My sophomore in high school has the dreaded “Zero Period” this year.
Normally, first period classes start at 8:05 a.m. A few years ago, the school district was juggling the multiple problems of increasing student enrollment, lack of space in each classroom to accommodate more students, and lack of land and funding to build new classrooms. So the “Zero Period” was born.
Adding an extra period to the day, starting at 7:10 a.m., allowed the high school to add extra classes without cutting the afternoon athletics program. But, many students, ours included, dread getting assigned to a Zero Period class.
I’m the “morning person” in our family so I get up a bit earlier than our son, make tea, glance at email and check that our high school student is up before I leap in the shower. Within 30 minutes, we head out the door headed for the high school. (Our youngest doesn’t drive and there are no buses from our part of town.)
Since Zero Period has become part of our schedule, I’m getting up about 30 minutes earlier to get our son to school one hour earlier. No, this isn’t a mistake. I was already getting up 30 minutes before my son. Now we get up at the same time (5:30 a.m.). And I pared down my morning routine to get out the door quicker.
Once I drop him off, it’s off to work for me — an hour earlier. It has taken a few weeks to optimize our routine but I am accomplishing more than before and loving it. I have gained an extra hour of productivity.
The Price Of That Extra Hour
That extra hour comes with a price, though. We absolutely need to get to sleep by 10:30 p.m. at the latest. Without enough sleep, that extra hour just isn’t as productive. When my son sleepily forgot to set the timer for the breakfast oatmeal on the stove, the smell of burnt oatmeal lingered in the house for a day.
But, it could have been much worse.
Beside poor learning and memory which limits your ability to get your job done, sleepiness is a major cause of car accidents and work accidents, contributes to weight gain and impairs immunity. Our bodies need sleep.
While there are human dynamos who thrive on 3 or 4 hours of sleep, most of us need 7 to 8 hours each night. The simplest way to assure that you get enough sleep is to go to bed earlier. If you are used to staying up late, it takes some adjustment.
I focused on three changes for our family: getting dinner earlier, limiting evening meetings and breaking away from my computer at least a half hour before bed time.
During the week, I now focus on making quick meals and using leftovers creatively. That gets dinner on the table by 7 p.m. which keeps us on schedule to get to bed by 10 p.m. Both my husband and I try to be selective about attending evening meetings. There are some we just can’t miss but we skip the optional ones.
When they were little, we developed a bedtime ritual for our boys to encourage good sleep habits. I updated this ritual to accommodate our current situation and focused on turning off my computer a half hour or more before bed. Yoga stretches are part of my “wind down” during that last 30 minutes.
But, what if you or your child is not sleepy?
Get to bed anyway. It’s important to create a habit of getting to bed at a certain time so your body will naturally get sleepy at that time.
There are entire collections of wonderfully told tales for varying age ranges within a family. (They make great gifts, too.) Don’t turn on the TV. It may be relaxing to watch a favorite show but you can get caught watching late into the night if you aren’t careful.
Other Tricks For Dozing Off Fast
Get exercise - earlier in the day is better than in the evening.
Use a worry notebook - Keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed. Jot down items that are worrying you and then let them go. Your subconscious will continue to work on your problems while you sleep. You may just wake up with the perfect solution.
Limit alcohol to a glass of wine with dinner and remember to drink a glass of water along with every glass of wine. Too much alcohol raises your body temperature causing you to waken too soon.
Limit caffeine drinks after 4 p.m. Don’t forget that many soft drinks and energy drinks contain this stimulant along with coffee, cocoa and tea.
Eat foods with melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone produced by the human body which is responsible for our natural sleep rhythms. It is also a powerful antioxidant with anti-aging properties. Levels of melatonin within our bodies begin decreasing from age 30 onward. This may explain why so many older people (my Dad included) have problems sleeping. Researchers in the UK and Spain believe that foods containing melatonin are the perfect solution to the problems of aging. Foods that contain melatonin include: tart cherries, almonds, sunflower seeds, black mustard seeds, white mustard seeds, anise seeds, fennel seeds, tomato, banana, rice, corn, oats, red radish, ginger and several medicinal herbs including: St. John’s wort, feverfew, lemon verbena and lemon balm mint. You can eat these foods throughout the day, not just at bedtime.
It takes work to adjust your family’s schedule to get to sleep earlier but it’s worth it.
How much more could you accomplish with an extra hour a day?