My family all woke up in bouncy, energetic moods. When I dropped the Big Girl off at school, I noticed that many more parents than usual were already there when the door opened to let the children inside.
Why this sudden upswell in cheer and energy?
I figured it out. Daylight Savings Time.
We all had that delicious extra hour of “falling back” sleep before starting our week. And it shows. People feel better. And no wonder — an estimated 63% of American adults fail to get eight hours of sleep a night.
I’ve certainly realized that for myself, getting enough sleep is a critical element of happiness.
At first, I thought sleep just mattered for my comfort: not having to drag myself out of bed, not losing steam in the middle of the afternoon.
But now I see that getting enough sleep, or not, has far greater consequences.
First, if I don’t get enough sleep, I try to stay in bed a little longer in the morning. If I get up at 6:45 a.m., we all have a calm, relaxed morning; if I get up at 6:55 a.m., we all have a frantic, chaotic morning. And a bad morning sets a course for a bad day.
If I don’t get enough sleep, I’m more likely to lose my temper, to be snappish. That’s unpleasant for everyone. Plus, I feel guilty for behaving that way, which makes me all the more ill-tempered. So I behave even worse.
Another bad effect of being sleepy is that it makes me feel less like exercising. As studies have demonstrated over and over, getting some exercise is very important to happiness. So I don’t want to do anything that keeps me from going to the gym.
And even though you’d think that sitting in front of a laptop, typing, isn’t a very ennervating way to spend your day, it takes a surprising amount of energy. When I don’t get enough sleep, I find myself putting my head down on my desk like a little kid in grade school.
The problem is that it takes a lot of discipline not to stay up too late. Those last hours of the day are precious to all of us. TV addicts use TiVO to squeeze in one more show. Workaholics want to finish just a few more emails. Parents relish the peace and quiet after the kids are asleep. Readers want to finish just one more chapter.
I’ve finally figured out some ways to get better sleep, and I try to practice as many of them as possible each night. But the most important tip is to TURN OFF THE LIGHT.
Sleep is important to general health, which is very important to happiness, and also, lack of sleep is a serious mood buster. In one study, a bad night’s sleep was one of the two factors that most upset people’s daily moods (along with tight work deadlines).
“Falling back” for Daylight Savings Time is a reminder of how good that extra sleep can feel. But we can do it ourselves! Just get in bed and turn out that light.
For a glorious compendium of surprising information, check out Boing Boing. You probably already do, but then again, with the Internet, no one sees everything. Recently, I particuarly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings origami set.
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