I’m hoping this will invoke my proud inner nerd to help me succeed in this.

So, in the above example, eight hours of broken sleep could be reduced to a score of four, or even zero; while a solid six hours could give me a score of six, thereby being the better outcome.

On top of this, I’ve decided that I need to keep track of the reasons why I’m not going to bed early enough. It’s easy enough to say “I lost track of time” or “I tend to get home late from work” but they’re just vague self-reports. The clinical and scientific part of my mind has finally woken up to the fact that this is not sufficient for root cause analysis or … anything useful, really.

If I know exactly what’s wrong, I know exactly what needs to be changed.

I’m also hoping that the very act of having to record these things will make me more conscious of, and hence more deliberate with, what I do before bedtime. I guess the basic mentality I’m trying to utilise is “if I don’t commit the crime, I have nothing to confess”. And it should be easier to sleep with a clear conscience, right?

13 thoughts on “the sleep system (stage one?)

  1. I am very curious to see how this goes for you. Sometimes I know I don’t go to bed out of “vague dissatisfaction” or that I want something more from the day (what, exactly, and how to get it, are also vague😐). I guess I’m thinking about things that are tricky to measure. How do you feel about sleep monitors? Too high-tech? Yeah, probably for me too.

    • Haha yes, “something more” – I can relate! Hopefully this accountability thing will eliminate that… I’ll do a progress post after about a month.
      And yes, sleep monitors fall in the “too high tech” category. I know my smart watch could monitor my sleep, but I don’t like the idea of having to wear a watch while I sleep. Never have, never intend to

  2. I just heard about weighted blankets. I mean, I knew about them, from when I was in the hospital, but I just heard they’re on the general market. I’m told they make even people with restless leg syndrome sleep the sleep of the just. You might try that, as well.

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