Sleep(less) training for adults

By Heather Woods

I’ve worked in the media industry for the better part of 8 years now. Entertaining existing and prospective clients is part of nearly any job function – and so is hard work. Ask any media agency, creative agency or publisher employee and they will be quick to point out the long hours, unending email chains and tedious mock changes necessary to make budget each month.

Layer this with the aforementioned entertainment component and you quickly enter a world full of long lunches and alcohol fueled 7-course degustation evenings, followed by corporate card bar hopping, shots and then the inevitable recovery breakfast.

My first four years, when I was younger and called the world my oyster, can pretty much be summarized by the above detail. Right from the word ‘go’ I’d been given a nickname by my clients and with some it was like they were my besties, not clients I was trying to sell something to. We’d spend hours media planning and drinking cocktails, not once stopping for air as we discussed the latest inter-agency or publisher-agency hook-up.

It got to the point where I realized I spent more time hungover than not hungover. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I always seemed to have a monster headache. I found I was often wondering how people with children were more the party animal than I’d even been and still seemed to be kicking goals and functioning at a relatively high standard during the work day. Eventually I saw sense and swapped booze appreciation for board appreciation, focusing all my energy on my work and only going out for the mandatory events.

The second four years became more than the foggy memory of late party nights, I was getting full nights of sleep and generally making more progress. I definitely wasn’t the social butterfly anymore but I was ok with that. I was also older, and noticing that I just didn’t have the stamina or alcohol tolerance to stay out late anymore anyway.

Then I became a parent. I’ve never been someone that copes well with little sleep, but since my daughter was born I understand that it’s part and parcel with the job, so like any change in life, you adjust. Now while I haven’t quite regained my ability to have more than half a glass of wine without becoming a giggling school girl, I have made inroads with getting things done and staying ahead of the proverbial eight-ball on as little as 2 hours sleep.

As an example, take my first day back at work after maternity leave. In the few days leading up to it I had everything organized from what I was going to wear, what my daughter would wear to daycare and pre-made three meals so I didn’t have to think about cooking for the first few nights. My strategy went out the window when I essentially had a sleepless night trying to settle a teething baby. So instead of turning up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was a walking zombie and incredibly disappointed at rejoining the workforce in that fashion. I managed to survive the day, and every sleepless night since has provided a special kind of training that no one tells you exists. Months later and I’m now in the position where, no matter how little sleep I actually had I can easily get through the day, kicking those goals I was so envious of previously.

It’s actually quite satisfying to see the to-do list get shorter and shorter, and have the time to get involved in things the younger me wouldn’t have had the time or brain cells available to do. Needless to say I have big expectations for the next 4 years!


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