I’m kicking off my Life Rules list with something very important to me: getting enough sleep. It seems only fitting to write this after being knocked out with a cold/flu/plague for a week, but sometimes when we are forced to rest, it helps us remember how important is is.
Some people take the attitude “I can sleep when I’m dead.” This is actually very appealing to me. Sort of a “Suck it, mother nature! I defy biology!” I’d love to have that attitude.
Too bad you can’t overcome the need to sleep with willpower! Believe me, I’ve tried. I’m a night owl by nature so staying up late (seemingly by choice) then having to get up early (seemingly not by choice) and suffering years of sleep deprivation… After about 28 years I decided that it’s just not worth fighting. But I still felt guilty, like I was missing out on life by not being awake as much as possible. Recently, I’ve been working on reducing this guilt. One big step has been realizing I’m not alone in acknowledging that more sleep is a key to life. I first saw this life rule on one of my oft-mentioned favorite blogs (and now book), The Happiness Project. In fact, getting enough sleep is one thing Ms. Rubin calls it a fundamental secret to happiness.
Going to bed early is another part of this rule because going to bed late for me, ipso facto, means not getting enough sleep. Or feeling guilty about catching a few extra winks in the morning. As much as I like sleeping in, it throws off my day, and I think that is almost worse than being sleepy.
On top of all this, I’m personally convinced that I need more sleep than other people do. No, really. Just ask anyone who has ever lived with me. Now my ears always perk up when I hear about any research related to sleep or how sleep deprived we are as a country, and I’ve devoured articles about sleep research since I was a teenager. I’ve always had a tough time waking up, and I still do any time (even after a nap), but it’s especially tough on less than 6 hours for me. I’m not talking “I’m cranky if I get less than 6 hours,” more like “I stand a serious chance of not even hearing my alarm go off.” Regardless of the time of day, how much sleep I had the night before, etc. I’ve tried all the tricks, and plenty of people giving me a hard time about it, and feeling guilty and “lazy” when I’m exhausted. The only thing that really works is getting more sleep.
Things that help me:
- Setting a regular bedtime (or a goal. it’s good to have goals.)
- Get ready for bed early (avoid falling asleep on the couch with laptop)
- Make sure I have all papers and things ready to go if I’m leaving the house in the morning.
- Decide what I’m wearing tomorrow.
- Put away discarded clothes or laundry from today.
- Make a list of things to do tomorrow if need to fight the urge to stay up and take care of stuff. Better yet, make a schedule with tasks to accomplish before lunch. Everyone has different sleep demons, and for me, staying up late at night has always been the “extra” time I need in a day to finish a task or to relax. If I convince myself that going to bed early means a more productive morning, I can usually coax myself into bed earlier.
- Get in bed early to read a magazine; It feels productive and I’m more likely to actually fall asleep when my body says it’s time if I’m already in bed.
- Stop whatever I’m doing an hour before I want to go to bed and have “me” time. This can be productive time in a sense (catching up on emails with friends, or doing #3-7), but it shouldn’t be work or cleaning. If I don’t do this, I will inevitably stay up later. The cycle needs to stop sometime.
Why is this important for WorkingSmall? Successful people are prone to putting things like sleep at the bottom of the importance list. The more self-regulated we are, especially for those of us who are self-employed, I think it helps to acknowledge our baselines and figure out how being healthy keeps us happy and moving forward with our lives and careers.
- The Happiness Project: Fourteen Tips for Getting More Sleep
- Apartment Therapy: 5 Things to Do Before You Go to Bed
- NY Times: Ben Schott, On the Timing & Duration of Sleep (proverbs and advice on sleep)