Make Sleep Your Priority

It took me 12 years and about 10 flats, rooms, and other sleep-damaging living situations to learn this lesson. The chain of causality is simple: If you don’t sleep, you won’t be healthy, and if you’re not healthy, you can’t do anything, least of all enjoy it.

Now, I can’t speak for the people deliberately going out of their way to avoid sleep because I don’t really know what that’s like. Besides the odd stretch of waking up early here and there, I’ve never been able to resist a good snooze, and although I’m not a nap man, I do try my best to get 7-8 hours every night, which seems to be ideal for me.

If you don’t sleep because you can’t, however, that’s a different story. Maybe you’re a light sleeper like me. Maybe you have sleep apnea or another condition. Whatever it is, address it, and do it sooner rather than later.

The older I get, the more I realize how unconducive big cities are to sleep and, frankly, happiness as a whole. The main thing humans do when they get together is make noise.

I’ve lived in flats where neighbors were yelling, flats where people rearranged furniture at odd hours, flats where drunks sang football anthems on the street, flats where people watched TV on full blast at 2 AM, and flats where my neighbor left town for two weeks without turning off his 6 AM alarm.

I have also lived in flats where the snow plow came on at 5 AM every morning, flats where I could hear sirens over 30 times a day, flats where the wind caused a nearby crane to make a horrific alarm sound for two hours straight, flats in front of which people preferred to show off how loud their exhaust system could get, and flats where construction noises where so ever-present, you felt as if you lived on the site itself.

It is either people making noises or people operating (or mis-operating) machines that make noises, and given the great variety of places and locations I have lived in, I now must come to the sad conclusion: It is never the flat that’s the problem – it is the fact that you live in a place where noise is the norm.

I’m sure there are some quiet places, even in a town like Munich, and I swear I’ll try my best to find one. But overall, the main rule for how much quiet you’ll get seems to be how far you can get away from the city center.

Case in point: My parents’ house is in a village of 1,400 souls – and it is sleep heaven. Who knew that putting 1,000 feet between you and every neighbor would help so much? That and the fact that, in a village, people actually sleep at night. When I go there, almost without fail, I wake up to the birds singing after a deep slumber.

I guess I’m just getting old. Then again, even as a 20-year-old I didn’t love it. All the mingling and clubbing and wasting the day away in favor of exploring the city at night. I had more important things to do, and I’m pretty sure you do too.

Sleep is more important than money. If you have to spend more on a place that allows you sleep better, do it. How rested you are before you go to work each day will directly affect how much money you can make. It is much easier to earn the extra money and then some when you’re well-rested than it is to cope with any meaningful workload while sleep-deprived.

Sleep is more important than work. If your boss is making you lose hours, you should probably lose your boss. Any boss in their right mind will tell you to get exactly as much sleep as you need to function at your best. No more, no less. Again: Without proper sleep, you can’t do proper work. That’s the only argument anyone should ever need.

Sleep is more important than making everyone happy. The temptation to stay up to meet this person or that one, to play one more game, to hang with your roommates will always be there, but none of them are worth it the next morning. In fact, when your sleep is impaired, you’ll start resenting them. If you need to cut a bunch of cords to get your sleep life in order, do it. You won’t regret it in the long run.

Sleep is your most important habit. Do yourself a favor and treat it with the respect it deserves.