Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 25, 2009 9:45 PM

When Do You Sleep?

That is one of the top questions I get asked. Often. It's either that one, or "do you ever sleep?" Same question, different connotation.

My general response is, "I don't work hard, but I do work long." Meaning, I don't consider what I do "hard work," but with travel and my personal lifestyle, I have long (sometimes very long) days. That being said, when I first joined my other business partners at Twist Image, I did make a personal promise to myself that I would go to sleep when I was tired and wake-up without an alarm (meaning whenever it naturally happens). With the exception of when I have a super-early morning flight, I've stayed the course.

But, there's got to be more to it than that...

What prompted this thought was something that Chris Brogan blogged about over here: No - I Don't Sleep. It's a passionate post where he states:

"my head is always racing. I lie in bed thinking about the future, about communications, and about how I can help people do more with their businesses. It's a horrible thing. I wish I thought about world hunger or super powers or beautiful parks in the wilderness. I think about this stuff that I talk about all the time. Another reason why it seems that I don't sleep is that you use your time differently than me. You watch a little TV, and/or you have other pursuits. You do this or that or whatever, and it's not the same as what i do. I make stuff, all the time."

Some of us (and that includes me) might be considered a workaholic... but then again, maybe not.

Bottom line: I love what I do. I'd much prefer to write (or write this Blog post) instead of watching TV or a movie. I find peace and solace in putting my thoughts out there. It's comforting and relaxing. I feel the same way about trolling through the Twitter stream - much more fun and relaxing than just sitting on the couch. I also like the hustle (did I just quote Gary Vaynerchuk?). I like the fact that while others are trying to "make it to the weekend," that I'm much more focused on trying to "make it." In the end, I probably get anywhere between 6-8 hours a night, which isn't bad considering that I "think about this stuff that I talk about all the time," (to quote Mr. Brogan) and that I  never slept that much (even as a kid).

My favourite joke about sleep goes something like this:

  • Person #1: How do you sleep?
  • Person #2: Oh, I sleep like a baby... I wake up every hour crying.
  • <insert drum roll here>

How about you? When do you sleep?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Rich Lazzara
    Mitch Joel

    If I could, I would never sleep. It's hard for me to go to sleep, not in a way that I cant, but in the way that I feel I'm missing "something". Whether it's something I should have done, something I should read, something I should comment on, you get the point. I love business, the Internet, learning and contributing. Sleep happens to get in the way of those things. It kills me to think as Im going to bed that there is someone, somewhere still working hard into the night. Some reading this may think that is a curse or I need to relax, but I consider it a blessing. To directly answer your question though, I try to get between 5-7 hrs a night.

    Reply
  • Posted by Niki
    Mitch Joel

    Lately, I try to sleep at 10pm only because I've had little sleep for the past two weeks and I can feel its toll on my body. On the weekends, however, I sleep most of the day. But I think, like you, I have ideas in my head and I get excited over them and I would want to write them down or share them.

    I hardly watch TV (like a television set) but I do get my dose of TV shows esp when I do exercise. Speaking of which, I try to exercise at 5am in the morning, right before the world wakes up. This is the only way I can get it done or else I'm too tired to do it after work. So sleeping at 10pm gives me at least 5 hours before I rise.

    The good thing about me is, and I think I'm lucky for it, is that I don't have trouble sleeping. I put my head on the pillow and in less than a minute or two, I'm off to slumber. Sometimes, I do take this for granted and that's when I can work on my computer till 5am and not notice that I'm tired or even sleepy. But I noticed, that if I dim the lights by 10pm, and have my computer "sleep" by 12mn, I have all these little reminders that tell me, "Hey it's bed time."

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Gardner
    Mitch Joel

    Is it me, or just the people that I follow. It seems as though there is a trend toward this "love what I do" mentality. I spent a couple years in Indiana around a lot of factory workers who built everything from cars to TVs. Talking to them about what they did all day at the factory I realized it was doing the same thing over and over. I thought, if someone doesn't love that, that is insanity. Morrissey penned it good, "paving my way, but corroding my soul." I have always pursued a course that would allow me to do everyday what I love to do. And I love it. Anyway Mitch, I'm with you!

    Reply
  • Posted by Josyan
    Mitch Joel

    I believe that the ones who are "trying to make it to the weekend" are those who aren't doing what they love. They, as you wrote describing yourself, are simply "trying to make it". They fill the week with their "jobs" not their passion.

    Those who can articulate their passion are lucky in my opinion. Defining our "raison d'être" is a journey that not all of us get to finish.

    It's a road I struggle to remain on at times. Single mommydom, bills and obligations have had a way of delaying the journey.

    So Loverboy kind of had it right, "Everybody's (who hasn't found their passion) IS working for the weekend.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Smith
    Mitch Joel

    Nice post. I have insomnia (have since I was about 13) and sleep 2-3 hours a night and regularly spend 2-3 days at a time awake with no sleep. When I feel a bit groggy, a $4 can of Monster energy will pick me right back up.

    I love what I do and have NO problem doing this all day. I always fall asleep thinking about my job and am known to wake up my g/f in the middle of the night by talking about code in my sleep. It's rough on her. haha

    Reply
  • Posted by Frances Schagen
    Mitch Joel

    My joke:

    -Do you know what my alarm sounds like?
    - No
    -Neither do I.

    Just like you, I haven't set my alarm (other than for extra early flights) in years.

    I still the chatter in my head by reading every night. I don't think I can sleep now without reading.

    I love the work I do and I only stop doing it when I need to do some of those other things life calls for like eating, sleeping and family.

    Crystal Clear Bookkeeping is exploding with growth and I'm excited. I end my days tired, yet exhilarated.

    This is the way life should be.

    Reply
  • Posted by Phil Simon
    Mitch Joel

    It's scary how much this post resonates with me. "I'll sleep when I'm dead" is my typical response to this question.

    I'm reminded of one of the times that I met Mike Portnoy, the drummer of Dream Theater. A notorious workaholic, I asked him that very question.

    His response: "I sleep all the time. I just don't know how to relax."

    Reply
  • Funny I get the same question all the time from others, "when do you sleep". I think the great point you make is that it's all a matter of priority, and when you love what you do, as I do, I don't need that "break" during the weekend. I often have to remind myself to get to bed, otherwise I'll regret it in the morning. Morning for me is usually hours before sunrise, the working hours of a landscape photographer. If I can do what I've dreamed of for years, getting up at 4am is a pleasure and certainly the easiest part of my "job"

    Reply
  • Posted by Donna Papacosta
    Mitch Joel

    I find it difficult to quiet my mind at bedtime. Like the commenter Frances, I find that winding down at the end of the day with a book helps. Especially reading something that has NOTHING to do with social media, communications, marketing, etc. I usually get about six or seven hours a night. I never use an alarm, except for extra-early appointments (which I try to avoid).

    Reply
  • Posted by Russell Granger
    Mitch Joel

    Part of it is undoubtedly a natural extension of a compulsive nature. This can be a terrific fuel for business and creative endeavors. "I love what I do" is obviously a blessing to be able to say, because it's about passion directed in a remunerative fashion.

    I believe there is a correlation between the level of engagement needed for social media to produce business results, and those who have a predisposition for passion. Even though it can result in something of an echo chamber at times (from a content standpoint), there is nothing so validating as constant proof that something is working, and that tends to fuel the natural inclination.

    The challenge is how to get clients (and uninitiated colleagues) to embrace it. Even the passionate ones are not likely to catch the bug until they immerse themselves fully, never mind the nine-to-fivers with a perfectly respectable inclination for greater life balance.

    Maybe the thing to do is find the compulsive in the client organization and deputize them to the social media tasks!

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Interesting post. I found out that, lately, I need sleep a bit less than I used to do, and still feel great: I think I love what I do better that I used to do... and also, I get up a little bit earlier, just to do 20 min. of jogging every morning. When you think about it, it is not that much, and no big deal, and the results are rewards are great!
    That said... 1- I have 2 young kids, and I need (and love) to spend time with them, and do various things for, and with, them... and not necessarily precise of "focused" things; just be there for them. Which brings us to:
    2- Aside for the question of sleeping, I think there is also the question of doing "useless" things, i.e. things that do not have a functional or professional purpose : immerse ourselves in a novel, a work of fiction, a theatre play, that puts us in touch with a reality far away from our everyday reality; play music, or listen to it; etc. Or simply.... do nothing at all ! I have a great talent to do nothing at all, and, after years of fighting it, I think I'll start boasting about it: it's so rare. I think the world would benefit from having more people spending a while doing nothing, from time to time

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Dyck
    Mitch Joel

    I find my need to sleep is inversely proportional to the amount I walk -- if I can walk to and from the office that means I have 90 minutes per day to think things through. Then I can be more active in the evenings.

    I need to read or 'quiet down' before sleeping no walking during the day means I need to move into quiet mode earlier.

    I still use an alarm clock but tend to wake up 10-20 minutes before the alarm. Not sure how that happens so consistently.

    At least I'm getting some exercise -- Douglas Adams was known for taking long baths for his think time!

    Marie-Claude: I agree with you that "useless" things are not necessarily bad things. I try to avoid the mindless channel surfing though. For some reason reading, music, theatre (or even planned TV) seems more valuable.

    Reply
  • Posted by Misty Belardo
    Mitch Joel

    I love your post because its like you just said what was on my mind. Sleep is important to me, I do sleep, I have 4 to 6 hours, more than that, I feel sluggish all day.

    What I specially love in what you said was that you love what you do, I love to write as well and sketch more than i like watching tv or movies, or partying, to others it may seem abnormal, but to me, its bliss. I like my quiet time writing and discovering. I also love exploring the web. Its me and I'm happy.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I don't sleep more than 2h to 3h a day and then crash for 12 hours every 8,9 days and I feel just fine. I think it is not about how much you sleep but how well you sleep. The world is full of things to see, to enjoy, to think about, to write about that it is a waist of time spending so many hours having dreams about zombies and other nice creatures like Hugo Chávez, in my opinion.
    Thanks go to Andrea to pointing me out to this post, she that is always worried I don't get enough sleep.

    Reply
    • @fernando well dear, just concerned for your health.
      I personally sleep less in the summer and more in the winter months. I usually don't need an alarm either, my body wakes up when its done sleeping. And I don't like to fill my dreams with zombies or Hugo.

      Reply
  • Posted by Kneale Mann
    Mitch Joel

    If you live a blended life, barely look at the clock, get inspired by those around you, inspire others around you, wake up without the alarm and feel you are reaching for your passion, who needs that much sleep?

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I do sleep. Love to, as a matter of fact. But in order to engage in my business more, which is my passion as well, I give up all sorts of other things. I don't watch TV because if I sit and watch, I think of a bazillion internet business-related things I'd rather be watching, reading, learning. I don't read fiction anymore. All of my reading time, and I love to read, is taken up with business and social media books. It's the same concept as skipping sleep, it's just a different list of things I skip. There is nothing better than loving your work so much that you hide from everyone so that you can do more of it! (I'm hiding today)

    Reply
  • Posted by Raf Damiaens
    Mitch Joel

    Great post. I lost count how many times I catch myself dreaming about my job. I love what I do which makes work never feel like work. I guess if you're happy within your work, you sleep better and probably need less of it as a result...

    Reply
  • Posted by Raf Damiaens
    Mitch Joel

    Great post. I lost count how many times I catch myself dreaming about my job. I love what I do which makes work never feel like work. I guess if you're happy within your work, you sleep better and probably need less of it as a result...

    Reply
  • Posted by Thomas
    Mitch Joel

    I feel the exact same way. When someone asks me when I sleep, I say when I'm tired... I absolutly love what I do and wouldn't change it for the world. I take a break when I need to, but for the most part I am always plugged in and learning as much as I can. Sometimes I nap just from overload... then do it some more...

    Reply
  • Posted by Zach Smith
    Mitch Joel

    Sleep, to me, plays a huge role in my waking hours. But sleep patterns vary. What is important is the quality of your sleep. Instead of going for complete 8 hours of sleep every night (which is impossible), just make the most of the number of hours you sleep. You should get a comfortable mattress as this can make or break your sleep. Memory foam mattresses are better for people suffering from insomnia. It can provide comfort to the whole body as it alleviates pressure points.

    Reply
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