1 more hour of sleep is completely changing my life.
By: Christopher Pascale
I was recently approved to telework 2 days a week. At first, I was reluctant, but after hearing a podcast from within the FI community about how it can save money, I gave it a chance.
Saving money will be discussed later in the piece, but first I want to talk about something so much more important to me than money, and that is sleep. I generally get 5 hours a night, but some nights just 2-3. Some people don’t need sleep, but that’s not me. I have to catch up with 10-12 hours on the weekend. The reason I do this is because there are some things I simply cannot do when I’m home and my family is awake. For example, I go to the gym at 9:00PM. If I watch TV, it’s after hours. I’m writing this piece at 11:00PM (and then re-worked it on another night at 11:00PM). Also, I prefer staying up late.
Tomorrow, as I write the first draft, is Monday. My schedule is:
- 5:30AM – wake up
- 6:00AM – leave for work
- 6:30AM – start working
- 3:00PM – leave work
- 6:00PM – teach ACC 101 at the community college
- 10:00PM – head home
My wife has class Wednesday and Thursday (she’s in graduate school), so I’ll cook dinner those nights while the kids practice their instruments. We’ll eat at 6:00, then my second oldest has guitar lessons on one of the days. By 8:30 the kids are tucked in, or nearly so.
Most nights, from 9:30PM, the hours are my own to work on other things or spend time with my wife.
Simple Telework Sleep Math
As noted above, I wake up at 5:30 to be at the office at 6:30. However, now on Tuesdays and Thursdays my computer is ready for login at 6:30.
This one extra hour has had an immediate positive impact on my mood, and it is because of this formula:
1 hour x 2 days x 50 weeks = 100 hours more sleep
100 hours/8 hours = 12.5 nights
That changed my whole outlook for how much better 2018 is going to be. I’m going to get 12.5 nights more sleep.
If Sleep Is So Important, Why Not Just Get More of It?
Smart people reading this will say, ‘hey, idiot, no one’s stopping you from sleeping.’ And they are right. But sleep is valuable to me relatively, not over all the other things. I don’t like sleep more than I like writing. In fact, I stayed up until 4:00AM writing the first draft for Partial FI = Substantial Freedom. I was happy to stay up, and wished I could have done it again the next night instead of crashing at 9:00PM.
What I value so much less than sleep is driving to work. Commuting is a completely worthless activity that drains your time, money, and health. While driving, I enjoy listening to FI podcasts, Joe Rogan interviews, and Stephen Colbert clips, but only as a diversion from the wasted time that could be used for reparative sleep and exercise.
I hate commuting so much that when a recruiter offered to get me interviews in New York City that would increase my salary by 1.5x, I told him, in all seriousness, that unless I could make enough that first year to live in Manhattan at my current lifestyle, no thanks.
I value being close to my family too much to take a hum-drum income with a longer commute that takes me so far from away. Currently, if my wife locks her keys in the van, I can swing by to help. If my daughters have a tennis or wrestling match, I’m always there. For an employer to get me to give this up will require an immediate lifestyle-enhancing raise, not something marginally more.
After all, while I’m certainly no genius, I’d be a moron to give away 50% more of my time to turn a Toyota Corolla lifestyle into that of a Camry. But put me in a penthouse and I may just give you a few great years.
What Does 12.5 Nights More Sleep Do for You?
Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and other companies, said it best when he titled a chapter “Go the F*ck to Sleep” in his 2013 book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs.
Emotionally speaking, sleep is absolutely crucial. Many articles cite a link between lacking sleep and increasing depression. By being sleepless, we risk increased anxiety, as well, which then leads to less sleep. There are many reasons for this, but I’m not a doctor, so I won’t be speaking on them in depth. Instead, I will simply say that I have had a huge increase in optimism ever since I began working from home.
What’s great is that just as anxiety can lead to less sleep, the anxiety I’ve shed has led to easier sleep. Except for that 1 hour, I’m not sleeping any more than before, but I simply feel better. And feeling better is a big part of higher quality sleeping.
Physically speaking, you need sleep if you want to look and feel good. The reason for this is because during REM cycles, according to bodybuilder and personal trainer David Robson, our muscles, tissue, and dead cells are repaired or replaced.
While I’m not working out very much, I do care about my appearance, and don’t want to look any older than I am. If I can look younger, I’d like that very much, too. By getting 12.5 nights more sleep, I can achieve this.
Going back to what I said earlier, can I just sleep more to look young and healthy while also feeling alert and happy? Sure. But I don’t want to sleep more than I want to do this. [As I’m adding this section it’s nearly midnight and I’m hoping to read at least 1 chapter of a Graham Greene novel before bed].
Beyond improved mental health and the physical improvement sleep offers, there is also the opportunity to lose weight.
Adam Bornstein noted that sleep has many effects on weight, including a profound link between one’s diet and how much they sleep. I can personally attest to this. When I don’t get enough sleep, I eat more. I need the energy. However, on the days that I have been teleworking, I’m quite surprised to find that rather than having bacon and eggs for breakfast at 8:00AM–90 minutes into my workday–I’m having it for lunch. As a result of being better rested, I’m not even thinking about food like I have in the past.
What’s awful is that lacking sleep can make you incredibly fat. In the Bornstein piece, he notes research from University of Chicago that stated how after 4 days of not enough sleep, a body’s cells may not be able to use insulin as well. Personally, that is eye-opening. My previous weeks centered around 5 nights of sleeping a total of 25-30 hours, then getting another 20 or so over 2 days. This means that I was keeping my body in a constant state of poor performance with regards to how it dealt with sugar while consuming more of it.
To be clear: No sleep means you eat more crap while your body is less able to deal with it. Improved sleep means you don’t even necessarily think of eating as much while your body handles caloric intake more efficiently.
Money & Time Saved Teleworking
Food: I spend $15 every workday on food. This can be cut down to about $0.00, but it hasn’t even though I recognize the problem. However, on days I don’t work at the office, I’m very content to drink and eat better food for less money. Each week, I’m saving $30, and at the end of the year it will be $1,500.
Driving: My commute is 18 miles each way (the longest I’ve ever had), and my ’97 Explorer gets that many miles per gallon. By cutting out 2 days of commuting, I’m saving 4 gallons of gas a week, or about $11.00. At the end of the year, it’s a savings of $550.
Total Savings: In addition to the noted $2,050, my truck might last another year or two. If my wife goes to work after graduating in May, these 2 days of teleworking would mean 2 less days of needing a sitter for my younger kids (via their older sisters, or someone else). Also, when I’m home, I exercise during the day instead of late at night. I help the kids with homework instead of sitting in traffic. And I can take a shower during the day, meaning that I have more time at night to do things that I want.
Best of all, I can also take some of the pressure at home off of my wife by throwing in a load of wash, doing a load of dishes, and taking out the trash, all of which I might have done after the workday, but have now done before 3:00PM, meaning that I’m saving even more of my own time by knocking this out when I would have been taking a short break at the office, not doing much of anything.
In addition to the facts that teleworking is a bit of a life hack (one simple trick) to getting more sleep without sacrificing your own time, there are the added psychological benefits that include a lower risk of depression. Then there are the physical benefits of muscles repairing and dead cells being replaced, meaning you’ll look better, which alone will make you feel better. Lastly, not sleeping can lead to being fatter. And we can all be fatter, but we generally don’t want to be.
Even more than this, there are the $2,050 in direct savings by not driving 4 gallons of gas away each week, or spending needlessly on food, which may be in part because sleeping less makes us hungrier.
A bonus is that I’m home when my kids get off the bus instead of sitting in traffic. One of the days, it was bright and sunny so I went for a walk when I would have otherwise been in my car.
The savings of time and money are multi-layered. The time saved is on the front and backend of this process. I’m not just chopping my commuting time down, but I’m also opening up whole evenings by exercising and showering at home during the day. Workwise, I’ve become more efficient, so my career prospects are brighter. And overall, I just simply feel better, and there is science to back up why.
Financially, I’m not just saving money by buying less food outside the office, but the longer my vehicles last due to less driving, the less need there is for me to buy a replacement. Even if I never upgrade my car buying, it’s still a few hundred dollars prorated at the end of each year. And then there are dry cleaning costs. Some of my work clothes cannot be washed. If I spend $30/month on dry cleaning, then a 40% reduction of in-office work means I’m saving $144 each year, not to mention the wear and tear that clothing won’t go through by being worn and cleaned less.
I’m sure there are other little pockets of savings I’m not picking up on, and perhaps a cost or two, too, but this isn’t about money to me–it’s about me. I’m home at 3:00 PM instead of logging off and hoping traffic is light on the Southern State Parkway. I’m in bed asleep at 6:25 AM instead of sitting in the parking lot just one more minute before entering the building where I’ll stay the best hours of the day. And when the year ends, I’ll have slept 12.5 nights more, and possibly be a few pounds lighter because of it.
Christopher Pascale is an author, accountant and adjunct professor from Long Island. He is the former CFO of Portfolios with Purpose. His finance writing has been featured on the AIPCA’s “Tax Matters” page, WealthyJoe.com, and others. He is also the author of a book of poetry, and is working on a novel due to be released in 2019.