Photo courtesy of Jay Wennington

Photo courtesy of Jay Wennington

With everything I have been hearing lately, 2016 is shaping up to be the year of sleep awareness.  There is a good deal of research taking place and more and more awareness, acceptance, and promotion that support this thought.  Hoping we can all get ahead of the curve on this one and live a healthier, and more successful life with proper rest.

As the father of 3 young children between the ages of 1 and 7 I'm sure you can imagine that I am no stranger to a lack of good sleep.  I will tell you that the cliche of the sleep-deprived parent is very real and is most definitely alive in our home.  That said, I recently had the pleasure of listening to a two-part Freakonomics podcast entitled "The Economics Of Sleep" in which the host Stephen J. Dubner dives into sleep habits, sleep research, and sleep experiments among other things.  During this episode Mr. Dubner speaks to Dr. Lauren Hale (Professor of Preventative Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine) about how her own sleep habits don't seem to match up with the recommendations her research would suggest; mainly, the need for a period before bedtime that a person should be void of any kind of "screens" (i.e. any kind of smartphone, tablet, television, or anything similar).  In her case, Dr. Hale had committed to eliminating use of screens between the hours of 9pm and 7am for 1 whole week.

The Result:  A not so surprising increase in the quality and duration of her sleep.

Well, I'm inspired (and tired) and have decided to put this into practical application for my own personal experiment over a 1 week period.  With that I am committing to turning off all screens between the hours of 9:15pm and 5:15am (works with my schedule) to see if there is any discernible improvement.  Below I will record and update the results of each "screen-free bedtime" day as it happens:


Challenge:  Sleep Better for a Week


Shut everything down at 9:15pm and spent some time tidying up our bedroom with a hot peppermint chamomile tea.

RESULT: Alarm went off at 5:30am (Tuesday).  Got out of bed at 5:45am and went for a 25 minute jog around the city followed by stretching and 5 reps of 15 modified pushups.  Noticeable improvement already as I would have typically rode the snooze button for at least 30-45 minutes on a regular day.  I like where this is going.


Shut down at 9:15pm and read a chapter from Work for Money, Design for Love. (David Airey) and then had a bit of parenting to do with my 7 year old son who didn't seem to want to go to sleep tonight.  Ended up getting to bed just before 10:30pm.

RESULT: Alarm went off at 6:00am (Wednesday).  Got out of bed right away (no snooze) and Took my son out for a nice morning run together.  Not feeling the mid-afternoon slump quite as much today.  So far so good.


Shut down all screens at 9:15pm determined to get to bed by 9:45pm and to sleep by 10:00pm.  I made it!  Pfew.

RESULT: Alarm went off at 5:30am (Thursday) and was a bit groggy but got up right away and had enough energy to bump my run up to a full 5K, did the 290 steps at the Chedoke stairs (not my video), and followed through with my stretching routine and 55 modified push ups.  Pretty happy with the return on investment so far.  Enough motivation to keep this train moving.


Ok, so I have a soft spot for the show Fast N' Loud (Discovery Channel) which kept me up and in front of the T.V. until 10pm tonight.  So, I went screen-free until 10:30pm, got to bed and to sleep by about 10:45pm and set my alarm for 6:15am to get my full 5 - 90 minute sleep cycles (7.5 hours).

RESULT: Rode the snooze train from 6:15am until 6:45am (Friday).  This was a sleepy morning and was tough to get out of bed.  I'm curious to know if my extended morning workout yesterday also came into play here (i.e. being more fatigued than normal due in-part to my body working through the night to repair itself from the day before.  I will be keeping an eye on this type of anomaly through the rest of the process of this experiment.  Otherwise, still on track.


Tonight I was void of screens except for a brief 15 minute window between 10:15-10:30pm.  From there I was screen-free until laying down for bed at 11:15.

RESULT: I woke up at 7:00am (Saturday) and got out of bed at 7:20am feeling pretty good.  Looks like minor deviations in when a sleep cycle takes place doesn't have much affect as long as the main parts of the pattern stay the same (i.e. 30 minute screen-free time before sleep coupled with even sleep made up of a multiple of 90 minute cycles).


The screens and the lights went out at 10:00pm and was in bed by 10:30pm like clockwork.  I even recorded the UFC Fight Night (to be watched during the day on Sunday) so I could keep my week-long commitment to this experiment.

RESULT: Had my alarm go off at 6:15am (Sunday) and Snoozie-Q'd until about 7:50am, BUT...had the wherewithal and energy to step up my previous increase of a 5K run and logged an 8K run around the city and a doing the James Street stairs (not my video) to boot.  Maybe overreaching a bit on that one so quickly so going to back it down to 5K again so I don't injure myself.  That said, overall my energy level and stamina has certainly shown an increase through the week.  Fantastic!  I'll take it.  Last day of the trial tomorrow.  Looking forward to making it a good one.


Shut everything down a bit early tonight.  Went screen free from 9:00pm to 9:30pm and set my alarm for 5:15am.  Wow, even the thought of this is pretty interesting for me at this point.  Having gone from pushing the 7:00 am mark and rushing out the door to nudging my schedule about an hour-and-a-half inside of a week speaks pretty loudly for this little experiment.

RESULT: The alarm went off at 5:15 am (Monday) and I was up and out of bed by 5:30am.  Still a bit sore from the 8K run yesterday I opted to take it down a notch and have a nice relaxing 2K run on my old route just to open the lungs up and start the day.


Additional Factors

  • Completed a 7-day Rapid Cleanse kit
  • Altered diet slightly to include healthier foods
  • Continued drinking caffeinated coffee (approx 2 cups a day)
  • Continued drinking alcohol (2 glasses of Scotch and a beer on Saturday)


So, Now What?

Am I going to continue on with this level of sleep-discipline for ever and ever?  Probably not.  The week was enlightening and a good boost to my energy levels and overall physical/mental health.  That said, it was surprisingly challenging to orchestrate all of the other scheduling responsibilities of life in order to make this happen properly.  Not to mention the affect that this scheduling change had on my wife as well (though she was very considerate in helping me stay on track).  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  It seems like injecting a healthier sleep schedule into my life intermittently would be just as beneficial as doing a dietary cleanse every so often to reset and refresh your body.  Overall, I'm really happy to have added this to my bag of tricks and will certainly pull it out next time I'm feeling in need of a refresh.


Sleeping Connections

How do you sleep?  Do you have a unique ritual you perform each night?  What side of the bed do you need to be on and why?  Me, I'm a side-sleeper and can be on any side of the bed but need to be facing the edge.  I'd love to hear about your sleep stories and traditions.

Thanks for connecting.