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Why I Sometimes Choose Living Over Sleeping


I’ll tell you right now, I rarely get enough sleep (assuming “enough” sleep is 8 hours per night). On the average night, I’ll get 5-6 hours of sleep, and sometimes it’s less than that. And It’s not because I can’t sleep – I hardly ever have trouble falling asleep. No, whenever I stay up past my bedtime, I’m usually doing it for a very specific reason…

I don’t know why, but this is how I’ve been for as long as I can remember. Sleep was always a necessity, but never in a very immediate sense. I’ve been willing to forgo sleep in favor of other things for most of my adult life, a practice that (gone unregulated) can cause some serious problems. Poor performance at work, adverse health effects, etc. just to name a few. Why do I do this to myself?

Well, truth be told, I’m something of a romantic (but not in the sense you probably think). Hopefully, after reading this list, you’ll understand what I mean (but don’t worry – I’ll revisit the ‘romantic’ deal again at the end). So, here are the things for which I will happily and readily skip sleep:

  1. Family and Friends – Ok, so this one is a gimmie. If my wife and I are talking or my son has a cold and can’t sleep, I’ll stay up as last as I have to. If a friend needs my help with something (either his computer is busted or his girlfriend is driving him nuts, whatever) – my family and friends are my most important and highest priority, so I never mind when this type of thing comes up.
  2. Good Conversation – This used to happen quite a bit before we starting having kids, but I’ve spent many nights sitting at a bar or coffeehouse or something and have the person working there say something like, “dude, we closed 30 minutes ago – you need to leave”. Or maybe a friend and I will be chatting away about something and I’ll look down at my phone and see 2:00 am staring back at me. Most of the time, I really don’t care when these things happen. Worst case, I’m tired the next day at work. But I’m tired for what I consider to be a very good reason – investing in a relationship or just plain having fun.
  3. Good Book – No matter what book it is, I suddenly shed all sense of adult responsibility when reading something I really like. This is actually one of my fool-proof methods for determining how much I’m enjoying a particular book : would I kiss off a night’s sleep just to finish this? Obviously, the answer is usually no. But sometimes it isn’t and I’m usually happy I skipped the sleep.
  4. Good Idea – For me, designing and writing computer programs is more than just a job. It’s something I did for fun for many years before doing it professionally. So, I still do a good bit of programming in my spare time for odd projects (like Winstikker or the Two Minute Timer). And if I am really on a tear with a particular project, I’ll look up at 1:00am and scoff, barely breaking stride as I type my code at breakneck speeds. These types of situations are fairly infrequent, but they do pop up on occasional and are usually somewhat unexpected.

I guess I just find sleep to be a completely expendable activity (at least, when faced with something more worthwhile). In a weird way, I really celebrate my decidedly irresponsible behavior. Because I know that when I’m 75 with one foot in the grave, I won’t be thinking to myself “Man, I wish I had skipped all those great nights with friends an slept more…”. So, I guess that’s what I mean by ‘romantic’. I like knowing that when given the option between living life and a couple hours sleep, I almost always choose to live life.

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