The other day, while looking at a series of coffee memes, a thought jumped out at me. Several people feel the need to warn us about their mean streak that shows up whenever their bodies are low on coffee. So much so, the notion of having an IV pumping caffeine straight into the veins, makes many chuckle with a degree of identification to the meme.
This post will not recommend anyone place their cups down. Nor will it pretend to understand the value coffee offers. Before continuing, in full disclosure, I don’t drink coffee. Yes, I’m one of those “subhuman” types who lives life without coffee. (but I am familiar with this elixir and have enjoyed the potion several times throughout my life)
Care for another cup of coffee?
One of the most valuable lessons I resisted a long time was the importance of sleep. Yes, that. Sleep. I recall complaining and being upset about not getting to push my very early curfew back as a teen. I won’t say how ridiculously early it was, I was not the parent back then.
The need to get good sleep has stayed with me since. Today, thanks to being a parent, on top of having a career, getting full hours of sleep is very challenging. Try managing four very young children, adulthood, and a budding writing career. Sleep becomes a rare treasure you’re constantly hunting for and all too frequently misplacing.
Many supermoms have asked how is it that I can participate in all of this and not drink copious amounts of energy drinks and coffee. My secret? I give up a lot of luxuries to get a little sleep. That simple.
Why? The thought of depending on caffeine to function does not appeal to me for a number of reasons. In full disclosure, before deciding to part ways with caffeine, I did experiment a little with energy drinks to get through college. That’s where I decided this was not for me. I don’t like the crash from it. I don’t like the jitters from it. It’s not for me.
What Am I giving up?
At the time of writing this post, there are a few things on Netflix I’ve been itching to see. Last night, there was time to watch a show. However, there was a choice to make. The children were all off to bed at a good time and my wife wanted to speak with me. Do I brush her off and watch Netflix or do I chat with her? Do I decide I need sleep more than Netflix and/or a chat with my wife?
In this particular instance, I voted for a chat with my wife because that’s in alignment with my values. I want a good relationship for as long as I live. Other nights, when things just lined up right, I voted for sleep, because I rather be functional and alert than zombified and drowsy the next day.
At this current stage of life, I wake up very early and go to bed later than I care for. That’s middle age for many. I’ve had to slow down on activities, social and entertainment, that made getting sleep less likely.
What I’ve gained is a better rested mind in the morning. I can wake up early and start my day fresh. OK, not eight hours of sleep fresh, but close enough. I push and plow through any of my demanding days without thinking about a pick-me-up shot of caffeine. Day in and day out.
What’s the secret? It’s too simple to be believed. I purposely plan weekly recovery nights to go to bed early. As in before 10pm. Usually 9:15pm. This can happen once or twice a week. It’s not easy, but most necessary. If not, I become depleted and need a boost… which I try not to drink.
Context is everything. I can easily say I go to bed early and skip out the detail of what time I wake up. That makes all the difference in the world. I envy those who can wake up at 7am or later. I don’t have that luxury. I’m usually up before 5am every single day of the year with near zero exception. Why? I’m a dad of very young children who love to wake up early. (not to mention a long morning commute to work that requires an early start)
note: Thanks to my dear wife, there are days, like a Sunday, when I can go back to bed around 7am and sleep in to 8am–830am… after the early rise. Without her, I’d not have that luxury at all.
My craziest days have me going to bed between 11pm-midnight and up a little after 4am. Those are the days when I’m helping with night feedings and I have pressing work deadlines that need to be done… or I have a sick child. (one of my children had me going to bed at midnight and up before 3am while they were nursing… oh those lovely days)
Clearly, I’m team quality sleep over quantity sleep at this stage of my life. For the record, I’m actively pushing to move my life to a point where I do get eight hours of sleep nightly. That’s the mission, the goal. For health reasons. I’m getting there slowly.
Which brings back the point, how do I manage to do this without coffee?
Quality is the key
Most people have a 90min sleep cycle. Getting to sleep and waking up such that one gets a complete set of sleep cycles is the key. I watch the clock and adjust my go-tobed time so that I’m at the end of a complete sleep cycle when I have to wake up. This allows me to often wake up without an alarm clock despite not getting eight hours of sleep. (I do not recommend you get less than eight hours of sleep by the way)
If I get the timing off, I feel like I got run over by a train, you know that dreadful life sucks feeling most people experience too often on Monday morning.
When I’m blessed to get a nap in, yes I do nap a few times a month, it’s the same principle. Only difference is I’ll either get 30 min or 60 min nap. I don’t do other intervals, as it means I’m getting up at the wrong time of the sleep cycle and get into that horrible post nap grog.
Don’t want to skip over the fact that I do darken my room best I can, I don’t have any television playing in my room, and I don’t listen to music in my room. All these things, to me, have distracted my sleep. Sometimes I leave my phone out of my room to avoid being remotely distracted by the fact it might beep or buzz.
note whatever emergency that might come up at night is probably best handled by emergency medical personnel instead of me… so calling me in the middle of the night won’t help you much… which is why I can keep my phone out of my room and not feel bad. Yes, I know some say… what if there is a fire… I’m too busy trying to get out to worry about my phone in that case.
I’m not perfect, but in conclusion…
Everyone has to do what they need to do to function. Some rely on coffee. Because I’ve opted not to use coffee, I had to get back to the fundamentals of sleep. I had to sleep smarter. (By the way, that’s the name of a book on sleep by Shawn Stevenson… Sleep Smarter). By improving the quality of my sleep, I’m able to participate better in the joys of parenting four active little ones. I’m able to be alert in my Monday morning meetings at work. I’m able to work on my book, work on my blogs, and learn new things along the way.
Sure. I have a boring social life. Sure. I don’t know the latest whatever that is going on via television or movies. However, that’s the choice I had to make to ensure I get some sleep to upkeep what is important to me.
Sleep deprivation is serious. It’s like walking through life drunk… or so the propaganda teaches. I don’t like living in a perpetual fog. Been there, done that. It is horrible.
If you’re going the route of coffee… keep in mind that it’s health benefits are best felt if one consumes coffee in moderation and in the first half of the day. That way, the effects can pass through your system and be clear of it in time for your bedtime… that way you can actually sleep restfully.
This topic is interesting enough that I’d like to blog more about it. However, I don’t want to bore anyone on me geeking out on this. If you’d like me to continue… let me know by clicking like or commenting below. The science of sleep is fascinating.
By the way, creativity thrives when you’re rested. For my photographer buddies and fellow writers… take notes… lol
Until next time, have a fabulous motivated Monday. If you need to grab another cup, just to get through, I’m not mad at you. We all need to get the ball rolling to have a fabulous week on purpose.
Cheers to a great week