One of the worst cycles I get into is the Short Sleep cycle. Most people have been there at some point, stuck in a recurring pattern where there isn’t enough time to sleep in, which results in overcompensating with too much caffeine too late in the day, which results in a sleepless night, when you can’t sleep in during the day, etc.
This week, I’m already behind on my sleep quotient because everyones sleep schedule is off in my household. We just got home from BC yesterday on a red eye flight, on which I couldn’t sleep, and Paul and Ben only napped for an hour or two. We all crashed upon getting home at 8am, but had decided to wake up at midday to avoid losing the whole day to sleep. So there we we were: up at noon, making coffee and trying to function. We let Ben sleep in until 1:30, but had to wake him then so he would go to sleep on time in the evening.
However, waking up tired still meant, in theory, that we would be able to fall asleep at a normal hour. I had also hoped it would help us avoid jetlag. But I had one too many cups of coffee yesterday, which was a Mistake. I still fell asleep at 9pm, but that had more to do with the wine we were drinking with friends than it did with actual sleep. I woke up at midnight, wide awake and dehydrated…and by the time I rehydrated, I realized I wasn’t falling asleep again anytime soon.
So, instead of staying in bed, this time, I just got up. I went into the living room, picked up my laptop, answered some personal emails, paid bills, and filled out the forms for a NYC drivers license and car registration. I watched a couple episodes of Once Upon A Time. I finished making a bread machine loaf of multigrain for Paul’s lunches, and thankfully, I was right there when Ben woke up after having a nighttime “accident”. It did make the insomnia a little more worthwhile, too, because I was able to be right there when my baby needed me to change his sheets and help him get into dry pajamas.
But after all that, I still couldn’t sleep until 5am. I almost gave up again and went back out into the kitchen to do dishes, cook for the week, do something productive to make the apartment look less cluttered. Instead, I read non-fiction for a while, and finally passed out. I woke up at the usual 6:30am weekday time, but then, lulled by rain, I fell asleep again…and didn’t wake up for good until 8am, when I realized I was going to be late for work.
I used to just push through after a sleepless night. But i know that when I’m tired, I dont work efficiently. I am not particularly coherent, or well spoken. I can lose train of though mid sentence. Worse, I don’t stay focused. My mind wanders, my work isn’t completed quickly or well. I don’t process information, or I make stupid mistakes and have to re-do work. On low sleep, I am not a valuable asset to anyone, and inefficient workdays result in long workdays to try and compensate for the low productivity.
It also kicks off an unfortunate cycle, because those tired days are laced with extra caffeine. I get home late, go to bed on time, and then can’t fall asleep because
I’m both wired and tired. Then I just lie there thinking about all the things I could be doing. Last night, I kept thinking I should be doing dishes or putting away laundry, because the house is a disaster area right now, and our suitcases aren’t even unpacked. I thought about going through my email and preparing for today, about getting ready to roll back into work, about even VPNing in and pulling the flash report for today’s client meeting.
I tried my favorite standby: nonfiction. I love historical nonfiction, but processing the information often makes me sleepy. I usually fall asleep after a handful of pages. But I made it through a whole chapter of Gotham: A History of New York City through 1898, and still was awake. I even ran white noise to try and induce sleep. Nothing was soothing enough to get through the caffeine.
I find this immensely frustrating because it’s such a waste of time being tired. My life feels so full these days, with so many things in it. Losing productivity due to sleep deprivation reduces the amount of things I can fit in a day. I feel like I don’t get as much value from time when that happens.
So tonight, i will get that sleep I need. I will resume life at its usual pace and velocity tomorrow. But I need that sleep. Sleep no longer seems like that waste of time it did when I was in my twenties, but a key part of living my life to the fullest. I think that’s part of being in this phase of life, when thre is a lot I need to be able to do, and people I need to do it for.