Dr. Maida Chen provides this reflection from the lovely city of Seattle, where she is the director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital. I think that it is a great way to close our month (albeit a few days after the 31st). Currently, she is working tirelessly [insert sleep joke here] to start school later in Seattle.
New Year’s resolutions. Mine have been the same for the last several years — lose a little weight, eat a little healthier, exercise a little more. But for me, sleep hasn’t been on the list because sleep had always been my drug of choice — until this past year. In the past, when deadlines were swirling and patients were knocking, I would do the absolute minimum before bed, and then go to sleep, knowing I would be way more efficient at tackling the problem the next day after recharging. And when there were temporary reprieves in work-life demands — others celebrated with a night out or a late night up watching TV, but I rewarded myself with sleep. It was my cure-all, and sleep medicine was my perfect calling.
But this past year, it all fell apart. Why? Because I got sucked into the ubiquitous #NoTimeToSleep mentality. The work couldn’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow there was even more work to be done. Coffee became a life essential, not just a morning pick me up. The smartphone feeds could not wait, and sat plugged in next to my head all night, constantly daring me to check. The nights dedicated to fun couldn’t be wasted on staying home. I knew it was wrong, but I believed it was excusable, even forgivable — I am a busy mom and doctor, so the rules of getting sleep somehow didn’t apply to me anymore because, well, I was too busy for the rules. There was NO WAY that i could carve time out of my crammed life for anything extra, especially sleep. I thought I was being ultra-efficient.
And then came Holiday Season 2014, the apex of #TheYearOfNoSleep. Everything felt frenetic and frantic. I drowned in a vortex of inefficiency. Everything took forever, and nothing got done. Rock bottom was hit. Reality set in of just how awful I felt. The quality of my life in every aspect imaginable had plummeted. Epic fail. How could a sleep doc let this happen?
So I went back to my old ways a few weeks before the New Year. This resolution couldn’t wait until January 1. I resumed my previous drug of choice, sleep. And it has been wonderful, leaving me pondering why I thought I could live with less. So when Dr. Canapari’s pledge to get 30 minutes more sleep per day was posted after the New Year, it was a perfect way for me to reflect on my changes, and quantify time saved during the day by sleeping more at night. None of these are “scientific”, but rather my life experiences:
- I am nicer, so save ~15 minutes by not provoking arguments/oppositional behavior because I’m not constantly yelling at my kids and husband. It’s amazing, the kids are more likely to get dressed and the trash more likely to get taken out when I ask in a friendly, polite way.
- My memory and organization are better, so save at least 5 minutes by not looking for my keys or various other ill-placed items while trying to get myself and 3 young children out the door in the morning.
- My energy level is higher, so I tend take the stairs up to my office, instead of waiting for the elevator, and spend 2 less minutes waiting. (and burn calories to boot!)
- I am more reasonable and level-headed, so save 15 minutes by not obsessing over somebody else’s (probably sleep deprived) snarky e-mail comments that I would have previously perceived to be a personal attack. I hadn’t even realized just how much time I would perseverate over a single e-mail — usually scattered through the day but totaling 15 minutes.
- Along the more reasonable and level-headed vein, I save at least 15 minutes by being off my phone. Sleep has allowed me to realize that checking Facebook and e-mail every 2 minutes is neither necessary nor beneficial.
- (this one is not a joke). I save 2 minutes in the cafeteria. I can make smart, quick decisions about healthy foods and not sit and stare at the potato chip section trying to talk myself out of a ridiculous carb craving which was omnipresent in #TheYearOfNoSleep.
- I now need minimal caffeine, so I save at least 10 minutes a day by not waiting in the Starbucks line with the rest of the world.
- I am able to do both mundane and challenging tasks faster and better. The hard stuff at work honestly takes a little less time and is less difficult when I have slept. The chores at home take much less time because I’m focused. That’s harder to quantify, but there is probably a lot of time saved — from laundry to dissertations.
I hope this list helps you realize how valuable that 30 minute investment of extra sleep night after night (starting tonight!) will be. Sleep has returned as my drug of choice, and I intend to keep it in good use. Happy Sleeping!
I’ve had a lot of fun reflecting on my own sleep needs this month and it has been a terrific honor to have all of these great writers on my humble little blog. Next week we will return to our routine posting schedule. Did reading these posts change your behavior around sleep?