I founded the ResourcesForLife.com website almost 20 years ago with the goal of empowering people working in the public interest. The Life Map outlines areas of life that need attention, care, support, and renewal. Those working in public service and social activism especially need to maintain a strong and balanced life for maximum efficiency. Optimal health is critical, and sleep is an essential foundation for health.
Like millions of other people, I’ve been using an activity tracker during the day, that also analyzes my sleep quality at night. Anyone curious about their sleep quality can get a report that shows a chart indicating times of sleep, restless, and awake times.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working to improve my quality of sleep, and had some success. Yet, I still found my sleep quality wasn’t as good as I’d like, and in recent months it had been getting worse.
Stress can have a big influence on sleep quality. One of the biggest sources of stress for people can be their work, even for those who enjoy their job. Perhaps those who enjoy their job are even more susceptible to stress, because along with that tends to be a genuine concern about colleagues, customers, and the business or institution you work for.
Those who don’t care can leave their work behind at 5 o’clock and go home without giving it another thought. For others, that’s hard to do. Concerns about a colleague, or a problem at work, or perhaps considerations about innovations that might improve the workplace, these things are hard to ‘turn off’ for some people.
I’ve met many dedicated people thought the years — those putting in extra hours, and going above and beyond, not for any recognition or financial compensation, but just because they care about their job and the people they work with, and sometimes because they don’t complain when they are asked to take on extra work. Such people probably take on some additional work-related stress.
Yesterday I decided to make a career change. It was a big decision, and also a big weight off my shoulders. In life it’s easy to wonder whether or not the choices we make are the right move. There are gut feelings, but rarely any scientific metrics to go by.
Last night I went to bed at peace with the decision I’d made. It helped to have the support, agreement, and reassurance of my wife (Makur).
I woke up this morning and looked at my sleep analysis chart for the night like I always do.
Yet this time I saw something that I’d never seen before. I just looked at the chart. I was stunned.
I’ve provided the chart below so you can see it for yourself.
The “Before” chart shows a typical night. Normally there are lines indicating restless times (blue lines) and awake times (red lines). This is what I’ve seen now hundreds of times over the past few years. Sometimes more lines than others, but typically like what you see below in the top chart. In recent months there have been more of those lines.
The “After” chart shows only one blue line over a seven hour period. I’d slept through the night without waking, and apparently without even moving.
At that moment, I really knew that I’d made the right decision yesterday. Not only was I at peace with the decision, but the pressure of the job was gone.
It gives me a lot to reflect on, being familiar with the health impact of poor sleep, it’s a decision that may end up saving my life.
Update: As of 1 January 2016, it’s been about two weeks since I first posted this article. Since then, I’ve consistently seen better sleep each night, and had some great success with weight loss — I’ve lost about 6 pounds since then.