The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Sleepless in the Blogosphere

In case it hasn’t been apparent lately, I’m running a little low on blog mojo these days. Or maybe I’m running a little low on sleep. Maybe both. Lately I find myself still up at 2:30am or even 3:00am, often catching up on blog reading or writing a post that’s been knocking around in my head for a while but that’s too long and/or too deeply linked to write between breaks at work or at home. (You’d be amazed at the number of posts that are published during daylight hours were actually written in the wee hours of the night/morning.) Thats fine, in a way. I’ve always been a night owl, staying up past everyone else’s bed time because that’s time that’s almost guaranteed to belong to me. I can indulge my own interests without worrying about stealing time from something else. At least until my body rebels and starts shutting down.

Of course, if you work and have kids, you know what I’m talking about. You clock out and go home, but you don’t really clock out until well after the kids have gone to bed and you’ve caught up with your spouse or partner (because, if you want to have a healthy relationship you kinda hafta talk to each other once in a while). So, round about 10:00 pm, in my case, is when I can really focus on some stuff I want to do.The problem is, I’m often physically and mentally exhausted. Plus the stuff that keeps my brain functioning in almost-normal mode wears off by then. So, there’s the problem of being able to focus when I finally have the time.

But I’m not getting enough sleep. (Guess where I’m stealing time from now) I end up getting 4 – 5 hours of sleep a night. Six would be optimal for me. But I can’t manage to get in everything I want to get in — read everything I want to read, write everything I want to write, etc. — and get enough sleep. So, I end up with a backlog. For example, I meant to blog about all of this when I saw an article a couple of weeks ago that there are a lot people who are sleepless in D.C.

In the Washington area, there are a lot of highly educated white-collar workers who have come from all over to get ahead.

Dr. David Gross, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep issues, said there are three keys to good health: diet, exercise, and sleep.

“Americans are very aware of the fact that exercise is important and diet is important. They don’t do it necessarily, but they know they should do it,” Gross said. “Sleep is something special because they don’t even realize that sleep is important. And they don’t do it.”

According to Gross, lack of sleep is a problem. He said it’s a contributor to diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, and to depression.

Gross said not getting enough sleep can dull your performance, make you a lot less efficient and it can make you irritable.

To get enough sleep Gross said people have to change their priorities.

Dull performance? Yeah, probably. Irritable? Definitely. Change my priorities? There’s a lot more than that to change if I’m going to get more sleep.

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That goes for more than me and my fellow Washingtonians. There’s a movie about it.

I’m definitely Tivoing the documentary. I’ve tried every method Alan Berliner mentioned in that promo, and I have the same question/wish he expressed: Oh for a pill that would let me be as wide awake as I need to be, when I need to be, sleep 4 to 5 hours a night, and be just fine. Given the doctor’s laughter, my guess is that I’m going to have to find another way.

Just yesterday I read Leo’s post about the benefits of being an early riser.

Recently, reader Rob asked me about my habit of waking at 4:30 a.m. each day, and asked me to write about the health benefits of rising early, which I thought was an excellent question. Unfortunately, there are none, that I know of.

However, there are a ton of other great benefits.

Now, let me first say that if you are a night owl, and that works for you, I think that’s great. There’s no reason to change, especially if you’re happy with it. But for me, switching from being a night owl to an early riser (and yes, it is possible) has been a godsend. It has helped me in so many ways that I’d never go back.

He goes on to list the benefits he’s experience, and many of them sound wonderful.

This dumb little man gets up at 4:00 am. Half an hour earlier.

From 4-6 AM, I simply get a ton of things done. In fact, I’d argue that I get more done from 4-6 AM than I do from 8-Noon. No matter what I decide to do, it’s uninterrupted simply because no one else is awake and functioning. It’s purely a time for knocking out tasks (work or home related), reading, project work, planning, etc. It’s great.

My life was not always this way, I used to be the guy that stayed up late and woke up with barely enough time to shower before work. So, how did I change that? It’s actually pretty simple, I installed a regimen that I have now followed for years. On average, I believe that I have given myself an extra 5 hours per week or (do the math) an extra 10.8 days per year to get stuff done.

Did he say 10.8 extra days in the year? If I’ve done the math right, that ads up to about 43 extra minutes per day. Not quite an extra hour in the day, but close enough to be tempting.

But I’m already sitting here thinking about how early I’d have to go to bed to get up that early. (Counting backwards from 4:30 am, I get a bedtime of around 10:30 pm in order to get in at least six hours. Earlier still if I want eight. I’d basically go to bed right after Parker.) The first thing that comes to mind is the question of what I’d have to give up in the process, and whether I’m willing to give it up. I don’t have the answer, but it brings up a sneaking suspicion I’ve had about people proselytizing about time management and sufficient shut-eye: If I do all the things I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do them, I still won’t have time for all the things I want to do.

On the other hand, if I did manage to make that change, it would give me a whole three hours on the front end of the day, before the rest of the family wakes up. A whole three hours to myself. Shave it down to two if I throw in getting showered and dressed, which means I could leave the house earlier, and get to work earlier. That also means I could leave work earlier, and possibly get home an hour before the rest of the family. So I’d gain back that hour from the morning.

It may be worth a try, since Leo says I can ease myself into it.

Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.

I guess that means I’d have to go to bed 15 minutes earlier. So,

4 Comments

  1. Being awake a couple of hours earlier than you usually rise – for me that would be four o’clock – does give you some quality quiet time and feels like a jump start on the day. I love it when I can swing it, but that doesn’t happen often. At my age, I figure I deserve a good eight hours, which would mean going to bed around eight, which is just weird.

  2. Actually, for me it would be more like 5:15 am. That’s slightly less daunting than 4:30 am, but not much!

  3. I’ll tell you why it’s been worth it to me to start getting up earlier: my brain works better after rest than after a full day of work. And hour in the morning is worth two at night, in terms of productivity. I do go to bed about ten (which isn’t so hard, but then my son goes to bed at eight, so I get that little bit of partner-care time in the evening).

  4. You may be on to something there. I’m a lot more scattered at night, especially if I’ve run up a sleep deficit over the previous couple of nights. I’m not sure I could manage a 4am wake-up call, but having an extra hour in the morning would be good. If I swing it right, I could end up with an extra hour in the evening too, or at least an extra half-hour.

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