I’m a little deprived — of sleep, that is. Eight hours? Try five. Maybe six.
I’ve always stayed up late — at home, in college and now. When the rest of the world seems to be drifting into Dreamland, when all of those little green dots on Gchat start disappearing, and the lights in the neighborhood start turning off, my light stays on.
I wake up at night, not wanting to miss out on precious time — to read, catch up on e-mail, play with my cat. I get some of my best inspiration as a writer late at night. So why not take advantage of a couple more hours of productivity?
Well, maybe because my body, and I dare say my mind and soul, need it.
I also need gentle reminders to get rest, and always have. When I was a child, my mom would read me one of my favorite books, “Goodnight Moon” a couple of times a week. Maybe, just maybe, I’d fall asleep when I heard her read the words “Husssshhhh. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.”
My dad would then read me Mercer Meyer’s book, “Just Go to Bed,” and I’d think about how similar I was to the main character, Little Critter, who would do everything he could to not have to crawl under the covers.
Dad can relate to Little Critter, too. Even on nights when he has to wake up early for work, he’ll stay up past midnight and read one of his car magazines, watch re-runs or play the guitar. My grandmother tells me stories of what my dad was like growing up. While my uncle would be fast asleep, my dad would get out bed repeatedly throughout the night.
“Mom, I’m scared! There’s a monster hiding in my closet!”
“Andy … we already checked the closet. There’s no monster in there.”
“But Moooommm … I’m, um, thirsty.”
“There’s a glass of water by your bed.”
“Mommy, can you read to me just one more time? Please mommy?”
“Hop into bed, Andy.”
Nearly every night, my grandma said, there was a new excuse.
I make similar excuses for myself.
“Well, you haven’t written that blog post you wanted to write today.”
“Come on, just finish one more chapter of that book. You can get by on five hours.”
“Sleeping is for slackers.”
I try to be my own voice of reason, reminding myself that yes, all that can wait. But there’s a lingering sense, I think, that to be a “hard worker” you have to work your way through the night. Arianna Huffington addressed this idea in one of her columns last year:
“Getting enough sleep signifies to some people that you must be less than passionate about your work and your life. It means, well, you’re lazy. Very often women workaholics forego sleep, because they’ve bought into the mentality that says sleep time is unproductive time.
“Yet what have all this workaholism and sleep loss bought us?
“Less productivity, less job satisfaction, less sex, and more inches around the waist. Doesn’t seem like a very good deal, does it?”
Now the Huffington Post co-founder is teaming up with Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive to promote the importance of sleep — particularly for women. Huffington and Leive announced that they’re planning to get a full night’s sleep (at least seven-and-a-half hours) every night for a month, starting Jan. 4. They’ll be blogging about the experience every Monday and Thursday.
In the kick-off blog post, Huffington wrote about the obstacles that prevent women from getting enough rest, saying sleep deprivation results in a “Pyrrhic victory“:
“Getting a good night’s sleep, of course, is easier said than done. You have to tune out a host of temptations, from Letterman to the PTA to your e-mail inbox — and most of all, to ignore the workaholic wisdom that says you’re lazy for not living up to the example set by Madonna, Martha Stewart and other notorious self-professed never-sleepers. Of course, the truth is the opposite: You’ll be much more likely to be a professional powerhouse if you’re not asleep at the wheel. (Even Bill Clinton, who used to famously get only five hours of sleep, later admitted, “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.” Huh! ) The problem is that women often feel that they still don’t “belong” in the boys-club atmosphere that still dominates many workplaces. So they often attempt to compensate by working harder and longer than the next guy. Hard work helps women fit in and gain a measure of security. And because it works, they begin to do more and more and more of it until they can’t stop. But it’s a Pyrrhic victory: The workaholism leads to lack of sleep, which in turn leads to never being able to do your best. In fact, many women do this on purpose, fueled by the mistaken idea that getting enough sleep means you must be lazy or less than passionate about your work and your life.”
In some ways, though, getting enough rest would suggest that you’re more passionate about work and life. It shows others that you care enough about what you’re doing to want to do it well, and not under sleep-deprived conditions. I know that when I get enough rest, I eat better, I run faster, I can concentrate for longer periods of time and I’m usually happier. Why wouldn’t I want that for myself? I do, but apparently not enough yet to change my sleep pattern. Like Huffington said, it’s easier said than done.
As I write this, I keep glancing at the clock. P.M. dipped into A.M. 53 minutes ago. The neighborhood is quiet. The chatter on Twitter has subsided. There are no monsters in my closet. … I’m out of excuses.
Turn off the lights. Blow out the candle. Hop into bed, Mallary.