Sleep on it

I work late. It's perfectly normal for me to be on the phone with people in the U.S. and the U.K. till 4 a.m. multiple nights a week. Sometimes I go to 5 a.m. if I can`t get to sleep, which is rather inconvenient if you have things to do the next day like other meetings or just life stuff. It`s insane, I know, but it`s my reality for the time being. It will change in due time. Anyway, the longer I do this the more I notice some trends. Some bad, some good. Here`s an interesting one that keeps popping up:

Going to sleep immediately after managing or participating in active, intense, and stressful meetings (I call them "hot" meetings) or after dealing with fast breaking issues can lead to some really hairy nightmares. Keep in mind that 9 a.m. in San Francisco is 1 a.m. in Tokyo the next day, so as the Americans are gearing up for action your body in Asia is supposed to be winding down. Over time, this is a jarring experience. Generally, most normal people don't crash immediately after these hot meetings. They drive home. They go for a run. They take a swim. They eat dinner. They play with the kids. They walk in the park. They catch a baseball game. Watch a little TV. They unwind a bit before bed. Whatever. They don't just go from work to bed in 1 minute (and, no, checking our email at nite while watching Leno is not work, sorry).

But what's interesting about this is that when you get through the initial nightmares and get into normal sleep you wake up with a fresh set of ideas about how to solve the problems that buried you in the meeting before you went to sleep -- which was just a few hours earlier! I've never had this experience before, but he pattern is clear. My subconscious mind seems to be working out the details of the problems while it serves up a steady flow if dragons and murders and other such bloody and graphic fun. And when I get up, I have multiple new ideas for dealing with stuff. I now keep a notebook close by so I can jot down whatever comes out immediately upon waking. Those first few moments are critical, though. Once conscious thinking starts, all is lost and you are simply up.
Comments:

Hi Jim,
Though a very painful experience and probably not so healthy having a rather limited and unbalanced sleep schedule can really be a blessing for unconventional solutions. I used to sleep every other day and would develop fantastic solutions to programming problems while I slept; sadly now I try to be more diurnal and my seeming lack of creativity shows. Enjoy the craziness - just don't let it drive you there!

Posted by Clay on August 06, 2009 at 08:38 PM JST #

Found your article too close to home. I have a hobby that keeps my mind from turning off at night. I keep thinking that it will soon catch up to me and bring me at least one good nites sleep. It never does...

Posted by David Freid on August 14, 2009 at 09:40 PM JST #

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