Most people I know aim for what they believe is the general rule of sleep habits, the “8-hours-a-night” standard, and for years I bought into the same mindset.

Now that I've taken the courage to challenge my sleep habits, however, I have more energy, motivation, and I'm able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. I made small, simple changes, and chances are you can too.

I'm on an OCF staff retreat in Boston this week, which has meant that most of my schedule has been out of my control. The retreat has been great for all of us as a team, and we couldn't continue the work that we do without retreats like this. However, as the week comes to an end I've also gained a new appreciation for some of my newest sleep habits at home because I can feel just what a difference it makes to work in a different setting outside of my routine.

Because we're a distributed team, I normally work from home (when I'm not traveling) and I've recently had a lot of freedom to adjust my personal schedule. After reading some research on the power of naps, I started taking them.

It might sound unrealistic or childish, but it works wonders. At first, I started taking a lunch break to eat and then laying down for a bit, but I found that I prefer napping for 20 minutes and then taking some time to eat and re-engage my mind before my break is over and I'm back to work.

When I lay down for a nap I actually set my timer for 25 minutes, and I don't even “try” to fall asleep for the first few minutes. I use that time to process my thoughts, calm my mind, and relax. Then, the nap is natural (and waking up is refreshing).

After I'd been napping regularly for a few weeks (and loving it, far more so than when I was spending those same 20 minutes on Facebook every day), I ran across some other research that referred to the 8 hours per night “myth” and I was shocked. My whole life, I'd thought that one of my sleep habit goals was to get a consistent 8 hours of sleep, and I used to be proud of nights when I would get that much in. Then I wondered, where did this idea come from? Daniel Kripke, a sleep research expert from California, explained in one interview,

Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, as they report, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hr. or more, or less than 6.5 hr., they don't live quite as long.

I didn't wait another day to challenge my sleep habits. My sleep habit goal at that point was to get a 20-minute nap and 7 hours of sleep each day. Naturally, that doesn't happen every day (I've missed every nap this week, and I feel it), but I do the best I can.

I now wake up refreshed, energetic, and I enjoy the sleep that I do get. I love it.

Question: What can you do to challenge your sleep habits and make changes for the better?

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