3 Questions

Last week, I wrote about how lack of sleep has kept me from writing and reading. And why do I often not sleep enough? Quality of sleep aside, I have a hard time getting to bed on time. And while I’ve found 500 articles about sleep hygiene, I’ve found very few about how to go to bed when you’ve made a goal to do so, set up a schedule accordingly, and have no apparent barriers in the way.

So this week I’m writing that article. Here are three questions I’ve asked myself to solve my bedtime problem.

  1. What Do I Really Want?

In my head, I wanted to get enough sleep. Adequate sleep was a core 2017 (and then 2018) goal. I read research about the perils of sleep deprivation, and I felt the effect on my health when I didn’t go to bed fairly early.

I read books about habits and tendencies, and I searched the internet for ideas. I identified my Rubin tendency and applied the associated strategies. I tried strategies for other tendencies. I made work goals around my bedtime so that money and raises were tied to my sleep. Still, I made no significant progress.

Finally, I sat down with myself and reflected on what I really wanted. I knew that while in theory I wanted to go to bed, deep down I must want something else more. Sure enough, I discovered that at the end of the day, I continually felt like I hadn’t done enough. Thus I told myself that I need to stay up to complete more tasks.

Sometimes I did stay up and do chores or something, but a lot of the time my energy level was so low that I’d end up mindlessly browsing social media sites. Just for five minutes, which of course turned into an hour or two.

  1. How Do I Need to Change My Mindset?

My introspection brought to my attention the fact that I have a skewed idea of what things count as “being productive.” I did in fact do a lot, but I didn’t want to count life-maintenance tasks like work, showering, cooking, eating, exercising, and reading scriptures toward my unconscious mental tally.

I found the idea that 2/3 of my life should be work and sleep while the remaining 1/3 is largely filled with tasks like exercise and commuting endlessly depressing.

I took some time to breathe and make my peace with reality. (Read: months. Just to get to the point where I go to bed. Overall, I’m still working on my mindset.)

  1. How Can I Avoid Burnout?

After all my reflection, I thought I would be good to go. I did better, but I still often mindlessly browsed when I didn’t particularly want to. At first, I thought I had a problem with social media. However, a week-long fast from non-work social media quickly showed me that I was wrong.

I am perfectly capable of staying off social media. The fast wasn’t difficult for me. Instead of mindlessly browsing, I just put off going to bed by taking Buzzfeed quizzes and deleting and recreating my Pottermore account 12 times so I could repeatedly take the Sorting quiz and gather enough data to determine my true Hogwarts house.

In the morning, I was not proud of my time management.

After more introspection, I realized that my brain wanted an outlet. Most nights I would convince myself that I’d just be online for a minute, and by the time two hours passed, I’d stopped caring about going to bed on time. I’d burned out just before I got to the end of my schedule.

The solution? I now read for half an hour before I get ready for bed. While I was afraid I wouldn’t stop, I’ve actually done really well. A little experimentation has shown me that I need to read a novel to feel refreshed. With my renewed self-control, I can stop when my cell phone alarm tells me I’m out of time.

For me, sleep hygiene is only part of the answer to the sleep riddle. Reflection and reading is my best solution.

What about you? What are your mental blocks to going to sleep and doing things you want to do?