Last Thursday was one of my least-productive days in 2016. On my list of things accomplished, Jack Shit ranks at #1.
I am a self-proclaimed Sleep Whore. Note the capitalization, because the use of pronouns seemed appropriate. My trek into Worthless Piece of Crap Land started when I set my alarm for 3AM to finish a project.
Like most twenty-somethings, I exist in a never-ending state of personal guilt if I’m not productive. I spend….fifty percent of my day thinking I should write more, work harder, and do more squats because SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, some made-up human is beating me in life, work, and relationships (and has a better butt, apparently).
Do I know these thoughts are irrational? Absofuckinglutely. It was the topic of one of my first posts—Your Mental Competition is Not Making You a Stronger Person.
Waking up at 3AM was just enough time to meet my 9AM deadline. I should have cut my losses and ended my day then, because I didn’t feel like myself all day.
When you’re hungover (which we both know you are from time to time), do you ever shower and still feel dirty? That’s how I felt all day. Thus, I treated my tiredness like a hangover. I showered. I ate. I took it easy on my workout, but still moved around to sweat out the toxins.
And just like a hangover, I could not wait for the day to end.
Whenever I see someone pulling an all-nighter for work, a voice inside me says, “You are not working hard enough. You can push through this. If they can survive off less sleep, so can you.”
Apparently, no I can’t. Because Thursday was awful.
My friend Rachel is Queen No Sleep. Granted, the woman is getting her PhD in neuroscience, so her task load is a tad higher than the average human.
A few years ago, Rach crashed on my couch for a month before she took off for grad school. It was not uncommon for her to stay at the lab until 2AM, only to be back at work at eight the next morning.
One day with a messed-up sleep schedule put me out of commission. I thought it was all in my head. So, I shot a text to the girl who’s pulled more sleepless nights than anyone I know: How do you focus when you pull those one nighters???
“Well, it’s really hard for me to focus the next day,” she said. This took me by surprise. I thought powering through the night was something she was born with. A talent most of us only come by with a good dose of Adderall.
“I usually work really hard on something, and then once it’s done, I go to sleep,” she told me. “Coincidently…I just gave a talk on sleep and circadian rhythms. Basically, I learned you are really fucked up cognitively and health-wise after sleep deprivation—even following a few days of sleep recovery (i.e., binge sleeping on the weekend). Moral of the story: Don’t be like me. Get sleep—as much as possible.”
I honestly feel like a whimp writing this. I’m sure someone will think, “Good grief! It was one night! Suck it up!” Trust me—I get it. Working through the night one time won’t kill me—but that’s not my point.
My point is this: Suffering does not mean success. Working 18-hour days will not make you more productive. Starving yourself won’t lead to sustainable weight-loss. Running 100-mile weeks won’t make you a better athlete.
My fantasy of firing on all cylinders and blasting through sleepless nights just got flushed down the toilet. Because that vision is full of shit.
Your goals are perfectly attainable without the torture. Eat a balanced meal. Workout like a sane person. Most of all, get a decent nights sleep—there’s more to tackle in the morning.