Schedule Your Sleep

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Benjamin Franklin understood the power of sleep.

He knew how fundamental sleep was to a successful life. It’s why a prominent part of Ben’s schedule focused on sleeping. Everyone marvels at Ben’s schedule, but the real power came in the rule of lights out at ten and awakening at five—every day.

Sadly, we let life get in the way of sleep. A good tv drama is often a common cause of an inconsistent sleep pattern. The ethos of hard work bites at the other end, waking early to work is a common trait in many.

As we age, our discipline falters when it comes to sleep.

My ageing mum (sorry mum) gives me the evidence to make this case. With retirement, COVID, and a passing husband, the discipline of sleeping in bed slipped. Instead, mum would drift off to sleep in the armchair in front of the TV. Briefly, she would wake to turn the TV off, before falling back to sleep. A year spent living alone created a nightly routine of television and an interrupted night of sleep.

The impact on her health cannot be understated.

Yes, she would snooze in the afternoon, but the quality was no better than the light dozing she did at night. The effects were terrifying. Unelevated legs began to develop ulcers and soon cellulitis followed. Mentally, memories blurred as she became confused and grumpy.

A change of circumstances led her to become a resident in a care home. There, the carers have a set bedtime routine and from the outset, the carers got my mum into bed—and so she slept. After a week, her raw, weeping legs began to dry. After two, she had the concentration levels to tackle the crossword.

Sleep was her enemy and her friend.

The lesson, although not directly related to decision-making very much does affect our decisions. A tired mind loses focus and becomes easily distracted. Emotions are more easily felt, especially when we are deprived of quality rest. Decision quality will and does decline.

Of course, it’s easy to say you should get eight hours sleep a night, but what matters more is the consistency of when you go to bed and when you wake. This is the forgotten lesson in Ben Franklin’s schedule. Bed at ten, rise at five. Seven hours every day. With the setting of consistent bedtime comes habit. Habit trains the brain to switch off. Routine builds the quality of sleep your mind and body needs.

That’s your challenge this week.

Set a time and stick to it. In bed, lights out with your head on the pillow at the same time every day. As Ben said: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Let this be the one decision you focus on improving this week.

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