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Posts Tagged ‘habits’

Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.
Ambrose Bierce

At the moment, I have a bit of a headache from not sleeping enough and not drinking enough fluids. Going to bed without drinking a few pints of water would spell a disaster for tomorrow morning, so I’ll down a pot of green tea and put my bedtime problem through the experiential learning cycle.

Remember the steps? There are four:

  • Action that leads to Experience;
  • Reflection;
  • Analysis;
  • and New Action based on that analysis.

For the purposes of this investigation, I’ll be looking at the habitual action of not getting to bed early enough.

Background information

As you might have deduced, our daughter is nearing her first birthday. This also means I am nearing the one-year anniversary of my last eight-hour stretch of sleep. Or even four-hour stretch. Yeah, she has plenty of wonderful skills and traits but sleeping through the night has never been on that list.

We cosleep, and she still wakes up a few times each night. As she is currently learning to walk, she often wakes up in a crouching or seated position, wondering how the heck she ended up there, and it’s my task to ease her back to sleep. That takes a bit of cognitive effort, so I’m constantly waking up and drifting back to sleep again.

Suffice to say that I live for Saturday mornings – the one day during the week when hubby takes care of our daughter’s morning routine and breakfast, and I get to put on earplugs and drift off to sleep for a few uninterrupted hours.

With that level of  sleep deprivation, you’d think I’d be jumping at the slightest chance to sleep some more. And indeed, every single morning I decide to go to bed early that night. And then every single night I curse at myself for getting to bed at midnight.

This calls for some investigation!

Action / Experience

We used to have a “laptops and TV off at 10 pm” rule in our household. At one point, it worked like a charm. Then something happened – it might actually have been the baby’s arrival – that totally wrecked and destroyed that beautiful rule. Mentally, I still make a note when the clock hits 10 pm. I just don’t act on it.

One of the reasons I dropped message boards for Lent is the sheer amount of time I was spending on them, most of it at night. Now, though, as I don’t read the boards, I’m doing something else. Like reading IttyBiz archives (as well as the comment threads!), Facebook-chatting or Skype-ing (Skyping? I never know) with friends, or watching TV and doing crafts.

A few nights ago, I caught myself at eleven thirty on the couch, watching an interview episode of The Real Housewives of NY. Yes, seriously. I’ve never watched the show, and I didn’t really know why I was interested in the interview, but there you have it.

Reflection

How would you describe the situation in a sentence?

I stay up too late reading or watching TV even though I know I would be better off going to sleep.

What seems good about the situation?

I get me-time, a precious commodity when you’re responsible for the baby most of the day. I learn a lot, I get to observe interesting conversations taking place (or having taken place), I get to do something that feeds my intellect.

What seems bad about the situation?

I don’t sleep enough, which isn’t really helping with the brain-work I have to do during the day. I drink too much coffee, which might be a contributing factor in the whole staying-up-too-late cycle. I get frustrated every time I notice I’ve missed my bedtime, and sometimes I unfairly take it out on my husband.

I don’t have much of an evening routine, so stuff that needs to be done before bed gets put off until the last possible minute, and then I’m putting away the dishes when I really want to be sleeping already.

What feelings do you have about the situation?

I feel annoyed at myself for not being able to just stick to the bedtime.

I feel deprived at the thought of going to bed earlier, because that would limit my me-time significantly, as I spend the baby’s nap times working.

I feel frustrated by the whole situation.

I feel worried that if I don’t find a solution to the situation, my mental and physical health will suffer.

I feel guilty about indulging in reading and stuff when I should be sleeping.

I feel annoyed at the dishes that don’t make it to the dishwasher by themselves.

I feel disappointed that my routines have been shot after the baby’s birth.

I feel a need to push myself through this situation and not allow myself the space to let it simmer.

Analysis

Is there something you’ve experienced before in the situation?

I’ve done the whole staying-up-till-midnight thing a lot, especially if I find something interesting to dive into. I’ve had books that I can’t stop reading, and instead of the “few pages before bed” I devour half of the book and get to sleep at two thirty.

The element of pushing myself through a situation, whipping myself into shape, and then getting annoyed when it doesn’t work, is a very familiar one too.

And the guilt about doing something that is purely for me (i.e. reading blogs or message boards, watching fluff on TV) when I should be doing something that benefits the greater good (i.e. sleeping to be a better mom and wife tomorrow) hits me whenever I need a break. I often have to consciously remind myself to take a break, only in this situation I’m actually hurting myself more by indulging than by sticking to the plan.

Are there common denominators in the elements of the situation?

Most of the stuff I do instead of sleeping are, in some way or form, imitations of social interaction. The message boards, the Facebook chat, blogs, even lousy reality TV – all of them share the element of social context.

They are also something that I do as an end in themselves, not as a means to some other end. Okay, maybe reading IttyBiz is a long-term investment into my future business, but it’s not like I’m actually learning anything with this sleep-deprived Swiss cheese brain.

Furthermore, they’re all mental activities, instead of physical ones. I’m relaxing by zoning out inside my head, instead of doing yoga or stretches or something else.

What seems important in the situation?

There’s the element of me-time and social context that jump out.

This has something to do with my search for identity. Somehow I seem to need reassurance that I still am an intelligent person who is able to think, learn and communicate. I seem to need space for my own thoughts about me and the world to percolate through what others think.

The social context is also important. My day-to-day social activities are so different from what they used to be that there is a deficit, a need that is not met.

Relaxation is also important. Sleep could bring that relaxation, but sleep is unconscious me-time. I seem to be looking for a sense that I am not just a mom. If I sleep whenever the baby is sleeping, my only experience of myself would be the mom identity.

Is there an element of some theory in the situation?

The guilt about not sticking to the plan makes me think of a concept I read in the first chapter of Switch – The Elephant and The Rider.

The jist is that the Elephant is our unconscious self that the Rider i.e. the conscious mind must reign in and control. When the Rider uses the right tactics to steer the Elephant, change happens more effortlessly. However, the Rider has to use a lot of energy initially to get the Elephant onto the right path.

At this point, I feel like I’m in a vicious cycle. My Rider doesn’t have the mental energy to keep steering my Elephant onto the path of going to sleep earlier. That lack of mental energy is caused by my lack of sleep. This means that the whole “deciding what happens and then pushing so hard it happens” approach won’t be much use here.

Another theory that comes to mind is the Sidetracked personality type that I learned about from Flylady. Being easily sidetracked, reading blogs or message boards is like quicksand. There’s always another conversation, another post, another link, another interesting topic. Hours upon hours go by without so much as a whisper of “hey, d’ya think maybe it’s time to do something else?”

Can you think of a recommendation for New Action?

Identity. Social context. Relaxation.

The first two needs do have to be addressed, but I have a feeling that the third one could be the ticket to try next, since it’s what I’m looking for after we’ve put the baby to bed.

If reading stuff online is out of the question (see the part about easily sidetracked and quicksand), I might try an approach where I don’t open the laptop for any reason whatsoever after 10 pm.

Also, if it’s relaxation I’m looking for, I might try to incorporate stretching, yoga or other calming physical activity into the last few hours of the night. The transition from yoga to evening routine might be gentler than trying to tear myself from an interesting (pseudo)social situation.

New Action

  • Laptop and TV off at 10 pm, if not earlier.
  • Stretch or do yoga around 10pm, possibly while watching TV (before 10 pm, that is).

I’ll see how this works out and keep you posted. 🙂

Any thoughts or comments on bedtimes, the Experiential cycle, relaxation or sleep deprivation? 😉 You’re welcome to share in the comments. Any thoughts on addressing the issues of identity and social circle are also welcome, although I do reserve the right to not take action on any advice on the matter.

Thank you so much for reading! I’ll sip up the rest of my tea and get some stretches in before bed. If you want to hear how things progress, subscribe to the feed! Oh, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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