Being a grown-up has its ups and downs. Nobody can stop you from eating pizza for breakfast, getting drunk in the bath or loudly pleasuring yourself in the kitchen, but at the same time, you have to worry about things like “rent,” “a job” and “the horror that is the aging process, where every year is more exhausting than the one before it.”
But fuck all that — surely the greatest joy of adulthood is staying up as late as you damn well please. “Kiss my ass, bedtime!” you cry, clad only in unwashed underpants and a beer helmet, toasting midnight with some room-temperature vodka and a liter of store-brand energy drink, pressing play on a feature-length episode of something you neither like nor understand. Then, as a bonus, you get to spend the next day really tired and grumpy and unable to do your job!
Actually, thinking about it, that isn’t a bonus at all really, is it? Oh dear.
“A lack of good quality and quantity of sleep has been linked to physical, emotional, mental and cognitive problems,” says Julius Patrick, lead sleep physiologist at Bupa’s Cromwell Hospital in London. “Lost sleep can also have an impact on our emotional and mental well-being and has been linked with increased rates of anxiety and depression.”
Hmm. Maybe working out a bedtime is a good idea, then.
But if nobody’s going to clap their hands, ruffle your hair, say, “Looks like you’re all tuckered out, champ,” and read you a nice book about trains, how is anyone meant to figure out when to close their eyes to the world?
Patrick suggests doing a bit of an appraisal on how you feel in the morning, suggesting that if you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, chances are you’re sleeping just fine, while if you’re tired from the get-go, you probably need either more sleep, better quality sleep or both.
“Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night,” says Patrick. “In an ideal world you would wake up naturally and at the end of a sleep cycle. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible and often an alarm is involved.” He recommends finding your ideal bedtime is as simple as figuring out how much sleep you need (based on how you feel in the mornings and how much sleep you’ve had), and planning to be asleep that many hours before you have to wake up.
Doing the math on that can easily be a bit of a bummer, especially if you have an early start or needlessly lengthy morning routine, as figuring out you have to go to bed at 10:30 p.m. really takes the “Look at what a carefree adult I am” wind out of your sails, especially with Patrick’s additional advice of trying to avoid screens for an hour before bedtime.
Surely you can shift it to midnight in the week, then sleep until lunchtime during the weekend?
No. Goddamn it.
“Being consistent with sleep is incredibly important, and our bodies benefit from going to bed and waking up at the same time every day,” says Patrick. “Plus, even an hour or two of lost sleep every night quickly adds up over the course of a week, and sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings doesn’t really make up for all that lost time.” Known as “sleep debt,” the difference between the amount of sleep that you need and the amount that you’re actually getting can take weeks to catch up on. Patrick recommends catching up by having early nights rather than sleeping in late, turning in a few minutes earlier every night until your mornings are pleasant again.
His other advice for sleeping better includes avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine to before noon and exercising every morning, all working toward a point where you happily spring out of bed with no need for an alarm, draw back the curtains and breathe in the fresh morning air, eager to begin your day.
Adulthood: It’s fucking boring, and it lasts til death!