There are plenty of things your twenties are for, and getting enough sleep doesn't usually make the top 50. But how does your perception of sleep change as you move from 'see ya, teenage years' to a 'wow, that escalated quickly' almost 30-year-old. When you're already juggling work, family, friends and more, trying to squeeze in those much-needed hours in dreamland can turn into a nightmare.
20-23: Powering through
If someone asked your 20-year-old self what you knew about good quality sleep, the short answer, for most of us, is or was not a lot. As a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed early twenty-something, getting enough sleep is the last thing on your mind. At uni, the power nap took centre stage (in between those later-than-late nights, lie-ins until noon and long, romantic walks to the fridge for leftover pizza). When you’re kicking off your career, all your energy is going into making a great first impression - in other words, you’re considering just popping an air bed under your desk so you don’t even need to go home. In a nutshell, sleep just doesn’t feel like a necessity. And why would it? When you can bounce back from a hangover in minutes, your skin is more elastic than Lycra leggings and you’ve got a metabolism that works at light speed, it’s understandable that getting in your eight hours slips off the radar. After all, when you’re going to live forever, sleep can come later, right?
24-26: Feeling the pinch
Fast-forward to your mid-twenties, and everything starts to feel a little different. Your eyes still light up at the suggestion of a night out, but fall just as quickly when you think of how you’ll feel in the morning. You’re clinging on to your old ways, and still feel a sense of pride telling friends that you made it through an entire working week even though you were talked into office drinks three (or was it four?) times. In short, this leaves your sleeping pattern somewhere between party animal and permanently exhausted. Cue the alarm bells (or should we say clocks...).
27-29: Is it bedtime yet?
As you approach the big 3-0 (insert quarter-life crisis here), and your diary is filling up with weddings, christenings and self-imposed TV and takeaway evenings, you begin to realise that sleep is about so much more than just catching up when you can. In the same way you hit the gym to tone up, pack in dinnertime veggies that five years ago you couldn’t even name, and cut back on the booze to avoid three-day hangovers, getting a good night’s sleep has a huge impact on how you look and feel. If you’re pre-parenthood with friends who’ve made the leap, this is when you start to seriously value your nights. If you’ve started a family, well, that’s a different ball game altogether.
In short, you think “I wish I’d known all this at 19”. And the older ones probably would’ve clued you in - but they were in bed by 9.30pm.