Do I Sleep Enough?

Yesterday, I shared my normal weekday routine on this blog. One reader responded asking if I was concerned about a lack of sleep. While I responded to the comment, it got me thinking: am I sending the wrong message when I share my routine, which only allows only 7 hrs of sleep per night under ideal circumstances?

The truth is, I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like. Based on what little I think I know about sleep, I really should get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to all sorts of long-term issues.

How Much Sleep Do I Get?

My schedule suggests that if I go to bed as planned and get up as planned I’ll get 7 hours of sleep each night (less whatever time it takes me to go to sleep). However, the data tell a different story.

A screenshot of sleep data gathered by my Garmin watch. Showing a general weekly average of 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep data captured by my Garmin wrist watch.

Over the last six months, my average sleep has varied from 5:50 per night (week of September 13, 2021) to 8:05 (last week). Most weeks, my average is between 6-6:30.

Over the last 3 weeks I’ve averaged around 8 hours of sleep. Due to health issues at home, basically everything was cancelled for the last few weeks, and we all slept a lot more than usual during this time.

This isn’t enough. I really should be sleeping more.

Why Don’t I Sleep More?

I have a lot going on in life: a challenging job, six kids, quite a few durable goods to maintain (like a house and vehicles), and I enjoy running and exercise. I don’t watch much TV (or Netflix) or play video games or participate in any other classic “sleep avoidance” activities.

I sleep the amount that I sleep because I have a very full life. Sleeping more would require that I drop something from my plate.

What are my options?

  • Work less: While my job is demanding, mentally, as far as hours are concerned I really don’t work that much, I work from home, and my hours are very flexible. Work is not what’s keeping me up.
  • Quit time wasting activities: In a typical week, I spend perhaps 3 hours watching something on Netflix or Disney Plus, typically with the entire family, or otherwise consuming entertainment when I might otherwise be sleeping. There isn’t much time to be gained here.
  • Get up later: The time I get up is driven by the need to take my kids to school.
  • Exercise less: This is something I could do, but if I have to choose between 6 hours of sleep and a run, or 7 hours of sleep, I’ll sleep 6 hours and go for a run.

Is this Sustainable?

I don’t think it’s sustainable forever, but I believe it’s sustainable for now. My life has looked more or less like it looks today (from a sleep perspective) for more or less the last 10 years. As the kids get older, and life calms down, I do hope and plan to sleep more than I do today.

How Much Sleep Should I Be Getting?

According to what little I know about myself and sleep, I should be getting enough sleep that I wake naturally without needing an alarm clock. This actually does happen for me about a third of the time. About a third of the time I wake up just a minute or two before my alarm goes off. This suggests to me that the amount I sleep is not badly off-base, but I suspect I would do well to get another hour or so of sleep per night on average.

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