A Year of Living Slower, January: Slow Living & Sleep

Bedside table with terrazzo lamp, candle, eye mask and book

A Year of Living Slower is an experiment inspired by creating small, specific lifestyle changes and tweaks to try and improve overall well being and happiness, rather than striving for unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. During the year, we’re sharing 12 monthly themes inspired by slow living. Each discusses ideas around living better and more mindfully in the city and beyond. The first month, January, focuses on sleep, something that often loses out in our busy lives.

The Importance of Repaying Your Sleep Debt

We all know that a bad night’s sleep leaves us feeling irritable and looking tired. But, what about the effects of sustained poor sleep? Many consider sleep to be a period where our minds effectively switch off, but that’s not the case. Sleep is an active state where important processes take place, such as memory consolidation. A University of Chicago study found that student volunteers who were asked to sleep for only four hours a night for six days developed higher blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. They also produced 50% fewer antibodies to the flu vaccine, compared to normal. This study goes some way to explain why we get ill more easily when we’re stressed and not getting enough sleep in the short term, and why chronic poor sleep is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, strokes and heart disease in the long term.

Making Sleep Sacred Again

Deep down, we probably know these things too. Yet, we still sacrifice sleep and accept bad moods to meet deadlines, or just binge watch our favourite series. Most of us are probably racking up a hefty sleep debt, a cumulative sleep deficit that takes time to repay.

Is there a magic formula for sleep? Some of the world’s most successful people are early risers, but only around a fifth of us find it easy to get up early. And some, including many influential entrepreneurs and statespeople, can get by on as little as four hours sleep a night. This shows us that the recipe for a good night’s sleep is different for everyone, although, eight hours is often regarded as average.

With most habits, it’s sensible to make gradual changes if you want them to stick. The National Sleep Foundation suggest following the Rule of 15 to become a morning person. Adjust your bedtime or wake-up time by 15 minutes a day, rather than setting your alarm for 6am and expecting to skip merrily to the gym. But, adjusting sleep times is just the beginning. January’s A Year of Living Slower challenge explores the following ideas around sleep optimisation, in turn helping us to recharge and feel better prepared to achieve our other goals:

  • Create consistent wake and sleep times
  • Design a mindful, slow living-inspired bedtime or wind-down ritual
  • Focus on less scrolling and more reading
  • Spring clean your sleep space

Although often outspoken, one particular quote by American businessman T. Boone Pickens is worth noting in this context: Work eight hours and sleep eight hours and make sure that they are not the same hours.” While work-life balance can be considered a myth and always achieving a perfect night’s sleep challenging, refraining from letting work hours engulf sleep hours is a good place to start. Are you ready to start A Year of Living Slower?

#AYearOfLivingSlower

A Year of Living Slower: 12 Monthly Resolutions for 2019

2019 bullet journal spread on a bed

Definition: New Year’s resolution (n). – A firm decision made on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to do or refrain from doing something over the course of the coming year.

Much like the goals we set for ourselves, the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of a New Year’s resolution is non-specific. We might decide to exercise more, eat better, or become more mindful, but we rarely outline the granular, more achievable steps to actually get there. Perhaps, that’s why so many of us give up on our new plans by mid January, or forget about them altogether.

Andrew Ferebee, Founder of Knowledge For Men, would agree. He argues that one of the main reasons we fail to form new habits is because we’re attempting to do too much, too soon. Similarly, James Clear, author, entrepreneur and photographer, encourages embracing the impact of small gains. He explains that making a 1% daily improvement will help your motivation and willpower improve overtime, thus also making it more likely that you’ll stick to your new habit in the long run.

A Year of Living Slower: An Experiment to Live Better

The majority of our New Year’s resolutions aim to make us feel happier or healthier in some way, but often as Ferebee mentions, we’re impatient to reach the end goal which results in us setting unrealistic targets. To apply some slow living principles to this conundrum, we’re considering the small, specific changes we can gradually build up to try and improve our health and happiness in an achievable way.

We’ve designed A Year of Living Slower, a year of 12 monthly experiments that responds to today’s fast pace of life and focuses on improving well being by being more present and making conscious decisions.

January: Slow Living & Sleep

January explores the importance of sleep for our health and discusses the impact of creating bedtime rituals.

February: Slow Sundays

February embraces the idea of scheduling downtime and discusses ideas for slow living-inspired Sundays.

March: Slow Food

March encourages us to see joy in the mindful process of cooking from scratch and being conscious of where our produce has come from.

April: Slow Living & Getting Outdoors

April embraces the great outdoors and the power of getting back to nature during Spring.

May: Slow Travel

May talks about the power of a change of scenery and how to enjoy each destination more deeply.

June: Slow Tech

June explores our relationship with technology and how smartphones have created an always-on culture.

July: Slow Living & Seeing Things Differently

July focuses on the impact of making small changes to your routine and being more mindful on your commute.

August: Slow Summer Evenings

August encourages us to spend as much time outside as possible and make the most of the longer evenings.

September: Slow City

September discusses ways to slow down the rat race and explores London’s quiet spots.

October: Slow & Sustainable

October reflects on conscious decisions we can make to live more sustainably.

November: Slow Living & Self-Care

November encourages us to consider ways we can embrace moments of self-care and combine learnings from previous months.

December: Slow Christmas

December shares ideas around a more meaningful and mindful Christmas.

Every month, we’ll share ideas for embracing each slow living-inspired theme in London and beyond. Instead of setting unattainable New Year’s resolutions, we hope this experiment, which is slow in nature, will outline areas where we can individually benefit from making small changes and focus on living better, rather than faster. Get involved and share your experiences with the hashtag #AYearOfLivingSlower.