Counterintuitive

July 7, 2013

Life's too short not to get good sleep. How many times have you stayed up a couple extra hours to get that thing done, or to watch that thing, or to not do particularly anything. Granted, there are many, many great reasons to stay up late, but if you're in your daily routine, and you're doing great work, usually, you should go to sleep at a reasonable time.

Because most of us have a time they need to wake up by. You may be super lucky like me and not have anything etched in stone by someone else, but, like me, there's a difference between getting up at 8 and getting up at 11. And there's a hell of a difference between 6 and 11. That's more than half a day's work blown by (don't worry, I'm not encouraging you to start working at 6). You could love the quiet of the morning, or you're a night owl and get up past lunch time, whatever the case, to make use of the day at all, you need to get good sleep.

You know those people who love to boast about how little sleep they get? Everyone who knows what it's like, how important it is, to sleep snickers. Not to say anything about them and their achievements and their happiness and how awesome they are, but they're missing out on the joys of a good night's sleep. That energy, that kick in your step, that feeling of refreshment when you wake up, that feeling of good exhaustion when you pull the covers over and you fall asleep in minutes.

I still remember the days in school, when I would be falling asleep in class, or walking dazily to class, or trying to do my homework or study for the exam, and my eyelids felt so heavy and my head was dropping off side to side. I learned and achieved little to nothing. I can write that time off completely. But, an extra 1 or 2 hours of good sleep would have made that time a different story.

This can sound like a stretch, but it's almost the same as technical debt in a software project. If you have too much, and it comes from moving too fast for too long, you're going to get stuck. You're going to be moving a lot, lot slower (and in some cases, not at all if you get far enough behind) than you could because you decided to take too many shortcuts.

Sleep debt is a real thing. It doesn't take just one night to correct a week, a month, a lifetime of bad sleep. Hours don't add up like that, just like a certain number of hours in front of a computer doesn't correlate to getting good software written if the project is in a bad state.

Now I say all these things, but like I said, there are so many reasons to stay up late. Treat it as inevitable, and you can learn to plan for it and manage it. Just like in any software, there are going to be bugs. Things you overlook. When you accept that's the life of that line of work, you're going to be okay.

I'm pretty sure there are times when we all feel stuck. We might not know exactly what we're feeling stuck about, it's just that feeling, and it could last days, weeks, months. I'm not saying sleep is the solution, but if you're not getting all you need, then sleep could be a key component in getting you out of that rut.