Why 'I'll Sleep When I Die' Is the Worst Slogan Ever

The Slogan

I wouldn't dare attack the veracity of the slogan "I'll sleep when I die." 

I'm just saying it should retire like other similarly true-but-non-sensical statements such as "YOLO" (you do only live once...except if you believe in reincarnation) and "Only God Can Judge Me" (also true technically, but actually ANYONE can judge you and that's still not a reason for you to do whatever you want).

The adage is at best misleading.

I've used it to justify academic all-nighters and non-stop partying/socializing. Even when I wasn't in the midst of multi-day stupors, I'd sleep as a coping response to stress and conflict (it's a thing, I promise!) While sleeping can also be a learned helplessness response, it's not intended as an escape from all of your problems. There's gotta be a middle ground because the way I've described it so far, either you're never sleeping at all or you're going to sleep at the first sign of trouble.

How did we even get here?

I think it's helpful to consider the WHY of it all (my favorite question). Why do we get ourselves into these situations?

Our need to please.

Lack of boundaries and discipline.

Toting exhaustion as a status symbol.

You know exactly what I'm talking about.

You want to be seen as the do it all mom/dad who is the envy of the school/block/office;

the team workhorse; 

the-come-to work-super-early-and-stay-super-late-you-can-call-me-anytime-never-say-no-to-any-projects-that-come-up busybee;

comprag (complain/brag) about how much work you're taking on; the "go-to" girl/guy.

You're tired of being tired but you just won't stop. You keep saying "life is short; I'll sleep when I die." 

In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with any of these aspirations. I think it does take hard work, persistence, consistency, and sacrifice to achieve great things. You have to be a team player and take one for the team sometimes. And it's awesome that you're not content with just blending in or maybe you want to be a rockstar for your family. I’m not knocking that.

I am saying that wearing yourself to the point of exhaustion and not setting boundaries for yourself is unhealthy and end result is usually undesirable. It’s such a short term and uncertain gain; yes, you may dodge or meet that deadline, or tackle that giant project alone, but your underlying motivation to do so, to please others, will always leave you thirsting for appreciation and others' approval. Further, and more practically, a non-stop lifestyle without taking care of yourself and time to sleep is not sustainable in the long term. You'll be burnt out. Performance and relationships suffer. I am telling you from personal experience.

I know what you’re thinking…"Steph, I'm a beast, I can do this! You don't know how my body is made." 

I actually do! Here's the science and it can be downright DANGEROUS:

Breakin it down 

The benefits of sleep:

  • better memory
  • slower aging
  • avoid depression
  • metabolism boosts (growth spurts anyone?)
  • efficient learning
  • promotes proper organ function
  • lower stress levels
  • Need I go on?

The dangers of effectively running on E:

  • slower reaction times
  • less attention to detail
  • heightened emotion (overthinking; blowing things out of proportion)
  •  impaired cognitive performance
  • loss of neurons
  • irreversible physical damage to and loss of brain cells AND
  • your brain could be irreversibly injured

So how do we get things done and still sleep? 

1. Let go of perfectionism...let go of anxiety as a lifestyle...let go of exhaustion as a status symbol. Brene Brown's words straight from Daring Greatly. Attack some of the root of the problem for long lasting change. 

2. Communicate and celebrate. Your desires. Your boundaries. Your progress. Your setbacks. Your real struggles. Your imperfect attempt at being perfect. Learn how to say NO. 

3. Take a nap. Isn't it funny how much you resisted it as a child...and you're doing the same thing now? Give in! You'll retain, perform, and concentrate better...just don't sleep too much. A short guide for how to nap  right HERE. 

4. Discipline required. Start in advance. Be prepared. Set up a schedule. Learn all about productivity HERE. Turn off your electronics at a certain point. Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. Can't trust yourself? Have friend call you. Make a proclamation rather then whispering it. Trust me, there is someone who will step up for you. And if for some reason no one does, I WILL. I promise. Shoot me an email/text/carrier pigeon and I'll hold you accountable. You can work with me too :)

5. Eat well. I'm not a doctor but I know your body needs energy: long lasting, restorative energy. I won't even touch the coffee/energy drink thing for fear of the caffeine stans (I've heard that they're worse than the Beyhive) but there are natural ways to get a boost.

6. Forgive yourself. Sometimes we all lose sight of what's important or maybe have a deadline we just can't miss. Although trying to catch up on your sleep debt doesn't permanently reverse the effects of sleep deprivation, recovery is in order and you'll know what to do next time. Don't beat yourself up.

Do you subscribe to the slogan? Where does that even come from? How can you avoid the negatives of not sleeping? I'd like to hear you sound off in the comments!!