About 7 months ago I walked away from a 25-year TV weather career. During the final days, I posted 20 lessons I’d learned throughout my years in broadcast meteorology. In case you missed them on Facebook or LinkedIn, here is # 2. (All 20 can be found on my website’s main blog page. Scroll through the posts to see which topics interest you).
- SLEEP IS *NOT* OVERRATED
I overslept and missed part of a newscast only one time in my entire career. It was before smartphones, and the batteries in my pager had died! I woke up in a panic realizing the news had started 30 minutes prior. There was a mad dash and a lot of apologies to co-workers who had covered for me. Working an early morning schedule, waking up in the middle of the night, is not normal and your body really never gets used to it. People often asked what my secret was to waking up early and keeping the dark circles from under my eyes. There’s only one cure: sleep. Regular, consistent sleep was the only thing that cured my brain fog, faded dark circles and under-eye bags, increased my energy, and sustained my healthy immune system.
When people discovered I woke up at 2 AM for work, their first response was always one of surprise. Even though they knew the news started at 4:30 AM, and they probably understood that a lot of preparation went into it, it didn’t cross their mind that I had to get up so early. Once the realization hit, the next comment was almost always, “Oh, but you must be used to it by now.”
Nope. I never got used to it. It didn’t get easier. My body didn’t adjust. I was just tired. All the time. I lived with a sort of fog over my life, and that was the part I learned to live with. Maybe.
Depends on the day you asked.
It also got harder the older I got. Of course, it didn’t help that every time I turned around, I saw another article about how sleep deprivation was killing me. Study after study shows that lack of sleep, or shift work with abnormal sleeping hours, causes heart disease, high blood pressure, risk of stroke, hypertension, mood swings…the list goes on and on.
When people said to me, “I don’t know how you do it!” my answer was always the same: “One day at a time.”
The truth is, I never got used to waking up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. I learned to deal with it. I certainly contemplated finding another job with a different schedule, but in the meantime, I resigned myself to feeling tired all the time, and constantly feeling just a little bit “off” my game. I like to think I learned to function on less sleep, and I learned to keep myself healthy (at least on the surface) despite abnormal sleep.
Anyone who has ever worked this kind of shift “gets it.” And those who haven’t, don’t.
They might try to sympathize, but until you wake up every day in the middle of the night, and get an average of 5-6 hours of sleep (when you really need 7-8) you just don’t understand.
I once had a boss tell me that they didn’t think it was a burden to ask me to work 10-12 hour days on a regular basis because they “did it all the time, too.” But working 10 hours from 8 AM to 6 PM is NOT the same as working 10 hours from 3 AM to 1 PM. The only people who think it’s the same are the ones who have never done it.
There are also people who do fine with only 5 hours of sleep. Those are the people who say, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” or roll their eyes (literally or figuratively) when I mentioned how tired I felt. They are the lucky ones. I’d love to be one of those people who feels like they don’t need sleep. A quick Google search of “sleep is overrated” turns up endless articles that make me feel crazy for craving regular sleep.
Most of the time when I felt crazy, I blamed the sleep deprivation. It was a vicious cycle.
A lot of people make sacrifices for their jobs. Most people make sacrifices for their families. Sometimes the sacrifice is sleep. For many years, the sacrifice was worth it to me. Once it wasn’t, it was time to make a change.
➡️ “Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama
➡️ “Sleep is the best medication.” – Amy Sweezey