When we’re kids, we tend to say “I can’t wait to grow up so that I don’t have to be told to do _____.” For me, one of those items that I always hated as a kid was sleeping! I never wanted to go to bed so early when all the TV shows were still on or when the parents and guests were still playing games, just so that I would be prepared for school the next day. When the weekend came, going to bed early on a Friday night was a major Buzzkill! And I never wanted to take a nap on Saturday or Sunday afternoons! Why, why, why would my parents do that to me?
And then I went to boarding school and became a night owl. Staying up late was the in thing to do: you weren’t considered cool until you had figured out a way to get all night power (yes the electricity was shut off to our rooms from 10pm – 5am), and then pulled your first all nighter watching movies (having TV shows or movies on your devices was illegal and if caught resulted in you losing all of your electronics for the rest of the year) or playing video games. I became a night owl.
This flowed over into college, especially since we no longer had the power or media restrictions we experienced in boarding school. College dorm life was FREEDOM (that mentality only lasted 3 years). Sure we would study until 11pm when the library closed, but then that’s when the social hours began. Yet I would always be kicking myself the next morning as I drug myself to 8am Biochemistry for an entire year. It was the worst, but 3 years later I would be dragging myself to 8am anatomy class in med.school so clearly I should’ve listened to the memo the first time around.
In grad school, most of my classes didn’t start until 3pm and would end at 10pm. I then had a 30 minute commute home. To keep myself entirely alert and locked in for the entirety of my classes, I wouldn’t go to bed until 2am, would sleep in until 10am, do homework for a few hours, go work a part time job for a few hours, then head back to class. I loved the schedule!
And then I started working in the real world and my entire daily routine had to be shifted once again. Some days I have to be into work by 6am, and other days I don’t have to be in until 8am. How late I stay each day depends on if I am on track to get my 40 hours in for the week and/or if the executives pull me into a late afternoon meeting. On those days, I get off work, go straight home, and am finding the fastest way to eat dinner and get into bed. I want to sleep at almost every moment that I can, and I especially use my weekends to get caught up and recharge my mind.
WHAT HAPPENED? Where and how did this change occur? Why is it that now after 12 hours I want nothing more than to go to sleep but it used to be that I could go for 16-18 hours a day?
For me, it comes down to intensity! College and grad school was all about short spurts of intensity, spread throughout the day, allowing me plenty of time to change my scenery and interact with my best friends. I was able to recharge at least every 1-3 hours in various different ways. Not true now in the real world. My job is constantly go, go, go! It requires tremendous focus and a high level of cognitive critical analysis in order to have quick turn-around times for the projects I am responsible for.
It’s the big leagues! I need to be at the top of my game at EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT! How do I do that? By adjusting my sleep schedule to position my peak performance times to occur during the most critical parts of my schedule, and then making sure I am always well rested and am powering my body with the proper, nutritious fuel that I need to beast the day!
As I look back, my parents were pretty darn smart by putting me on a schedule and diet that maximized my productivity. I get it now, and I am thankful for it! I know that I have to take care of myself first and foremost before I can be of any support to others or to my employer.
So remember kids, listen to your parents: get that sleep that you need! And parents, write to your congressmen and tell them you insist on a new national law that enforces mandatory siesta sessions every afternoon (because Spain does get it right)!