I have been pondering recently what helps me to sleep at night. Or, conversely, what prevents me from sleeping at night. This is different than the calls in the middle of the night or the cell phone buzzing wildly on the nightstand from database or system generated alerts. There are work related stresses and there are stresses unrelated to work that can contribute to how well one sleep’s.
For me, a few things keep me restless through the night. Some of these might be an unsolved problem at work, flood of thoughts just as I am trying to wind down for the night, or even stewing over (contemplating) a particular event of the day. How do I resolve these issues and get past the sleeplessness? I have to do something different for each one. I will discuss in detail, in no particular order, these techniques that work for me (with relative success).
Solve the Problem
It sounds pretty simple and straightforward. It doesn’t matter how complex the issue truly is, I have to reach some level of satisfaction and resolution so that I can rest. I don’t like to leave things undone, unsolved, or at a less than desirable break point. My wife says I am like a dog with a bone about things like that. I like to be able to devote my attention to the moment. If a project or task is left in an undesirable state, I end up being distracted by it’s incompleteness.
Solving the problem can be as painless as jotting down some notes. It can be as painful as not sleeping for a couple of days. Whatever it takes, get your mind at peace with your tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean work tasks. This can apply to personal life tasks as well.
Drain the Brain
When flooded with a deluge of thoughts just as you lay down, (or worse, when you awaken in the middle of the night) – get them out of your head and down on paper. By writing down as many thoughts as I can, I stop thinking about them and rest peacefully. Just braindump out to paper or to the laptop or something. It doesn’t matter what the thoughts are (usually it is a list of things that I need to give more attention to over the coming days), just get them written. By writing out the thoughts, they are less likely to be forgotten. You give yourself an opportunity to relax knowing that there is a plan of attack for each of those thoughts that kept you awake.
This is a technique that I have heard about using since I was in high school. It is something I am told that writers tend to use. I hadn’t realized how useful it was until just a few nights ago. It is something that I have employed from time to time. However, lately I have had a lot more work to do and a lot more projects that tie directly into my time. This particular night, I was somewhat fatigued but very restless. Pages of thoughts came flooding in. I decided that I could either sit there and figure them out, or go and write them out as I have done in the past. Once they were all written down – zonk. Less than five minutes and I was out.
I am throwing this one in because it is sometimes said “I wonder how he sleeps at night.” This is usually in reference to something somebody has done that may seem questionable. Did you say something offensive? Did you really screwup at work? Did you act with respect, honor, and dignity? Was there something left unsaid or said that left you puzzled and needing answers?
When dealing with co-workers, forums, professionals, family and friends, one needs to act and speak with consistency. By keeping the story straight and telling the truth in all scenarios, it helps to sleep at night. If ever found to be at fault for something, owning up to it quickly helps to alleviate stress that may prevent sleep. More than that though, is how you treat your fellow human beings. Treating others how you would prefer to be treated is a great sleep-aid. Apologize when necessary, give credit where credit is due, and treating others with kindness and respect go a long way to a good nights rest.
Work it Out
This one is simple too. I think it ties in well with the others. It is why I am writing this currently. I was thinking about something I wanted to do. That was to write a blog post due to some recent events that made me ponder the topic. So, what am I doing – I am working out this blog post, writing down my thoughts and solving the problem. This one can be equated differently for different scenarios. For me, sometimes it simply means drawing up a more detailed plan/ outline based on the thoughts that have been written. By devising a plan and organizing thoughts into something more meaningful, I am able to assure myself that I have done something positive about the situation.
So why did I want to cover this topic? I have found myself working later into the evenings working on trying to accomplish goals as well as work projects. And then after those late evenings, I sometimes find myself continuing to ponder some of the goals or projects. The worst is dreaming about an unsolved problem at work. I have also been thinking about professional conduct in an online world. These are the kinds of things that can be avoided with a little preparation, forethought, and action.