Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.