I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on November 18, 2021

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The Best Tool for Being More Productive and Less Stressed

For IT Admins, the phrase “sleep is overrated” seems to be a badge of honor. Or, rather, it WAS a badge of honor. We joke (or brag) about staying up all night building some VMs, playing games, or binging on some series. But the joke’s on us. After years of sleep deprivation our health, our minds, our relationships, and our jobs all seem to suffer. 

Combine that with the quantity of hours we spend in front of a computer screen and then add to that the stress of keeping hundreds (or thousands) of users happy and we have the makings of a meltdown – physical, mental, or emotional. Sysadmins have a LOT on our plates. We take on a lot because we love being the hero. It’s a wonderful quality but one that can get us into trouble if we don’t keep a close eye on it. 

One Big Thing

The one thing we can do to keep ourselves in check is to get a proper amount of sleep. The Cleveland Clinic offers the following list of things that suffer when you don’t get enough sleep:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Impaired memory
  • Relationship stress
  • Quality of life
  • Greater likelihood of car accidents

There is more, but the list is so depressing I couldn’t bring myself to put it here. So let’s look at the positives of getting enough sleep. The National Health Service of the UK offers these benefits of getting enough sleep:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Slims you down
  • Boosts mental wellbeing
  • Prevents diabetes
  • Increases sex drive
  • Wards off heart disease
  • Increases fertility

If your inability to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night is biologic, a trip to your doctor is in order. If, however, your lack of sleep is self-inflicted, a priority shift may be in order. As in other columns I’ve written, you need to find a motivation for sleep. Maybe getting a raise is one of your goals. That can’t happen if your sleep-deprived self is making mistakes or snapping at users, right? Maybe growing into a leadership role is what you desire. You can’t get there if you can’t be consistently clear-headed with your team. You’re smart, you get the idea here. 

Apps That Help

If you don’t have enough self-motivation to get this habit going on your own, enlist the help of others. There are a slew of apps out there that can help you get to sleep and stay asleep. They will track your progress and give you coaching. I’ve been using a couple of apps for this as they each have features that the other doesn’t. My Tempurpedic app will ask me questions about my sleep that gives me great insights. If you have this bed, it will track the room temperature, CO2 levels, and if/when I’ve gotten out of bed overnight. It also raises the bed if I’m snoring (I don’t snore! <haha>) to help me improve my breathing during sleep. Sleep Cycle is my alarm clock and it, too, tracks my sleep patterns. This app has a feature that records snoring and sleep-talking (valuable information for your medical professionals). For folks who suffer from, for example, migraines it’s great to be able to track sleep patterns that happen before/during/after an episode. It can be helpful in predicting an upcoming episode.

To help me get to sleep, I like sleep stories. I have yet to get to the end of any of them. I use both Sleep Cycle and Calm for these. I have noticed, by the way, that my body has grown to self-regulate. I’m tired when I’m supposed to be heading for bed and I wake up before my alarm most days. But more than that, I’m awake during work hours. I don’t have that same afternoon slump as often. I eat more regularly. I have more “concentration stamina”. I’m just generally more productive and less stressed than I was before I started monitoring my sleep habits.

Commitment

Commit to better sleep habits for a month. Find an app that will help you. Shut off the screens at a reasonable hour, eat earlier in the evening rather than on your way to bed, create a bedtime routine that is calming, spray your pillow with a lavender scented spray, and get your 8 hours. Track how you feel in the morning and throughout the day. Track your successes and your ability to deal patiently with people who would normally tweak your mood. And report in or ask for an accountability partner in the JumpCloud Lounge #Admin-Life channel! 

Ask For Help

Sleep is a critical part of your mental health. Watch the webinar Creating a Roadmap for IT Mental Health for other practical information on dealing with stress and burnout as an IT Admin. And if you need assistance:

  • Call 911 
    • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line
    • Text “HELLO” to 741741
  • National Helpline Resource Directory from the National Alliance on Mental Illness 
  • Veterans Crisis Line
    • Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
  • Disaster Distress Helpline 
    • Call or text 1-800-985-5990
Pam Lefkowitz

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