I once heard that the definition of vacation was going to bed when you were tired, and waking up when you weren’t.
Now, to be fair, I’ve never been much of a scheduled sleeper, and you might not face the same issues in web publishing, but this is something that comes up now and again… And as I wake up at 11:00 pm on a Friday night I can’t help but take inventory of how working on the web might affect one’s sleeping habits!
Everything on 24/7
Now, I do feel pretty well rested, and if you count up the hours sleeping and waking it adds up to something like a regular cycle. But the timing off it is completely screwed up compared to the rising and setting of the sun. Between not having a time to clock in or clock out, as well as 24/7 access to groceries, entertainment, and artificial light, it can be hard to have any anchor grounding you to traditional schedules.
The TV keeps blaring all night, and with Netflix or Hulu you’ve got access to just about anything you want to watch, on demand, for about $20 a month. If it isn’t there, you can probably find it on Youtube or a torrent site, anyway! Internet social sites and game servers keep buzzing in to the darkest hours of the morning, and any time you realize you’re hungry there are probably two all night grocery stores in a few miles of your desk.
That took how long!?
Disruptions are all too common any time you’re self-employed, as well. When you don’t have a traditional job and regular hours to keep – yet there’s work that needs to be done – it isn’t uncommon to work away all day and night just to complete your task when the sun comes up. When you’re learning to approach a new challenge and you’ve got momentum, it can be hard to remember to stop and take a rest every once in a while. Suddenly though, the problem is gone, but the birds are chirping and your brain is screaming for bed! It is a satisfying sleep when it does finally arrive, but it could end up throwing your whole week off a normal rotation.
The biggest problem of a screwed up schedule is when you want to just spend some time with people! My situation works out pretty well, because if anything I tend to go to bed around the time my fiance heads to work and school, then I wake up for dinner and get some of my own work down when she gets to sleep. This also helps me avoid getting rolled out of bed for snoring too loud! As an added bonus, I can rack up some points by having hot tea ready when she wakes, or frying up a hearty breakfast. If it is a day off, waking up around sundown isn’t too early to hit the bars, either!
Of course, you can get a lot of forms of socialization online, as well. The web is and always has been a form of social media, after all! Facebook, Myspace, Reddit, Twitter, Digg – there are hundreds if not thousands of websites where you can meet and interact with people at any hour of the day. Who knows? It might been noon where they live anyway.
Now, online socialization might be better than nothing but it isn’t a great substitute for actually seeing and hanging out with people. This can be particularly tough in a new town, or a small town, and I’m feeling that quite accurately right now as I’ve recently moved to the middle of nowhere. So it has been extra important to make the effort to find Meetup.com groups, and make some time to hit the local bars and meet some random people.
Why is socialization important? Well, sociologists and psychologists are discovering that friendship is the real key to happiness. Money is nice, but if you don’t have people you care about to share your stuff and experiences with, you’re unlikely to really respond well to questions about how happy you are. So even if you can make all kinds of cash without ever leaving your desk, don’t forget to step away for a while and invest in some party-time!
Or just the weather
Sometimes the weather is all it takes to influence a sleep schedule. A big thunderstorm or cold front might make the idea of heading to bed all the more tempting. On the other side of that coin – we’ve also got central heating and the office will still be a nice 70 when it is 15 and windy outside. So we’ve got a lot of influence on our environment… or we can let our environment influence us. My internal chronometer still hasn’t decided, but I definitely noticed a sort of hibernation mode when the weather forecast between 12 and 30 degrees for a few days.
A weird world…
If and when you move beyond the traditional sleep schedule, it can be a strange and weird place in a lot of ways. There are also advantages that can be found like short lines at Walmart or avoid traffic delays, but there are also some practical concerns.
While some biologists claim that novel behaviors like nocturnal adaptation are a sign of intelligence – and indeed, how much intelligence goes in to street lights? There are also health concerns that are unknown and a little bit unsettling. People working a graveyard shift so higher all-cause mortality, but the exact causes of that correlation are poorly understood. A lack of sunlight might cause vitamin D deficiency; people on graveyard shifts might be more vulnerable to violent crimes at the early hours of the night; or a lack of social cohesion in their lives can lead to a complex of isolation and declining general health. It is a good idea to be mindful of these things, and take general steps like eating fresh foods and getting some moderate amount of regular exercise…