The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the average adult should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
For a long time, six to six and a half hours was a pretty typical night for me. I would go to bed at a reasonable time (between 10 and 11), but I would read for a while and then I’m usually awakened by a child around six in the morning.
The child awakening is still ongoing in my life, but today I try to have the lights off by 10.
Why? I make better decisions when I’ve had a full night of sleep. Without that, I tend to spend more money.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.
If I’m not well-rested, I’ll find my defense mechanisms against impulsive buying are much lower. I’ll buy a book on the Kindle, even though I have several books from the library that I’m looking forward to reading. I’ll add some unnecessary things to my cart at the grocery store. These things cost money, and I end up with stuff that I don’t need or even really want that badly.
If I’m not well-rested, I’m not highly productive when working. I’m easily distracted and find myself browsing Twitter or other web sites. I’ll have difficulty coming up with the words I want to use. I’ll just stop at awkward points in my writing and struggle to find the next word or phrase. All of this adds up to low productivity when I’m supposed to be working, and that has a direct financial cost and an impact on the valuable time I get to spend with my family.
If I’m not well-rested, I’m prone to mood swings. I get upset and cranky at things that would not otherwise bother me. This is particularly true when I’m dealing with my kids. When they’ll do something that’s a normal thing for a kid to do – get messy in a mud puddle, for instance – a well-rested Trent deals with it just fine. An unrested Trent responds with crankiness. This impacts professional relationships, personal relationships, and quality of life.
Cutting back on sleep can often feel like a convenient shortcut. There were times in my life, such as my college years, when an all-nighter would provide much more benefit than drawback.
The problem is that I’m not that same kid who could stay up all night in college and still do okay on the 8 AM final. I might gain some productivity by putting off sleep, but I lose so much productivity and focus in the following day or two that it ends up being a net loss.
If I have something important to work on, I’m far better off going to bed, getting a great night of sleep, and tackling it in the morning. I’m more focused and much more able to solve the challenges at hand.
Get a good night’s sleep every night. Over the long run, your life will reward you for it in almost every way.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.