I know many of you reading this post view sleep as a luxury. We have busy lives and many stressors.
- Trying to get on the baby’s sleep schedule
- 3+ kids running around
- Moody tweens and teens
- Going to school full-time and working
- One very demanding job
- Multiple jobs
- Financial issues
The list goes on and I get it. Having enough time to sleep is like seeing a unicorn – it doesn’t exist. You are in extreme demand to do your best, to cater to everyone’s needs, to meet deadlines, and to do more. However, if you don’t sleep, then you’re not going to be able to do your best and everything else that’s on your to-do list.
When I was a student teacher, I wasn’t ready for it. I had to re-learn so much content, prepare lessons, and I had to do assignments for classes as part of the program. In addition, I had 2 jobs, neither of which paid well, but I really like the people I worked with and for, and those jobs didn’t interfere with the hours of student teaching and evening classes.
I usually got around 7 hrs. of sleep on Sunday so I was “awake” on Monday. But on Wednesday, it was affecting me. On all the other nights, after classes, doing assignments, re-learning content, I would stop myself around 11pm, then I would start working one of my jobs to about midnight or 1am, and then wake up at 5:25am. Sometimes, after getting everything ready, I sit down to work only to fall asleep immediately. My boss was easy on deadlines, but I needed to eat, so I had to complete them by a certain date. I would work my second job when I was needed, and it was usually on off days. So not much sleep but plenty to do. By Friday, I was pretty much a dead person walking.
I knew lack of sleep was affecting me tremendously. It wasn’t safe for me to drive (if you sleep less than 5 or 6 hours a night and you drive, it’s like driving under the influence). I was indecisive, where I wasted a lot of time up to the point of the decision. There would be dilemmas or “what’s your opinion on ____?” and I talk around and around and never get anywhere. I said the same things twice or more (like you hear in a certain elected president (proud to write that I did this less when I’m exhausted than when he’s on the campaign trail/talking in general)). I wasn’t articulate and that was what really concerned me. I couldn’t think. I had trouble adding small numbers in my head. When people tell me things, I had to pause to absorb what they said and I would say, “I don’t understand.” One of my giant students, who was a swimmer, got a job at a local golf club as the lifeguard for their pool. He said we was on-duty one day with college students drinking in the pool and committing some tomfoolery – behaviors that weren’t allowed at the pool – and he walked over there to the group and they quickly quieted, intimidated by his size. I went on and on for something about his height, but in retrospect, we had gone over China and I should’ve asked him about Mao’s appeal to the Red Guards – do you like the taste of power? Anyway, It’s like my brain couldn’t process anything, which greatly affected my teaching, communication abilities, and daily life.
After I passed the edTPA and got another job, I had time to sleep, get myself out of depression and extreme states of stress, and I find myself better mentally; I find myself to be OK. I’m not as damaged as I was.
The lesson I want you to get out of this post is to sleep. I know it’s a luxury, especially when new things start in your life, and trying to survive life sometimes. Once you rest, take a step back and see that you are a way better person once you’ve slept enough. As busy as you are, you must accept that something has to give. You can’t be you and do your best when you aren’t giving your body what it needs – sleep to recharge.
If you’re a parent, hire a babysitter or have a relative or two babysit the kids. If you’re overworked, find a company where you can quickly accumulate sick days and vacation. If you don’t have either of those now (I know I don’t), splurge – take a day off without pay to sleep and take care of yourself. Your mental health is more important than you realize and you won’t have the clarity and insight to see it until you get time to reflect. If you’re a student who’s also working, sleep when you can.