This one is a real “those who can’t do, those who can teach” sort of deal. I’m usually pretty good at following my own advice and most of my advice doesn’t come from a book or an article or a blog or a podcast. It comes from the wins and the losses that I’ve accrued from 36 years of life, 2 decades of work, and 5 years as a freelancer. I go on and on about how much I’m able to accomplish because of how organized and focused and committed I am. But I don’t get nearly enough sleep.
Now this isn’t entirely my fault. I’m with my kids all day urr day and that day starts at 6, pauses briefly at 1 for an hour or two and then continues on until well after 7. My “day job” is a 14-hour day. So if I went to sleep as SOON as the kids did, I’d get 10 hours sleep. That sounds great. That sounds marvelous. But I like to have a life. And I need to get some work done. So I usually end up with somewhere between 4-7 hours. I don’t remember the last time I slept 8 hours straight.
But all that being said, I do know that the commodity that we could all get more of and choose not to is sleep. It’s a terrible decision and most of us make it every day. It’s 9pm. I could head to bed and I’d get a solid 9 hours sleep. But I want to watch Daredevil on Netflix. I mean, when else am I going to get to watch Daredevil on Netflix and worse, IMAGINE my life if I DIDN’T get to watch Daredevil on Netflix.
So I’ll watch an episode. That was a really good episode and who would have thought that they would have left it at such a cliffhanger. So I’ll have to watch two episodes. So now it’s almost 11pm. I’ll go to sleep now, right? Wrong. Now I check Twitter. There goes 45 minutes from chiming in on subjects I don’t know nearly enough about with opinions I haven’t thought nearly enough about. It’s almost midnight so I should probably go to sleep. But I don’t.
I watch the third period of an Edmonton Oilers game and pass out at almost 1am. My son wakes me up at 3am because he “needs to hear another story” and 4am because he’s “pretty sure it’s time to watch Netflix now. I end up with 5 hours of sleep total, broken into a couple 2-hour stretches and a restless hour in the middle. I can’t remember my dreams because I haven’t reached the stage of sleep where you actually get to dream and my eye twitches because I don’t have enough zinc and magnesium because your body makes those while you’re dreaming. Sound familiar?
The effects of sleep deprivation are HORRIFIC. Like ACTUALLY terrible, not just figuratively so. It directly results in health complications, impacts your mental health and your ability to function in just about every conceivable way. And yet, the vast majority of people I know get less than the 8 hours sleep that seems to be the recommended minimum. Why?
I don’t know. If I knew that, I think I’d be rich. We often talk about my son’s unwillingness to sleep as “the fear that he’ll miss something, anything, while he’s sleeping” and I think most of us are a lot like that. There’s a new show. I have to watch it. This book is amazing. I have to finish it. I have work to do. I have to do it.
You’ll survive if you don’t binge watch that show this week. If you’re worried about spoilers, stay off the Internet. No one is lighting that book on fire anytime soon, probably. You can read it this summer. Now, about that work thing…
My main argument about why I have to stay up late is that I have work to do. But the less sleep you get, the more ineffective you are at your work. When I’m really at my best, I can write anywhere from 1500-2000 words per hour, as long as it’s a topic that I feel comfortable with and is opinion rather than research. That’s if I’ve had 7-8 hours sleep and feel well rested. If I’ve only had 6 hours sleep, it’s closer to 1000 words per hour. And if I’ve had 4 or 5, it’s around 500-700. So, what’s the point of staying up late to write a piece? If I get the extra sleep, I’ll be more effective and honestly happier while I’m writing.
Try it out, the next time you know you’ve got a lot of work coming up, instead of getting an early start on, head to bed early. You’ll thank me.