Only those who take leisurely what the people

of the world are busy about

can be busy about what the people of the world

take leisurely.

CHANG CH’AO

(quote from the opening of The Importance of Living)

I have no reason to lie to you, so I have to admit I read that at least five times before it sunk in.  And it’s not a new way of thinking that you have to prioritize the truly important things in life, which, for most of us, is not our job (unless you’ve managed to find one of those magical jobs where you love what you do so it’s not even really work to you).  If I were to look at my Google calendar right now it would be colorful blocks of classes I need to teach and meetings I need to attend, and yet I teach those classes and go to those meetings so that I’ll have money to pay my cable bill and my mortgage, or buy books, or go to dinner, and yet there are no blocked out times for those things.

Don’t tell her, but I’ve always been impressed by, and occasionally resentful of, my wife, who loves going to dance classes for her fitness regimen. It takes an act of the gods to keep her from her scheduled routine, and that routine brings her great joy.  My resentment only comes when she won’t budge on that routine at all. Instantly some part of me thinks, come on, this is a one time thing, just skip your class and help me out. But why shouldn’t she do that? She is simply prioritizing something she loves, which is something I need to learn to do more frequently (and she will budge if the situation requires it).    

My writing, for instance.  I love to write. I would say that I only ever sleep well after getting a fair amount of writing done.  Why don’t I prioritize that more? I tell myself that I’ll do it in my spare time, but then I also think, well, I’ve got two hours this evening, I can do the laundry, and cook dinner, and walk the dogs during that time, and before I know it, all that time is gone.  I need to block out in colorful Google blocks time to write and then strictly adhere to that schedule. Which is what I’m trying to do, and, what I’m hoping this blog will force me to do.

Downtime, too.  That can’t just be something that hopefully happens at the end of the day.  My downtime should be a part of my schedule. I should plan to do something like watch TV from 7-9, and then read from 9-10:30, and then go to sleep.  And reading that now, I should probably make it more time for reading and less time for TV.

In fact, I should probably prioritize the sleeping part of that more than anything.  I’ve read a few articles lately saying eight hours is the bare minimum humans need to function properly.  I don’t remember the last time I had eight uninterrupted hours of sleep.  You’re supposed to turn off all your screens an hour before bed to limit the amount of light, especially blue light, your eyes are exposed to.  Any light at night will interrupt your melatonin flow, which means you’re brain just won’t shut itself down. That being said, I read on my phone, and I commonly fall asleep watching TV, so this might be a challenge for me.

I think I would have slept well in colonial America, though.  My wife and I visited Washington DC a couple years ago, and we happened into one of the oldest houses in the country.  There were many placards describing what life would have been like back then, and one of them talked about their sleep patterns.  

Basically, they would got to sleep with the setting of the sun, which could have been as early as seven or eight o’clock.  They would then sleep for a few hours, and then, around one in the morning, they would get up and do chores for a couple of hours, and then go back to bed until sunup.  This would work brilliantly for me, as my eyes inevitably spring open around one in the morning, and only through sheer force of will do I manage to fall back to sleep before (usually right before) my alarm goes off.      

My best advice at this point:

  • Try not to sleep on your stomach.  It’s terrible for your spine.
  • If you sleep on your side, try to make it your left side (to avoid acid reflux), and try not to go entirely fetal.  Flexed hips and a flexed trunk push your abdominal contents into your diaphragm, making it harder to breathe properly.
  • If you sleep on your back make sure to invest in a good pillow (that goes for all positions) and maybe put a pillow under your knees to take some stress off your spine.
  • Sleep in any position that is comfortable, it’s more important that you sleep, not how you sleep.
  • Avoid lights.  Even if you get up to use the bathroom, try to do it with the lights off (gents, this might mean taking a seat).
  • One or two drinks help you relax.  Three or more will help you pass out, but that’s not quality sleep, and you’ll wake up tired.  Maybe try some decaf herbal tea instead.
  • And avoid caffeine later in the day.  The older you get, the earlier you’ll have to stop drinking it.  Any coffee past two and I have trouble conking out.
  • Keep the bedroom as cool as you can take it.  
  • Get good at napping.  More and more evidence is showing napping might be the key to a productive day (if you’re into that whole being productive thing).  This is something I’m going to try to get better at.
  • Talk to your doctor.  Because I’m not one.

 

Sweet dreams, friends.

 

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