Over the course of the past two or three weeks, I have been tracking my sleeping habits and certain patterns of activity that I do every day. I tracked eating habits, water consumption, exercise, and caffeine intake. I threw in another variable for fun, to see if I was superstitious enough to believe it affected my sleep and life quality (this being prayer). I also made sure to record each day the hour I went to bed, and the hour I woke up the next morning, then proceeded to write down the quality of sleep I got that night and describe any dreams I remembered.
I will begin by summarizing all the data I collected and how each variable fits into my life. I will end each summary with a conclusion I have made about the effect each variable has on my sleeping habits, and how I can change that. I get an average of 6.8 hours of sleep each night, go to bed around 11:30, and wake up at 6:30 each morning. I rarely take naps, so I won’t even consider that a variable to take into account.
On average, I eat one and a half meals a day. Now, this sounds really bad at first, but let me explain my reasoning. This is quite rebellious of me, because I am in fact, a #rebel, but I think that leading up to my generation, we, as humans, have trained ourselves to eat more than necessary on a daily basis. My daily life consists of sitting in a hard, squeaky plastic chair all day long, or at least for the majority of the day. Yes, I need food to keep my brain activity up, but a nice light brunch sort of meal around 11:30 every morning and a nice big dinner every night seems to keep my brain working just fine. After all, I’m a 3.9 student, so don’t even try to pull that card on me. In my sleep log, I noticed days when I had eaten two big meals, or even three! (This is extremely unusual for me these days) This most often occurred on weekends, when I need more energy to do the things that I have scheduled for those days (because I actually have things scheduled for those days… considering I don’t have to sit in a hard, squeaky plastic chair for 8 hours). So those are my current eating habits, and they are becoming very regular and I am satisfied with them. Based off of my recordings, my eating habits did not seem to affect my sleep quality in any apparent pattern. I did notice one trend, and that was when I ate at least one big meal and one small meal, I recorded my sleep quality as great or excellent, and when I ate only one meal total, I either didn’t record my quality or had simply written, “Good.” This might tell me that I should at least try to eat two meals a day, and I will have an easier time sleeping. Two meals sounds like a healthy amount, and anything less just sounds unhealthy anyway.
The second variable, water consumption (and I’m only including water; I drink probably three glasses of milk daily in addition), is something I never used to keep track of. After recording my water intake over the past fourteen days, I have decided that drinking a good amount of water every day is extremely important to my daily performance, mood, and sleep quality. I used to complain that I didn’t have time to drink water during the day, but that was simply an excuse for my lack of desire to create a habit of drinking more. Forming a habit is sometimes hard, and it wasn’t until I began my sleep log that I was able to form a good habit of drinking more water during the day. On average, I drink about three glasses of water during the school day, which is awesome! I drank at least two large glasses the majority of the days. On the days I drank 3-5 glasses, my sleep quality was marked as “excellent,” “great” and “awesome.” On the days I drank 2 or less, I simply wrote “good” or even one day when I didn’t remember drinking any, my sleep quality was described as “crap.” Water consumption apparently has a lot to do with the quality of sleep I get, and now that I know that, I can make sure I drink 3 or more glasses every day (along with my three glasses of milk of course #milkaddict).
The third variable, caffeine intake, has probably the most noticeable effect on my sleeping habits. I drank caffeine on seven out of the fourteen days of my log! I was shocked by these results, because I had no idea I was that reliant on caffeine! On the days I drank caffeine, I fell asleep anytime between 11:30 and 3 a.m. On the days when I did not drink caffeine, I fell asleep anytime between 9:00 and 11:30. Now that’s quite the difference. On each of these days, I woke up at 6:30 for school, so I definitely got much less sleep on the days I drank caffeine than on the days I didn’t. I would also like to add that I remember a couple days when I bought a Pepsi, and drank it while doing my homework. I would lose track of time and end up drinking it up until 10 p.m. By that point, it would keep me awake all night! What does this tell me? Cut down on caffeine, and don’t drink it after dinner!
The last two variables, prayer and exercise, were the two from which I didn’t notice any apparent results. The only two days I even got any real exercise were Sunday, November 18th and Monday, November 19th, on which I did a good amount. The days I got exercise happened to be on two out of the four days that I recorded great sleep quality. I don’t know whether this is a mere coincidence, or whether this shows that exercise entails a much better night sleep. Using my common sense and past experience, though, I know that it does, and I should try to get more exercise daily.
I spend a good amount of time each evening praying, this having a lot to do with the fact that I am renewing my Marian consecration this month, and it takes a bit of time. I have been getting anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of prayer every day. I only recorded these habits to see if I could find some sort of correlation between my prayer habits and sleep quality, to enhance any superstition I might have. I would like to believe that spending a few minutes each night in silence and meditation would help clear my mind of worry and ensure for a good night of sleep, but my data does not reflect this hypothesis. I did not come up with any findings, for my prayer habits and sleep quality are way too random and unrelated. For example, I spent 30 minutes in reflective prayer on November 14th, and that was my worst night. Most other nights I only prayed for 15 minutes, and I had a much better time sleeping. I will conclude that prayer and sleep have nothing to do with each other, and I should just go on with my prayer life for the importance of it in itself.
As you can see, there are many factors that can affect how well you sleep or when you are able to fall asleep, and how well you are able to function the next day. To recap what I have learned, taking my medicine every night does more for me than I may think, two meals a day is a healthy amount of food, at least three glasses of water will keep me going for a day, and caffeine is unnecessary and shouldn’t be consumed in the evening. All of this will ensure for a much better night sleep and a more productive life in the long run.
Now to move on to part two: my dreams. Although I remember having more dreams than usual over the past two weeks, I don’t remember many of them in detail. I am a superstitious person and have a penchant to interpret any dreams I do remember. On the very first night, I dreamt that I picked out a striped shirt from my closet and laid it out to wear the next day. I remember going to bed that night thinking, “Don’t forget to pack clothes for practice tomorrow morning.” When I woke up, I even looked for the striped shirt I dreamt of. It wasn’t lying out, and I laughed. The dream’s purpose was to remind me of my first priority when I woke up, and it worked. The next night, I had a terrifying dream. It was so scary that I woke up feeling shaky, and I didn’t want to move. In the dream, I was babysitting a little girl and a little boy, and I had taken them to a place that looked like a combination of the swamps in Habitat Hollows, the new polar bear learning center and the little forest path at the manatee exhibit (all at the zoo). When we got there to play, it wasn’t long until the lights went out and the forest came alive. The branches started grabbing at the children and it got really intense. We ran out of the exhibit, grabbed our stuff, and I checked my phone. The parents had sent me a text saying they’d be home in two minutes, so I rushed back to get the kids in bed. This is where the dream ended, and after lying in bed for ten minutes soaking in all the action, I realized this probably had everything to do with the fact that I had babysat a little girl and a little boy the week before, and lost track of time while watching Star Wars with them. I almost forgot to put them to bed on time, and then panicked when I saw the parents would be home any minute. A couple days later, I had another interesting dream. I dreamt that two cars on the same day kissed the back of my car and left a couple tiny dents in it. When I woke up I thought it had actually happened. This dream sort of pointed out to me that I have this lingering anxiety that someone will look away from the road and not see me slowing down, and will slightly bump my car. This fear only comes from the fact that I come so close to doing the same thing all the time. One last dream I had was a short image of the new tights I had bought the day before, except instead of being red (their actual color), they were yellow. I woke up upset because I wanted to wear them to school so bad, but we are only allowed to wear red and white tights. Thankfully, a dream doesn’t change reality.
Overall, my dreams did not have any recurring themes or characters or moods. They were all over the place. The only thing similar about them is that they always seem to have some significance regarding events that took place the day before. They also seem to have to do with fears or desires or opinions that I have. I love dreaming, especially on the days where I have all the time in the world to just lay there and lucid dream for a while. (This only happens on Saturday mornings, if that.) At no point during these fourteen days was I able to experience lucid dreaming, but I have experienced it before, and it is so much fun. I would love to remember my dreams more often. They bring out inner truths and memories that I can’t always consciously access. Even if I have the occasional groundless nightmare, dreaming is the one mystery that makes complete sense to me.