Do not love sleep or you will grow poor, stay awake and you will have food to spare ~ Proverbs 20:13
Sleep too much and you waste productive time. Sleep too little and you affect your health, alertness and productivity. How do we balance the two?
The book of Proverbs teaches the principle of “harvest times.” A harvest time is a period in your life when your work efforts produce an inordinate amount of result. You need to minimize your sleep during these productive periods in order to accomplish the job at hand. However, too little sleep can leave you sluggish, dull or even ill.
How do we balance the two? How much sleep do we really need?
John Wesley, the 18th century minister and traveling evangelist actually conducted experiments to see how much sleep he needed. He did not want to spend productive hours sleeping in violation of biblical principles so he devised a series of experiments to determine what his sleep needs actually were.
This is what he did.
He typically went to bed about 9:30 and arose at 8. He decided to wake himself at 12:30 am and see how long it took him to return to sleep. If it took a long time, he determined he probably was getting too much sleep. If he fell back to sleep instantly, he reasoned, he probably needed that sleep.
At 12:30 am he awoke and found that he could not get back to sleep easily. Therefore he then cut his sleep back to get up at 7 am – an hour earlier. Still, after awakening at 12:30 he could not get back to sleep and began arising at 6 am. He kept moving things up to a 4 am wakeup time and found this was the ideal time for him.
4 am! Now that’s early, but remember he went to bed at 9:30 at night, so this was six and a half hours sleep.
He stuck to this schedule the rest of his life – regularly rising at 4 am with a requirement of six and a half hours of sleep per night. This worked for him, although he recognized others required more or less sleep.
There were other zealots during Wesley’s time who advocated 3 or 4 hours sleep per night. Wesley observed almost all people needed at least 6 hours per night and those who sleep less quickly fell into a state of failing health.
What are your sleep requirements? As for me, I’m a seven hour per night person but will often sneak in a nap on a weekend. I have recently pushed back my awaking time to 4:30 am to squeeze in some exercise in the morning. We will see how that goes.
Can you get by on less sleep? Push back your wakeup time gradually and see how you function, or try Wesley’s method of a middle of night wakeup alarm to determine your personal sleep requirements. But remember the all important key – balance!