The lie that keeps me up at night

This was the week I was supposed to catch up on sleep.

It’s Spring Break for Main Stacks, so there are no 8pm-midnight dance practices after I get home from my full-time job, and no 12+ hour competition day this weekend.  And yet, I’ve only woken up well rested one day this week.  What’s wrong with me?  Well, I’ve had trouble sleeping.

I’ve been accruing sleep debt for weeks now, my body is exhausted, and I’ve been perpetually sick for a month.  But there’s one sentence that prevents me from letting my body do what it’s supposed to do.  It has occupied my mind in the past, and I’m sure it has settled into your brain at some point, too.  It goes something like this:

I can’t sleep, I need to figure out how I’m going to meet that deadline tomorrow.

I can’t sleep, I need plan out everything I need to get done on Saturday.

I can’t [sleep, eat, exercise, or other action critical to maintaining health], I need to [do something that isn’t really as important].

It’s a big fat lie.  With every year that goes by, I’m learning that there are fewer and fewer things worth sacrificing sleep for.  Here’s why:

Your body needs rest.  Sure, you can pull the occasional all-nighter, but it isn’t sustainable.  Deprive your body of enough rest, and it will shut down on you.  Just ask my dance teammate who stayed up all night studying for a midterm, then missed the practice before a competition because she fell asleep at her keyboard.

Lost sleep is something you don’t get back.  If you get 3-4 less hours than you need in one night, you can’t just sleep 3-4 more hours the following night to make up for it.  Your body just doesn’t work that way.  And if you’re one of those people who consistently gets less sleep than you need, what do you plan to do – sleep through your 30s to make up for it?

You can’t really do all the things you’re worrying about, in that moment.  I’m worried about tomorrow’s deadline.  Can I really do anything right now?  No.  I’m dead tired and can’t think straight.  Anything I produce right now will likely be total crap, and if it’s not crap, I could probably achieve the same result in half the time tomorrow morning when I’m actually rested.

Not everything has to be kept in your head.  For some reason, I remember key things and come up with great ideas right before I go to sleep.  And then I feel like I have to keep thinking of it or else I will forget.  Not true.  There’s this nifty little device called a notebook.   Once I get everything that’s bouncing around my mind in another place that I can refer back to, I can let those thoughts go.

And now that I’ve gotten this post out of my head and onto this page, it’s time to go to sleep.  Goodnight!

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