How I slept in 2023

Posted on: 27 December 2023

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a vague target: prioritise sleep. After a couple of early check-ins in February and April on my blog, I gradually settled into my new nighttime routine. I stuck with my target of recording my bedtime, attempting with earnest to go to bed earlier.

So how did it go? In a word: seasonal. It took me a while to get into the groove after forming fairly bad habits towards the end of 2022. However by March I was seeing some gradual improvement. Between April and October I was getting to bed, on average, by 11pm for the first time in a while.

Hovering around 11pm was consistent for a lot of the year, until the weather started to turn and the nights drew in. November, following a bout of illness, began a steady decline of bedtime discipline, and I ended the year at an average bedtime of 11:12pm for the month of December (up until 26th December).

Sleep graph of 2023 showing average bedtime scores per month

A brief reminder of the sleep score time brackets I decided on. Times are rounded to the nearest 15 minutes:

Time Sleep Score
10:15pm 1 Blue: Outstanding
10:30 - 10:45pm 2 Green: excellent
11pm 3 Yellow: good
11:15 - 11:30pm 4 Orange: OK
11:45 - midnight 5 Red: bad
12:15 - 12:30 6 Brown: danger zone

What I learned

Get yourself an accountability partner. For most people, that’s obviously their actual life partner. Make sure you sleep in the same bed. My wife has always been slightly earlier to bed than me, and this encourages me to stick to reasonable bedtimes. This all went to pot when I got COVID in mid-November, developed a bad cough, and slept in the spare room for a good 5 weeks.

The removal of my bedrock, as it were, and having no guilt about staying up later, caused me to lapse into bad sleep habits.

It’s a bit odd to say, but going to bed at the same time as your partner is a bonding experience. Getting up together is also a great way to tackle the day.

Check your phone habit

It’s been well documented that phone use late at night and sleep are not good bedfellows. Excessive phone use in the evening for me was a direct contributor to when I got to sleep. Planning a more constructive evening away from the phone, even if that means simply resting, is a recipe for good decisions, and good sleep.

Being glued to your smart phone taxes your brain. It feels easy, that’s why you gravitate towards it after a long day, but you’re providing your brain with continual stimulation as you scroll. And the engaging nature of social media makes it very hard to peel yourself away. So take Cal Newport’s advice; when you’re at home, plug your phone in somewhere you’re not. Treat it like a landline. Use it if you need to, but force yourself to go to the phone, do what you need to do, then walk away again.

Your phone is a wonderful device that can help you accomplish great things, but don’t use it as a crutch in the evening because you can’t be bothered to do anything else.

Get into a good book

When I chose intentionally to read a physical book in the evening, sleep was invariably easier to come by. (Good) decision making improved, and an evening reading a book never felt like an evening wasted. Sometimes it takes a while to get your head into the book, but be patient with it. There’s no better feeling then getting absorbed into a good book.

Going forward

So will I continue this experiment? Sometimes it feels like a pain to be beholden to a bedtime expectation. But most of the time, it directs my evening and helps guide me to make the right decisions. The admin is minimal, and I enjoy monitoring trends as much as the next stato.

I’ve not had any true breakthroughs in 2023, but I do care more about my sleep time. Having young children means my wake-ups are pretty consistent (earlier but rarely later than the baseline). So sleep duration (and by extension, quality) is much more closely tied with my bedtime.

Seasonality will always play a big part in being truly consistent. Cooler, darker climates somewhat unintuitively lead to later bedtimes for me. Adhering to a strict rule all year is never going to work for me.

Tags: sleep