I had a rough week. I have been trying to get my sleep schedule back on track and tried to impose a clear bedtime and wake up schedule. I got up at the time I wanted but I was exhausted. By the fourth day, I felt cranky, annoyed and even mildly depressed. My entire worldview was pessimistic and fearful.
The new schedule is now starting to work and I finally had some great sleep last night. All of a sudden, the world looks exciting. Decisions that I was pondering in my negative state seem easy or irrelevant. That’s the power of sleep.
I love to sleep. I could never fit into the hustle culture of “sleeping when I’m dead”. I feel great after 9 hours and do poorly with less. If I have multiple nights of bad sleep, I’ll have some seriously difficult days.
Everyone is different but a lack of sleep can be similar to being drunk. In fact, the CDC claims that being awake for 17 hours is “similar to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%” while 24 hours feels like having a BAC of 0.10% (the legal driving limit in the U.S.)
If you force yourself to wake up at 6 am and don’t go to sleep until 1 am, you will act like you had a few beers. It will be even worse if you actually drank alcohol.
When someone is struggling to make decisions, I always ask about sleep. You might not be awake for more than 16 hours but you could be sleeping poorly, compounding the effects on your ability to decide.
It is easy to give up sleep due to busy schedules and our own grandiose expectations. Sleep is sometimes the easiest thing to cut back when everything else seems urgent.
The irony is that poor sleep makes the rest of your life harder. If you can focus deeply, you can get more done faster. If you are rested, you can avoid falling into negative biases that will color your perception. If you sleep well, you have more willpower.
I know that I cannot make major strategic decisions while sleep deprived. I will end up choosing a defensive position simply because I feel anxious or afraid. Are you in the right state of mind to make long term decisions?
Don’t take my word for it. Spend the next month prioritizing your sleep over everything else. You know you are rested if you wake up before your alarm and feel refreshed. Notice the impact this has on your work and personal life. You may discover that there’s no going back to a sleepless world.
Photo by Gregory Pappas