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  • Writer's pictureEric Knabel

Thoughts From Six Feet Away: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead!

Before I get into this week’s "cheat code," a few random thoughts:

Some prefer to sit in the dark and criticize those who turn on the lights.

I would curse a lot less if there were fewer Priuses on the road.

If you want to hear crazy medical advice, just sit in a health club locker room and wait for the magic. I’ve heard everything from which PEDs to take to the best crafted bar soap, and that was just in the past week.

I’m beginning to think that animal toys are nothing more than rejected ideas for adult sex toys. Check out the dog toy section at Target, if you don’t believe me.

The app that I used for mindfulness and meditation canceled my subscription without warning last week. It seems counterintuitive to be pissed off at them, but here we are.

I walked into a room with a new patient last week, to find him sitting on the exam table, with the head raised all the way, resting his feet in the stirrups. When I asked him what he was doing, his response to me was, “It’s America, and I thought ‘why not?’”

Don’t say the words “chest” and “pain” to me in the same sentence and not expect me to make a fuss.

Is good restaurant service even a reasonable expectation at this point?

If you're going to be a jerk at an opposing team's arena, you should stay for the end and take your medicine if your team loses.

There's a reason why you've never heard of a flock of eagles.

Older people text like they're sending a telegram. "Went to the store early today." Stop. "Worried it's going to snow tonight." Stop.

A colleague of mine, fresh out of residency, just got her first gift from a patient. It was a poorly carved wooden penis and testicles. Not exactly a career highlight so far.


All right, in all seriousness here, I’ve been looking at the topics I’ve written down in my series of “cheat codes for life,” debating which one I wanted to cover next. After much searching, I’ve decided to discuss the topic that has been most painful for me, and the hardest to implement. In fact, I would still say I struggle with this one. Today’s topic? Retire “sleeping in.”

Some of you are already clicking off this post, debating whether or not you’ll ever read another damn word I have to say. We love our sleep, don’t we? It’s the biggest thing we lose when it comes to our careers, the number one reason we have to set an alarm. Outside of the free time, it may be the thing we look forward to the most about retirement. It’s certainly one of the reasons we look forward to the weekend!

When we’re teenagers, we sleep like death. It used to be a source of pride for me to sleep past noon, trying to see how long I could remain in bed. But then something happened when I got to college…whether it be pulling “all-nighters” or partying on the weekends, we suddenly found ourselves bragging about how long we could stay awake. My friend Ron and I used to have epic contests to see how long we could go, with him loudly proclaiming more than once, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Foolish souls, we were, because before long, we were parlaying these prolonged periods of wakefulness into our jobs, and before we knew it, our ability to “sleep until we’re done” was wrested from our metaphorical hands. I spent a majority of my thirties wishing I could sleep more, especially with young children wired to wake up at 6am.

As the kids got older, they began to sleep later. And later. And later. At long last, the cries of “Man, I can’t wait to sleep in this weekend!” were about to come to fruition. Finally, a moment to cash in on all those lost hours. And then, something cruel happened. Turns out that a fella my age doesn’t like prolonged periods of immobility. Against all odds, I’ve discovered that I can now injure myself sleeping. And men have the additional blessing of a thing called the prostate gland, that will awaken you to urinate at the ungodliest of times. My circumstances forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with sleep, and I’ve come up with some discoveries.

Let’s pretend that the pain isn’t there in the morning. When I’ve been able to sleep until ten or eleven (that constitutes “sleeping in” to me), I feel “off” the entire day. I get less accomplished, and with it comes the psychological pain of remorse. With aging, I’ve become keenly aware of the finite nature of my days on this rock, and I no longer feel the luxury of wasting my days. I’ve grown to love a nice breakfast when I wake up, rather than the greasy eggs at the local Denny’s at 4am, BEFORE going to bed.

Then came the biggest moment of my struggle, actually getting up early enough to get in my physical activity before work. Anyone that has known me longer than a few years knows what an epic struggle this could be. But you know what happens? After a couple of days, you begin to feel rejuvenated and more productive throughout the day. I then have more time to have fun with the rest of my day, knowing I’ve already had time to exercise before work. On the weekends, getting up early allows for the chores to get done, leaving the rest of the day for enjoying that game, that family time, or whatever else you do with your down time.

I’ve rambled enough. Bottom line is, and I say this as a recovering oversleeper: get up earlier, even on the weekend, when you don’t have to. Spend those moments getting things done. This is especially important to those out there who get to the end of their day and lament that there “aren’t enough hours in the day.” There are enough, you were just sleeping during some of them.

At any rate, I hope this helps. Next time, I’ve decided to take a momentary break and have some fun with something I’ve been thinking about for a while. For those who are reading that love all things related to the 80s, you’re not going to want to miss it. It will be fun and interactive. Until then, be excellent to each other, and…

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