For everyone who thinks the days of not getting enough sleep suddenly disappear when you hit financial independence, well I’ve got some news to share — They don’t disappear.
When you finally hit your FI number, and leave that 8AM-to-6PM job, the days don’t get any longer.
Instead of filling your time with work, those hours get filled with all kinds of “other stuff”. Maybe you do the grocery shopping (it’s faster in the middle of the day), travel, or work on personal projects.
Regardless of how you do it, the hours still get filled. The main difference is YOU control those hours instead of you boss. YOU decide when to wake up, WHAT to do, and WHEN to sleep.
And sleep is what today’s post is all about.
After more than a year of financial independence, I can honestly admit that I suck at sleeping, and I don’t have a job I can blame anymore.
Terrible At Sleeping
OK I admit it, I’m terrible at sleeping. I almost feel like this could be part 2 of my post about making mistakes, because this is a giant mistake in my life.
I’m just not a good sleeper. I’m not alone in this problem either. Roughly 40% of adults and 70% of teens in the United States don’t get enough sleep, according to some studies.
For me, it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a night person. If I head to bed at a reasonable hour, I have the hardest time falling asleep.
I end up lying there with my mind active and busy….wanting to be active, busy, and doing something else besides being in bed.
So instead of heading to bed at a reasonable hour, I usually end up reading late into the night, or writing posts for this blog. Eventually when I’m way too tired, I’ll crawl into bed hoping to finally fall asleep. Only it doesn’t end there.
Our youngest child, isn’t quite 2 years old yet and he doesn’t sleep through the night. Almost every night, he wakes up at 4AM or 5AM and wants help getting back to sleep. Since I’m not working, this job usually ends up falling on my shoulders…
I end up exhausted the next day. Let’s just say I don’t exactly spring out of bed in the morning with gusto and enthusiasm.
Thank goodness for mid-day naps, eh?
Only naps don’t entirely cut the mustard. I neglect my sleep hygiene in favor of “getting stuff done”, and it’s a terrible habit I need to break. I’m hurting my health by not sleeping enough, and I’m frequently exhausted… That’s not a good way to live.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can be linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other issues. Clearly I don’t want to develop any of those problems, so my sleep habits really need to change.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. I’m usually lucky if I get half of that (4 to 5 hours per night). Terrible, right?
But changing long held habits is hard. Really hard.
Old habits are like gravity. With effort, we can escape the gravity well for a moment, but the minute we slack-off gravity begins its pull again.
Bad habits are like that. There’s something about our personalities or lifestyles that pulls us back into these old habits. Many people try to change their lifestyle by making New Year’s resolutions, but they fail miserably after a couple months and revert back to the same old habits.
Gravity continues its pull.
So what am I going to do about it? Be a slacker and not even try? Hardly. That’s just not my style.
In physics, the way to counteract the pull of gravity is an equal (or greater) opposing force. In my own life, I need a pull into the opposite (healthy) direction. But how do I do that?
I’ve tried and failed at this numerous times already, so willpower alone just isn’t enough for me.
What I think I need is a system to keep me accountable, and a way record my successes and failures at meeting my goal.
Hmm…that sounds a lot like a tool people already use to keep track of finances. A budget? Only for sleep.
The main difference between budgeting for sleep and budgeting for finances is that the total hours slept isn’t as important as daily sleep hygiene. I can’t skip sleeping one day only to sleep 50% more the next day. That’s just not good sleep hygiene.
Instead what I need to do is keep track of my successes and failures on a daily basis and report it regularily (to keep myself honest). It’s more like a scorecard than a budget.
So here’s what I’ll do — I’m going to start this little sleep experiment with a scorecard to see if I can do better.
Starting on the first of March, I’m going to keep a “sleep scorecard”.
Each day I’m going to record my successes and failures at hitting my sleep hygiene ideals:
- Sleep a minimum of 7 hours.
- Get to bed by 1AM (or earlier) every single day.
If I manage to achieve these daily goals, I’ll call it a “good sleep” night and mark it down as a positive on my sleep scorecard. If I mess up and don’t meet these goals, I’ll mark down as a negative.
I’ll record this all in a spreadsheet, and then report the results in my regular monthly reports. (Yes, I am a numbers geek.)
I don’t actually believe I’ll do well at this to start. Maybe the first month I’ll only get a 70% score (70% of days being “good sleep” nights).
Over the remainder of the year, my goal is to improve my “sleep score” significantly. By the end of the year I’d like to have racked up several months of 90% to 100% scores.
(Ha! Look at me being optimistic!)
I consider this a big experiment. I have no idea how I’ll do, but I know that my bad sleeping habits need to change. It’s not healthy long term, and I want to be able to enjoy my life of financial independence, not spend it in hospital bed.
So this is a first easy step. Keep track of my sleep, and try to keep myself accountable by posting the results here.
Maybe that won’t be enough, but I am optimistic.
Financial independence gave me a giant dose of optimism about life after I left work. Life can be better. It did get better.
It also means I can make changes that have a real impact on my life. Life isn’t just a revolving door of days up until death. Change is entirely possible for those willing to put in the effort.