There’s no doubt about it, we are a sleep deprived nation.
Its old news really, and if any of you are like me, you’re sick of hearing about it. It’s been a hot topic around the office lately, with debates about sleep interrupting staff meetings and brainstorming sessions. The scientifically-minded argue the benefits of more hours of sleep, and the relational-minded argue the importance of “personal time.” Just to be clear: by “personal time” we really mean watching Netflix, browsing social media on the iPad, looking for deals on Amazon, or occasionally reading a book.
I know what the science says. If I added 1 – 2 more hours of sleep every night my overall quality of life would increase dramatically. I would be more focused and energized in my work and relationships, I could get through the afternoon without a second dose of caffeine, and getting out of bed in the morning wouldn’t carry the same kind of unholy punishment. I would be happier. Healthier. Kinder. Which are all things I want, by the way. I would pay money to perform better in those ways.
So why am I blowing off the idea of more sleep?
The reason is – I don’t care. I just don’t. When it comes to the crucial moment, I will always choose to watch 2 episodes of my favorite mind numbing sitcom, instead of getting 2 extra hours of sleep. This sentiment makes my colleague Betsy (our in-house brain expert and Clinical Coordinator) lean in toward me, as if I were a child that said something profound, but equally frightening.
“That’s so interesting to me,” she says in wonderment. “Why?” Well, Betsy, I will always choose Netflix over extra sleep because…
- It feels like I’m putting myself first
- I need time to wind down after going full-gas the entire day
- I need escape in my life to feel sane
- I believe it recharges me
This comment escalates the tone from explosive, to nuclear. For parents, the late night TV binge is the only time they have to enjoy their own leisure. They verbally erupt, saying things like, “I can only put them to bed so early!” By our reactions you would think Betsy had just slapped someone.
The anger is real. We look down on the parents of children who react when electronic stimuli is taken from them, yet, we react in much the same way when someone is trying to take it from us. Much like our children when their screen is taken away.
Its comes down to control, and habit. Betsy unearthed a landmine with that comment because it challenged our control, and suggested that our habits might be unhealthy. Here’s the thing: we know it’s unhealthy. Just like drug or alcohol use, watching tv for hours before bed always gives us the same result. 100% of the time. It distracts us, allows us to escape, allows us to be somewhere or someone else for a few hours each night. We have complete control over that situation.
Saying goodbye to tv and hello to sleep gives us anxiety, and rightfully so. By deciding to leave the remote on the nightstand we depart from our habit, our routine – and any departure from habit is a leap into the unknown. It’s a risk, for sure, but no one ever did anything great by playing it safe…
So here’s your homework: I want you to take the next 10 minutes and actually think about why it is you don’t choose sleep. I don’t want you to immediately change your sleep schedule, throw away all your televisions, and start sleeping 12 hours a night – I just want you to consider your priorities for a moment. That’s all.
I realize that some of us may not be getting the sleep we need because of insomnia and other neurological imbalances. If this is the case, we can help. If you find yourself trying everything under the sun and still not getting a good night’s sleep, reach out to Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you get the sleep you want without habit forming substances or a total lifestyle overhaul.
Best of luck,
>> For those of you finding it tough to put down the screens at night – or anytime for that matter – here’s a great 3-part series we did last year on Our Digital Dilemma: http://www.aspenneurofeedback.com/our-digital-dilemma-part-1/