The lack of a regular schedule and sleep deprivation can turn a person into at least four out of the seven dwarfs (grumpy, sleepy, sneezy, dopey, in addition to having multiple dwarf personality disorder, obviously).
One of the perks of being a freelancer is, of course, making your own schedule. However, this can sometimes lead to inconsistent daily routines, and sleep issues. A common issue amongst people who have inconsistent work shift schedules is sleep work shift disorder, characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness in people whose work hours overlap with typical sleep periods.
While this disorder affects primarily those in professions such as medicine, law enforcement, and commercial driving, to name a few, it’s not hard to imagine that freelancers who often don’t adhere to a 9-5 schedule might have similar issues with regards to their circadian rhythms.
How to find your circadian rhythm:
Everybody is different; what may work for some won’t work for everyone. It’s important to listen to your body and give in to it’s whims. Here are a few sleep tracking apps and gadgets that can help you find your natural rhythm so that you can further tweak your daily schedule to find what works best for you.
This phone app advertises itself as a “bio-alarm clock”. By placing your phone near your pillow while you sleep, it uses your phone’s accelerometer to analyzes your sleep and movement patterns over time and learns when the best time for you to wake up is.
Sleepbot is another phone app that uses your phone’s accelerometer to track your patterns and wake you during your lightest sleep. Along with tracking how much you move throughout the night, it also tracks ambient sound, and correlates it with movement.
FitBit offers a wristband and a smaller device that are not only activity trackers, but sleep trackers as well. The data is a bit more robust as it correlates the amount of exercise you get with your quality of sleep. The devices also silently wake you up by vibrating at the appropriate time in your sleep cycle.
Up is an activity and sleep tracking wristband that one ups (pun intended?) FitBit by offering a diet and calorie tracker within the accompanying app. Up silently wakes you at the appropriate time using vibrations, and even gives you little vibration reminders throughout the day to get up and move when you have been idle too long.
How to find your most productive times throughout the day:
Once you begin to figure out your sleep sweet spot, you can figure out your peak times for productivity.
You can do this by spending a few days rating your energy, focus, and hunger levels in a journal. Break them into hour increments and rate each on a scale from 1-10.
For example 9am- Energy Level: 9, Focus Level: 8, Hunger Level: 2 (given your energy and focus levels, this would be a great time to get some work done).
Once you have identified a pattern in your daily routines you can then work tasks, breaks and food around the times when they are most useful. If you know that you reach a point around 3pm when you NEED to watch a cat video, then by all means, treat yo’ self. Additionally, you may find that there is a point during your natural cycle that your body needs to nap (or even just shut down for 20-30 minutes), in that case, you should indulge it with a power nap.
There are a lot of different variables that play into healthy sleep and work habits. However, the bottom line is the better rested you are, the happier, healthier and more productive you will be.
Stay tuned for more posts from me about sleeping your way to being a happier and healthier freelancer.