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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

3 Excuses You Make for Not Getting Enough Sleep (and Why They're All Wrong)

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I’m the queen of blaming everyone but myself for not sleeping enough: My mom called and kept me up late chatting, that extra coffee trip with a co-worker at 4 PM made falling asleep impossible, that one episode turned into five because the plot just kept getting better.

But the truth is, I have all the control when it comes to my habits. I choose not to listen to the people, studies, and many articles that say you need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. And the reason I do so is because of these three excuses:

1. “I Don’t Get Tired Until Late”

I’m a night owl, not necessarily because I’m more productive late at night, but because my college years forever trained my body that midnight is “just too early” to go to bed.

So, I’ll spend those early AM hours cleaning my apartment, or meal-prepping, or doing any little thing I can squeeze in before I finally get “tired” enough for sleep (read: downright exhausted).

Wanting to stay up late isn’t a bad thing. Hey, if I can get my chores out of the way during the week so my weekend is free, I’ll take it. However, blaming your body for not getting into bed earlier isn’t a good reason to stay up.

Your mind is like a muscle—you have to train it to tire when you want it to. So, rather than encouraging your late-night burst of energy, find ways to help yourself wind down. This could mean swapping out nighttime screen time for reading, or journaling, or meditating—even if you’re not tired.

If getting into your bed earlier is truly unrealistic, you can also take the alternative approach. Get more sleep on the other end—the morning. By laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, and prepping your bag at night, you’ll be able to sleep in a little bit later.

And, if you’re lucky enough to have flex hours, actually take advantage of that by setting your alarm later and staying at work a little bit longer.

2. “I Have Too Much to Do Before Bed”

Sometimes, “too much to do” means you’re dealing with an urgent crisis.

But more often than not, it just means you think you have a lot to do. And I’m here to be your reality check: It won’t be the end of the world if you do it tomorrow. Seriously. You’re only stressing yourself out by trying to do everything all the time, day-in and day-out.

Plus, if you’re “too much to do” has to do with your work inbox, you’re setting the precedent that anyone can reach you and throw something on your plate any time of day. Clarify expectations with your team as to what’s an emergency and then set boundaries as much as possible. (This article on how to ask your boss to stop sending late-night emails will help.)

3. “I Run Better on Less Sleep”

Before you even try to argue with me, this statement is just plain wrong. Plenty of studies out there link more sleep to better memory, more creativity, higher intelligence, higher productivity, and higher success rates.

The same goes for the alternative—getting less sleep negatively affects your brain and body function.

Basically, even if you think you’re the exception to the rule, you’re not—so get more shute ye and you’ll actually be your best work self every day.

Sure, things come up—sometimes your boss needs that report in by midnight, sometimes you have to wake up extra early to prepare for a big meeting, sometimes you really can’t fall asleep.

But on every other day, you owe it to yourself to create a nighttime routine that makes those seven to nine hours a reality, not just a dream.

What excuses do you make for not getting enough Z’s? Let’s chat about it on Twitter!