I don’t own a television (TV), but my biggest frenemy is this power-couple: the computer and internet—let’s call them “Computernet.” Not to ridicule Tom and Rita, Will and Jada, or Luke and Laura, but Computernet proves far more capable of reaching and hypnotizing an exponentially larger audience.
2AM?! In a daze, I would wash up and head for bed not knowing what had just happened. Where did my hours go, from 8PM to 2AM? Yeah, YouTube and Netflix happened. And what for? Why did I sacrifice sleep for mindless TV-watching? And it wasn’t as if I had fully enjoyed every moment or found any moment particularly memorable. Gone are the days when we would anticipate an episode for a week, while we let last week’s juicy moments simmer in our minds.
These days, streaming websites embody on-demand television. No funds for a TV or DVD player? Not a worry, the internet to the rescue! With so many quality options at an inexpensive rate, Netflix caters to every palate. And YouTube (YT), filled with free informative short clips, aims to blow your mind. Unless, of course, you’re viewing that infamous cat video. Oh, wait, which one? While I never understood the hype over said clip, YT contains so much comedy gold and fun gems that I can’t resist clicking on the next “Related” video. And to pair those with some late-night snacks and a refreshing beverage? Heavenly.
Figure Out Your Why
Television is enjoyable because it is a passive form of entertainment. It produces just enough adrenaline, laughter, and heart to lure you back for more. “Am I wasting my life away?” I would find myself asking the next day. Stay up late to watch TV. Sleep. Work. Repeat. This quickly turned into a decapitating cycle. Months passed by and I asked, “Wait, what about all those goals I had planned for this year? I could’ve done something more productive to further my goals.”
Studies recommend that sleep comprise 1/3 of our daily lives. If so, why is it so difficult to convince ourselves to go to sleep? In my case, one more episode quickly turns into five. You can set all the sleep reminders you want, but when you don’t have the self-control to set boundaries, then you are as good as doing nothing. Setting the intention, but not showing up is ineffective, which is to say planning is important, but nothing gets delivered without action.
Often, while I’m watching something, I lose myself. After all, it’s easy, comfortable, satisfying, and strangely relaxing yet stimulating. Why would I ever want to get out of that happy, lazy zone? I quickly forget the importance of sleep. I forget the promise I had made earlier that day to go to bed earlier. “Eh, 30 more minutes wouldn’t hurt,” I’d reassure myself, “Surely, it’ll be okay. I can still get up on time. I’ll just drink more coffee tomorrow.” But like other disastrous addictions, the effects usually don’t hit until the next morning. My mind turns hazy, brain fried, mood apathetic, work subpar or mediocre at best, while every inch of my body lacks energy.
Then you start to form excuses, “I feel exhausted, I guess I’ll eat more today to gather energy,” or “Ugh, I feel drained, maybe I’ll skip that workout or just eat out again.” But you start feeding excuses with more excuses, until it festers into this massive ulcer of procrastination set to ruin your life. “Oh, I’ll do it when I’m less tired with a fresher mind.” What! When will that be? If you continue to lead this lifestyle, you’ll continue to get nothing done; if you postpone your sleep just to watch how effectively television-makers live their lives, you’re wasting your own.
To get a better grasp of the situation, I tracked my sleeping habits for a month, and discovered a need to shift up my sleep schedule by 4 hours. Of course, to many, this is common sense: JUST GO TO BED EARLIER! Sadly, it wasn’t until I clearly mapped it out that I could let go of my self-fed BS.
Construct a Plan & Stick to It
1. Decide to prioritize sleep.
“Sleep is free!” My Mom reminded me after I had revealed my resolution, “Reap all the benefits you possibly can.”
This step is extremely important. Because when the time comes, you’ll find yourself creatively weaseling out with any sliver of opportunity; at that moment, nothing will seem as attractive as the activity you’re undertaking, especially not sleep. So, put yourself on the hook before you even begin to fabricate excuses. Deciding to make sleep a priority will negate all the hedging. There’s no questioning—you just do it. Remember, showing up for a good night sleep is as important as showing up to work on time.
Mom: Sleep is free!
2. Figure out for what you sacrifice your sleep, and say NO!
If it’s your TV, phone, tablet… Turn it off! If it’s your friends… It’s okay to honestly say you’re working to improve your sleep schedule. If it’s Facebook, feel free to delete your account. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Huh, too far? Ha!
In my case, I stopped bringing my computer home from work. At 9:30PM, I would get in bed and unwind, by instead reading a book or listening to a podcast on low volume.
Remember, you want to thrive, not merely survive.
3. Identify the trade-off(s) for maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
I concluded that my goal for getting more sleep would be to achieve:
- Clear Skin
- Strong Immune System
- Effective Weight Loss
- Clarity in Thoughts & Decisions
- Productivity & Efficiency at Work
- A Regular Lifestyle
…and be my best risinglaughter self. Give yourself the satisfaction that this drastic life change is purposeful.
4. Complete your night routine by 9:15PM.
Wash up. Put on your sleepwear. Don’t half-ass it. Prepare for a state of full relaxation.
5. Set your alarm for 8 hours later.
Your goal is to adjust your biological clock, such that your body naturally wakes up at the same time each day. And studies have shown that 7-8 hours of sleep is required for a good night sleep.
6. Figure out what you want to eat for breakfast tomorrow.
This helps generate excitement for the next morning.
First of all, to wake and be rested. Number one, let’s just start with that.
– Sarah Jessica Parker
Your daily habits, behavior, and activities establish who you are. You don’t want to show up every day fatigued and grumpy. You want to feel refreshed and energetic—excited to tackle each day’s tasks. Sleep is your friend. As Sarah Jessica Parker puts it on Jerry Seinfield’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, “First of all, to wake and be rested. Number one, let’s just start with that,” when asked to describe her idea of a perfect morning.