The things that seem to work for everyone else

This morning my alarm went off in what felt like the actual middle of the night. It wasn’t; it was 5:20. But it hurt.

In my dreams, I’d been in the middle of an old-fashioned town hall meeting, debating road closures with my neighbors while seated next to my first banker from college days on the sofa I recognized from my first house. It took a long minute to get oriented—it’s Wednesday, that noise is my alarm, and it’s time to go work out.

I thought, Why am I so tired.

The answer came to me instantly: Netflix.

I know, I know, such a cliché, too much tv is bad, yada yada. But hear me out.

When it comes to Netflix, Will and I are committed to our shows: we watch one at a time. Last summer and fall it was Parks and Rec. Over the winter we started Scandal. Each one took us six months to finish.

We recently started a new show, highly recommended by the writers in my life. (Seriously, if you want good tv recommendations, book people know what’s up.) And we don’t watch it much—two or three nights a week, one episode at a time.

By most people’s standards, that’s a more-than-reasonable amount of tv. We’re talking three hours a week, max.

That’s not a lot of tv, and most people seem to manage that amount just fine. And I usually go to bed around 10, and most people consider that to be pretty early.

But I’m not most people, and I’m exhausted.

I am generally interested in what works for everyone else—in what others seem to find interesting and useful and helpful and tasty. But the stories we tell ourselves matter—and the story I’ve been telling myself is that staying up till 10 isn’t a big deal. Because it isn’t, to most people.

When I was growing up, being low-maintenance was a core family value. It’s taken me a long time to accept that there are some areas of my life where I can’t afford to be low-maintenance; where those things that seem to work for everyone else just don’t work for me.

It seems everyone else can drink caffeine. Everyone else likes that one über-popular book. And everyone else can eat mangos and cashews to their heart’s content. (This has likely never come up here on the blog, but I’m terribly allergic—a real bummer because both these foods are trendy right now and in everything.)

Today, I’m tired. And that isn’t Netflix’s fault.

But this is about more than just my bedtime. Today I’m noticing my habits in a way I didn’t before, paying attention to the stories I’m telling myself—about what I need, about what might work for me—and especially, to where those stories are coming from.

What are the stories you tell yourself about what you need and what you can get by with? What things seem to work for everyone but you? And how do you watch a good show and still manage to get enough sleep? Tell us all about it in comments. 


Leave A Comment
  1. Sarah says:

    Hi Anne. I use to be the same way when it came to sleep. I would need 10-12 hours, and then some times I would take a nap! One of my kids has a bunch of mental health issues, and I was looking into Neurofeedback. Not only does it drastically reduce Adhd but it helps with other things. I tried it on myself first, and as I got hooked up, I was already tired (it was 10 in the morning) but I didn’t say anything (in fact, I said nothing, really wanting to test this). At some point, the therapist asked me when I had suffered from a concussion, and said that’s why you are so tired. When I was a kid, I did have a concussion. I decided to do 20 treatments on myself, and now I sleep about 6 hours a night, and on more stressful days I sleep 8. I feel like that is such a small tip of the iceberg for what neurofeedback did for my brain. It even helped my dyslexia. 🙂 If you are interested in neurofeedback, I suggest the othmer clinic, as not all neurotreatments are the same. Cheers!

  2. Jen W. says:

    My alarm goes off at 4:45am so I feel your pain. I am like you guys and watch one show at a time but because of my schedule I finally had to make a rule for myself – no screens after 9pm. No tv, computer, cell phone – nothing. I also take a shower before bed (10pm for me too) and between those 2 things I find I sleep better. However it means my Netflix time is super low which sometimes makes me sad because there’s so much I want to watch but I’m not sad when I don’t wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. Choices. Sometimes they suck. Why can’t I just be independently wealthy or just paid to read and binge watch tv? Is that so much to ask? 🙂

  3. MFPeterson says:

    Wow – this post really resonates with me. Firstly because, if we’re talking about strange one-off allergies to a trendy food, there is no food trendier right now than coconut, to which I am super allergic. I can eat all other tree nuts (except maybe macadamias, but I’m convinced they are processed in coconut oil most of the time) and foods, but nothing coconut. But coconut oil, which is the worst for me, is in EVERYTHING. Every dang thing. It’s in most ice cream that has chocolate bits. I love chocolate bits! But check it out – all major brands, both regional and national have coconut in many of the fancier flavors. Mint chip is notorious.

    But – I am also high maintenance with my sleep and came from the same type of family where low maintenance was ideal. Allergies weren’t even considered real, let alone the insomnia I suffered from puberty through college leaving for college. I finally resolved my insomnia on my own by taking advice from strong sources, like Seventeen magazine and the early internet. Yep…really good sources. But it worked and I now have a system that appears flexible, but is definitely not. No TVs in the bedroom EVER, black out shades are a must, no air blowing on my face…things only my husband realizes are intense requirements. I can watch TV until about 30 minutes before I want to be asleep. I’m allowed to look at my phone in bed until I feel tired. It goes on.

    My point is – thank you for that phrase: I can’t afford to be low-maintenance. I’m keeping that one with me!

  4. I’ve decided social media doesn’t work for me like it does everyone else. I like connecting in groups (i.e. your launch team!) but regular posts about what’s going on? I’m over it.

    HOWEVER, I do really like posting what I’m reading, so Instagram is my friend, the end.

    P.S. This is directly tied to having to “have a social media presence because I wrote a book”. Bet you can relate, ha.

  5. austin says:

    Thanks for the reminder that not everything that works for someone else will work for me.
    Now I’m super curious: what show have you started watching? I loved Parks & Rec, and Scandal is on my list, but I’m curious what you’re diving into that writer friends recommended!

  6. Sheila says:

    I am intrigued by this post because the story I tell myself all the time is that everyone else just has it all together and I’m the only one struggling, the only one with a child that does the things she does etc. Of course that’s not true but it feels like that. Like I can’t get out of my own way long enough to enjoy much of anything. I know there are hours in my day for healthy pursuits and more sleep but I fail to take advantage of those hours. Someday I’ll get there. Thanks for this post.

    • Katie says:

      “I can’t get out of my own way long enough to enjoy much of anything.” I’m not sure if you get in your own way the same way I can get in my own way, but I relate with the sentiment. Sometimes I ask myself, are you really that tired? Or are you just so used to saying “no” to doing or enjoying xyz?

  7. I dream of being able to get up at 6 AM again, but getting up between 7 and 8, I still usually feel like garbage. I try to get to bed before midnight but I’m married to a night owl who hates mornings no matter what time he gets up, so if I go to bed early, I don’t see him. I know I should be winding down for bed by 10, but usually by then the kids are finally all in bed and hubby has had enough downtime to actually engage. What happens when what works for me isn’t the same as what works for other members of my household?

    • PC says:

      Such a great question… I deal with this here too and constantly find myself bopping between times of going to sleep. Spousal/partner connection is so important to me. It has helped to realize that perhaps this period in my life will eventually even out into a more stable bedtime. Hope you can find what works for you. ❤️

  8. Aya says:

    Sorry, but at the risk of completely missing the point of your post, what is the new show you are watching???? Your recommendations have steered me towards new lifelong favorites many times, I can’t pass up a chance to ask 🙂

  9. Naomi Jones says:

    I needed to read this right now! I am nursing a 3am caffeine and novel hangover (China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan). I know that I cannot drink caffeine but did it anyway. My day is still happening so I am dragging and paying for my choice! But at least I finished my book. 😉

  10. Liz Ekstrom says:

    Almonds and lemons over here. Who knew they were in all the things?

    I am still figuring out the tired thing, but a few small changes have helped dramatically.

    First, I bumped up dinner time. My daughter comes home directly from either cross country or track practice during the school year and she is starving. We usually eat around 5:00 (crazy early by most standards) and that helps set the relaxing part of the evening in motion a bit earlier. My husband and I usually watch an episode of whatever “our show” is at the time, 3-5 nights a week. Sometimes a bit of the news after that if our show wasn’t dramatic enough. Ugh. Then it’s conversation, maybe a glass of wine, and reading. I go to my actual bed early, usually between 8-8:30. I plug in my phone, turn off the ringer and read until I naturally fall asleep.

    Something big that I allow myself on the hard days is a guilt-free power nap. That afternoon slump hits me hard. If I have the time, I set an alarm for 20 minutes (there’s a science to that number but I can’t remember where I read it) and sit it next to me while I read in bed. If I dose off I hit the timer and snooze. I wake up refreshed and ready to tackle carpool, my inbox, errands, dinner, etc.

    Last is good ol’ Simply Sleep. If I’m dragging all day, I take a sleeping pill that night. It gets me back on track with my usual sleep schedule.

    This is all on a “typical” evening of course. Throw in a band concert, massive homework help, or a family event on a weeknight and I’m like a toddler off her nap schedule. Routine is my friend.

  11. Maureen Benet says:

    Wow. After reading these comments, my issues seem like small beer. Hi Anne. What seems to work for me is totally throwing out the clock and doing things at very weird times, according to other people. I also like to watch Netflix as I have not watched TV since I was 15 years old and that’s a very long time ago. I like controlling the contents by watching in order, going the speed I want to go, and no commercials. Most nights I am in bed by eight sometimes asleep by 8:30 sometimes asleep by midnight. Sometimes I go to bed at seven and listen to one hour of an audiobook before my timer shuts it off. I wear an eye shade. That ‘going to sleep’ time is sort of a crapshoot. I do however wake up at about five or 5:30, unaided, and sometimes that is when I watch Netflix. For me what works is to go to bed incredibly early. Somewhere I heard that the more hours you get before midnight the better it is for you. I don’t know if that’s true but I am dang tired by that time! (7 pm) If I can arrange my life so that after getting dinner on the table I can just take a quick bath and go to bed, I leave everything else the needs to be done until the next morning, when I’m perky. I’m a little less perky these days because I’ve had to cut back on my one cup of caffeine a day. So my solution is early to bed, it seems to really help me out. Maureen

  12. Kristin McNamara says:

    Hey Anne! Love this post! I fall in the same camp of being sort of laid back about when I go to bed and when I wake up. I follow a couple of blogs that always talk about the importance of having a morning routine and having time to yourself before the family gets up. I love the idea of it all and feel like I would be a more productive person but then my daughter wakes up 5 times because she had a bad dream or I feel like my husband and I haven’t spent much time together so we watch a couple episodes of New Girl. It seems like every night life happens and I never set that alarm to get up in the morning. I’m sure my life could be more productive if I lived in a world with more of a routine but I’ve sort of come to the realization that my life isn’t routine and that’s okay.

  13. Michelle K says:

    I grew up in a family of high-energy extroverts. As a low-energy, highly-sensitive, introvert (discovered in adulthood), I remember thinking “why can’t I just be normal?” a lot while growing up. I used to think that I was being lazy and would (and sometimes still do sometimes) push myself to keep up with my family, but it often left me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and cranky. Now, I try to be more respectful of my needs because I think that it makes me a better person to be around. I feel better when I stick to my routine, get enough (okay, a lot) of sleep, eat healthy, avoid coffee and alcohol, and get some alone time everyday.

  14. OMG. I did the same thing every night this week. But it’s not really Netflix’s fault or even that the show I’m watching is that good (although it’s super cute – Anne and an E). It’s that my son has been staying up late because of his summer commitments – mostly baseball – and when he goes to bed late, I feel like I need to go to bed late, so I have adequate alone time in the evenings (or time with my husband). And it’s also somewhat that I don’t want to go to bed because I don’t want to wake up and have to go to work because I am not loving my job right now. 🙁

  15. Pamela says:

    Two things that do NOT work for me:
    1. Alcohol – it TOTALLY messes with my sleep. I’ve been off it for a year now (woo hoo) and I sleep so well!! I found that I was devoting a lot of mental space to alcohol, too (how much can/should I drink, when, etc etc) so having that brain space back is nice.
    2. Young Adult novels. I have yet to find one that I like. I’ve tried and tried! Fault in our Stars? Hated it. The Hazel Wood? Lost me. Where’d you Go, Bernadette? Didn’t “get” it – Antarctica? REALLY??? I like kids’ chapter books, if that makes sense – Narnia, Harry Potter, LM Montgomery, etc – but I just can’t deal with the Young Adult genre. I want to like them because sometimes I need a “fluffy” read but they just don’t do it for me.

    • Andrea Wells says:

      I love The Book Thief and Sea of Tranquilty and that is it so far for YA, though I’ve tried at least 100!

      I do love childrens’ books like Narnia, Penderwicks, Harry Potter, The Water Castle (current read with my 11 year old); and I read many adult genres, but just can’t get excited about most YA!

    • Sandy says:

      I hear you about YA novels. It’s the rare one that keeps my interest. I feel like they are aimed at a very specific and narrow audience. Children’s literature, however? Love it.

    • Courtney says:

      Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t YA. Based on the books you listed, it seems like you may not like the light, fluffy, tongue-in-cheek works. Have you tried Code Name Verity? It’s fabulous.

  16. LoriAngela says:

    We also valued being low maintenance on my farm growing up with three big sisters. But when I turned 50 I decided to do it my way. I had manicures every two weeks for a few years (over it now) I have my hair cut and coloured once a month and I use lovely face creams and cleansers and shower gels. I am the more girly girl and I can still park a big truck

  17. Sherrylynne says:

    One word: Imposters. On Netflix – Season One. I promise after Episode 1, you’ll wonder why everyone isn’t talking about it. I do not get hooked on anything, except this one. 🙂

  18. Kristin Fields says:

    You may be low on potassium. It affects so much of your health. Avocados are a great source if you like them and are not allergic. Also low sodium V-8. Have a blood test done to find out first.

  19. When our kid was small, as soon as she was finally asleep, my husband and I would settle in front of the TV. For me, it was evening French class, even though the shows were U.S. cop series dubbed into French. Still, after a long day of talking to nobody but a baby, they were welcome company. However, I never slept well. Eventually I swore off all TV at night (and since we don’t turn it on during the day, that’s all TV) and have slept SO much better. Reading is much more calming than TV. I just can’t do TV. And my caffeine cut-off is at noon. I also used to drink Diet Coke all day and swore off that as well. Now it’s tap water. If I drink wine at dinner, I don’t sleep as well either. Don’t I sound like fun–tap water and books.
    You might enjoy the book “Why We Sleep” by sleep scientist Matthew Walker. I haven’t read it yet but have heard him interviewed on Fresh Air and it was fascinating.

  20. Rose says:

    This idea of “what works for everyone else” is something I’ve thought a lot about the past few years while on a restrictive autoimmune diet. I also didn’t realize I was an introvert (INFP) until adulthood but I always struggled with this sense of what worked for other people was not optimal for me. When I would talk to co-workers and we’d all say we were “too busy” I meant it in a different way than most of them did but I didn’t recognize at the time how burned out I was from doing the “typical” work. A few years ago I’ve cut back from having a full-time and part-time job to “just” the full-time. But I’m finding that full-time work that isn’t creative (it’s a management position) is still challenging for me in general. It can feel like this is just based on selfishness, laziness, etc. but I think the lazy part is not listening to the intuitive voice that’s telling you “what works for everyone else” might not work for you. I’ve tried to have a rigid routine to keep up with expectations but what I’m finding if that I really need some flexibility and margin to be optimally myself and that means altering the daily routines/commitments to fit me vs. trying to force myself to fit the framework that allows others to excel. I seem to need consistent time to process, reflect and relax (with a book, TV show, etc.). But since I’m tired from a day of less than optimal work I often just “relax” and skip the processing and reflecting. My brain starts processing late at night which is really beneficial and fruitful but I wake-up in the morning exhausted. I’m starting to explore less traditional work and routines. We have to remind ourselves that the key to success isn’t caffeine, avocado toast and smoothie bowls. It’s what works for each unique person. 🙂

    • MissAndi says:

      Wow! This is me…except I’m an ENFP. People who know me well think I am the most extroverted extrovert that ever extroverted. But, it desperately need that reflection time. And, like you, I have an awful time at scheduled days. Sameness in my schedule is my kryptonite. I hope you find a fulfilling job with less scheduling rigidity!

  21. Amy says:

    I completely track with you on this! When it comes to sleep, I am high maintenance as well. I just need more sleep and am not pleasant without it. Being a wife, mother to three, and a full time elementary teacher, I need all the fuel I can get…I cannot run effectively on half a tank. Lack of proper rest takes a toll on my patience, and if Mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy! I have had to accept that Netflix is just not part of this season of my life. It kills me because I love getting into a show.

  22. Erin says:

    I have rheumatoid arthritis, and most of the time my meds keep it under control and I can basically forget about it. But then there’s days like today– after three stressful days without enough rest I can barely move. Everything hurts. And I have to remind myself, this is a real thing. I have RA. This is a serious, debilitating disease that makes me hurt and exhausts me. And I have to take care of myself in ways that probably make me look (and definitely make me feel) lazy and selfish. I need a lot of sleep, and a lot of rest. I can’t do hardcore exercise– walking and the occasional Leslie Sansone video is about as fierce as I get. I can handle stress, but afterwards I’m going to struggle. A lot. Probably for a few days or even longer.

    I am very thankful for the medicine and the lifestyle that I’ve discovered allows me to live pretty normal most of the time, but days like today remind me that it’s okay not to be “normal,” and that it’s not selfish or lazy to take care of myself regularly so I don’t land on my face like I did this time around. 🙂

    As I tell my kids, and my friends, and basically everyone I know, You Do You. 🙂

    • Katie says:

      I developed psoriatic arthritis my senior year in college. It wasn’t diagnosed until a couple years later. But I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I “lost my 20’s” in the sense that I couldn’t do as much as my friends and family were doing. I had to say no to a lot of things because I physically could not do them. But I’ve accepted it, and try to focus more on all the things I have been able to do (like carry and birth naturally two babies). I’m also incredibly thankful for the medicine I was put on last year. It was life changing! And I can do so much more now. But yes, it’s okay not to be “normal” 🙂

  23. Teresa says:

    I have had sleep issues for many years and have gone to a sleep doctor for the last seven. A lot of people don’t know that a typical sleep cycle is 90 minutes. If you sleep in increments of 90 minutes, you will (usually) wake refreshed. If you wake during a cycle, you will feel groggy all day no matter how many hours you slept. So decide when you need to be up and count backwards in 90 minute cycles to determine your bedtime.

    I am an extreme night person. For me, working a job that I had to be at by 9:00am was like you working the night shift. With my doctor’s help, we limped along until I was able to retire. My goal is to be up by 11:30am. That scandalizes people, but like you (and your readers) with odd food allergies, I have to do what works for me. I know people think I’m lazy, but I am my most creative and productive after dark.

  24. Debbie L says:

    My season now is decluttering. Not just my home but my mind, body and soul. If the internal is not decluttered the outward will always be a struggle. I meditate, pray and read; it has been an incredible journey to see what I need to let go, what I need to add, where I need to heal and grow.
    I need 9-10 hours of sleep to feel good the next morning. I get 8 and I am exhausted all day, this is #1. #2 – My internal thoughts and feelings affect me, which causes me not to sleep soundly, do what is best for me and see the beauty around me.
    And yes, what is the show you are watching now?:)

  25. Honestly, I will tell you that it gets a little harder the older you get. When you are young and sans kids, your energy is at peak conditioning. After the kiddies, dogs, AND husband take over your life…you are always a week bit weary. Like you, I only watch a little tv because I would rather read, I also watch Netflix or Britbox or cable shows (I’ve given up on the stupidity of major network laugh track sitcoms) and I like that I can watch when I want to watch. For the most part, I just have to pace myself. Some days you just need to rest and not worry about the dust and chores. I allow myself to sit and read and RELAX. I was and remain a feminist, but I will tell you that they lied. I do NOT think you can have it ALL. It’s not possible. But, that is okay and I love my chaotic life and my hubby, kids, and now grandkids plus four small dogs. Life is good. It beats the alternative.

  26. Elyssa says:

    Oh my goodness, Anne, I needed this today. The story that I tell myself is that I’m the only one who struggles with this very thing! I often feel like I have to be able to do ABC because it seems to work for others and if I can’t seem to make it work then there must be something entirely wrong with me. Thank you for your words. I feel validated.
    And I admire your self discipline with Netflix. I’m a binger so I have to limit myself cause otherwise I would totally lose sleep and be miserable and unproductive. 😛

  27. Dee says:

    Anne, this sounds just like us! One program at a time, a few nights a week until we are done. We just finished Turn: Washington’s Spies – all 4 seasons of it! It’s hard for me to dedicate TV time. Sleep is too important!

  28. Deborah Larson says:

    No mangoes or cashews…Wow! That would be hard for me b/c those are two of my favorite foods. I can relate a bit though. I’m allergic to strawberries. I’m constantly ordering things at restaurants (b/c I LOVE all things FRUIT) and saying ‘No strawberry’. I almost always get a funny look b/c who doesn’t like strawberries? Then I have to add I’m allergic.
    My husband and I went out for brunch a few months ago and were seated on stools at the breakfast bar. I ordered my smoothie w/out strawberries. A few minutes later a young man sat down on the stool beside me, ordered the same smoothie and said, ‘Could I get that w/out strawberries. I’m allergic.’ I wanted to hug him! I’m generally the odd one out when it comes to strawberries. 🙂

  29. Torrie says:

    The series I can’t try and convince myself to like is the Neopolitan Novels by Ferrante. I read the first one and thought it was okay, but as I read the second, I just couldn’t stand the characters anymore and couldn’t stand the thought of having to read through two more books about them. I felt like I was the only person on Goodreads to give that book a lower rating!

  30. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    What is not working for me is since my so called slamming the wall, making almost anything. Everything is a chore, and I mean everything. Family dinners, church, shopping, cinema, tele, After one such event 2-3 days in bed. A word I have learned in this way is the word consensus, when I hear someone say they did nothing yesterday, and I ask what happened, well they washed up, ironed, wacuumed fixing things. That is a lot to me. I do and I really mean it, nothing. My days are a lot of time sleeping, reading( yes a chore) Fb, and following the news. I wish I had my old life back, but it will never happen, almost 20 years now since my life changed. Allergies for me is raw carrot, cherries, almond, peaches, apricot and nickel. Plus pollen. Hyacinths are among the worst flowers

  31. Sheila Pallotta says:

    I really need 8 to 9 hours of Real Sleep, so I do a calculation based on when I have to get up the next morning, and if I’m asleep by 9 pm, so be it (though I am a natural Late Bird).

    But more importantly… What’s the show?????

  32. Kelli says:

    This is a great post! I’m tired all the time too and don’t know what the cause is, as I often get plenty hours-wise. But there are so many different directions to go to try to figure it out – I sleep with cats so maybe my sleep quality is reduced due to that, I have some allergy symptoms but nothing has ever shown on a test so it could be an undiagnosed allergy, maybe not enough exercise, sounds from outside or inside the house… so many things that could be issues! I’ve thought about going to a sleep clinic to see how I sleep at night (do I wake up lots without knowing it?) but haven’t done that yet.

    • Sheila says:

      Kelli, consider sleep study. I learned th at I had severe sleep apnea, and had no idea. My life has changed since then. Do it, just so you know.

        • Deb Kelner says:

          I concur. I have also discovered that I have severe sleep apnea. While they can be cumbersome and difficult to adjust to they can make an ENORMOUS difference. I have a lot of allergies as well and so:
          *We’ve also put an air purifier in our bedroom (that we leave running constantly- but should at minimum be turned on for an hour before sleep). This has helped.
          * I use the Breathe Right nasal strips at bedtime. They help a great deal.
          * I use afrin at bedtime- just a squirt and my sleep specialist has recommended alternating nostrils (otherwise it can be habit forming and cause negative side effects if you don’t use it)
          *Eucalyptus oil in the shower, or dotted somewhere near your pillow, or in a inhaler tube/ sinus plug (they sell these at my grocery store) help increase my sinus clarity at bedtime.
          And, if I’m truthful, I’m still tired. I think everyone of us has some way in which we’re “high maintenance”. I still need to limit caffeine, eat early or the heart-burn/ reflux keeps me awake, and know that if I’m in a social setting and have an alcoholic beverage that it will effect my sleep, etc. etc. etc. Reading the post and all the comments reminds me that there is no such thing as the “low maintenance” person. We all have our individual needs and differences. Yay for uniqueness!
          All best to you Kelli!

          • Deb Kelner says:

            -Somehow part of my 2nd sentence got deleted. It should read : CPAP machines (or other such sleep regulating machines) can be difficult to adjust to but can make an ENORMOUSly positive impact on the quality of your sleep!

  33. Diana says:

    You often seem to write about something that seems obvious but I never think about it until reading your posts. And it took us 18 months to rewatch Lost so 6 months sounds super fast right now! (We did rewatch The Office in the middle of that.)

  34. Brenda says:

    I am an HSP, and so I try to do any TV watching as early as possible in the evening. That way I can wind down from the visual/audio stimulation before going to bed, and then I sleep better. I will even leave quiet, “peaceful” chores like folding laundry or dusting until later in the evening, because that winds me down pretty well. I had insomnia a lot before I was married (my husband is a champion sleeper, and I really believe in good sleep vibes), and I had a doctor recommend the quiet tasks when you can’t sleep, and that usually helped. Plus my house was always dust free and my clothes pressed.

  35. Liza says:

    We sound a lot alike. I no longer can handle caffeine. I can’t eat cashews or mangoes, either. Or melons or bananas or papaya or avocados or wheat or basically all my favorite foods. (It’s a cross-reaction to my latex allergy.)

    The only time I watch TV is while ironing. (unless there is a sports event) Ironing is such a mind-numbing chore to me that I use TV as a distraction. I can get my shows in (although there are very few that I actually watch) and get the job done at the same time.

    It doesn’t keep me up any later than I normally would be up. My problem is that I naturally sleep 9 1/2 to 10 hours, no matter when I went to bed. I struggle to wake up before then. The school year is painful for me – it’s so hard for me to get up on time because our activities are such that I rarely can get in bed before 10. I live for summers because I don’t need an alarm clock!

  36. I set myself an alarm when watching TV in the evening so that I’m off by 9. I have a 1 year old, and she’s usually in bed by 7:45 or so. This gives me 15 minutes or so to clean up from dinner & start the dishwasher, change over laundry etc. Then I usually watch one episode (or two of a half-hr comedy) while folding laundry. Then I do last minute tidying, pack lunch for the next day, and get ready for bed. Usually in bed by 9:30ish. Still tired a lot because, well, 1 year old! 😉

  37. Shirley Madsen says:

    I have chickens and I have to physically lock them up at night and open up their chicken coop in the wee hours of the morning every day no exception. My bedtime schedule revolves around their habits meaning that I have to stay up late ? in the summer when they don’t go into the coop until 8:45 PM and I have to get up at 5 AM just before sun rise when they need out. In the winter I can curl up in bed as early as 7 PM! Seriously. It is dark outside and my husband and I are ready to call it a day. Like you, we watch an episode of a show every night so series can take us months and months to watch. We are so behind in watching the latest and greatest shows. If you loved Parks and Rec, you will like VEEP. We are now watching the last season of The Good Wife after watching Suits – the two shows are very similar and are on Amazon Video. We also loved Doc Martin and Sneaky Pete. All of these shows are easy on the emotions (I am a highly sensitive person). I will add Scandal to my list. And I hope you share with all of us your current Netflix fixation. I will add that to my queue as well. On an aside, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your What Should I Read Next podcast. All of my library books are based on your show. Keep up the awesome work.

  38. mk says:

    It really is a fascinating topic, and one I never thought of in these terms.

    In college, I made this rule for myself: Healthy Food, Plenty of Sleep (8+ hrs), and Low Stress: I need all three, but I can get by with just two of them for a short time. So, for example, if I pulled an all-nighter, I needed to make sure I ate really well and wasn’t stressed out about studying. If I was stressed about a class or a relationship, I made sure I ate well and slept well. Etc.

  39. Janean says:

    In reading through the comments, it would serve us all well to stop and acknowledge that we’re clearly not alone in this. Almost everyone is saying, “I thought it was just me!” Anne, for me, this post is so closely tied to your previous post about margin. I’ve found that, if you’re operating with enough margin, staying up late one night probably won’t do you in. If you’re not, that wake up call is going to be a rough entry and you’ll continue to pay the Netflix penalty all day long.

    Our family experienced many many years of extreme stress and ultimately a trauma that left myself and another one of us with PTSD. The stress had taken its toll on my health in ways I will never fully understand, but exhaustion, chronic fatigue, migraines and fibromyalgia were some of the symptoms. As I was treated for PTSD and the physical issues, for about a year, I slept about 6 hours a day and then easily went to bed at 8 at night and woke up at 7 am. My sleep deficit was vast. You can’t really make up sleep, but the time it takes your body to recover from genuine exhaustion, trauma, illness, extreme stress, depression and fatigue is widely underestimated. Eventually, I started to be able to reduce the daytime nap and return to a normal amount of sleep. Although, I do still go to bed at about 8:30 and read until about 10ish.

    A few suggestions: Melatonin was a lifesaver in helping me initiate sleep during the stressful periods. Use it if you struggle with insomnia, stress or turning off your brain, as I did. I think the latter is a problem for a lot of moms. As the dads nod off within seconds of their heads hitting the pillow, we can stay awake for hours replaying the day and worrying about the next one. I agree with previous posts about sleep studies. If you wake up feeling unrested or with headaches/migraines, talk to your doctor. You probably have sleep apnea. Make your very room cold and pitch black (like not even a clock light – Gretchen rubin talks a lot about this in one of her books). Lastly, sleep with a FitBit or Apple Watch on your wrist that tracks your sleep and wakes you up with a tap. Someone explained above about how we sleep in cycles. Tell your device when you need to wake up and it will wake you up at the end of a sleep cycle with a gentle tap at first and then utilamtely an alarm, rather than in the middle of one, but still within your need to be up window of time. The difference in how you will feel is DRAMSTIC. This is the most important tip!

    As always, stellar post, Anne! I love how you’re able to take something from our daily lives, shed new insight into it and somehow leave us all feeling a little better about it. ?

  40. nanne says:

    oh, sleep..i miss you 🙂

    a couple of really weird things that work for me in balancing Netflix, crazy, night-racing-brain and sleep:

    –once or twice a week I will give myself a “treat” and go to bed early with no book and no t.v. and if I wake up early enough, I can lay in bed and watch a couple of my current Netflix obsessions before I have to start my day.

    –ok, this is the REALLY weird one that actually works for me at night…

    ( i think that as reading & thinking people we have a hard time letting go of whatever we are currently invested in be it hard, real life struggles or the drama of whatever novel or t.v. series we are currently binging on. And all of the stuff we don’t have time to process during our daily, busy lives shows up at night when our brains/bodies are tired and vulnerable)

    I will take whatever book, movie, Netflix, HBO show that I am currently engrossed in, insert myself into it, start rebuilding the backstory, the setting, renovate the homes/character’s attire 🙂 and on & on…it’s a kind of interior fan fiction that will never make it onto a page. And evidently my story telling and world building is so boring that it puts me to sleep after about 6 minutes :). My personal Game of Thrones world’s atmosphere is 99% sleeping gas :).

    • Julia R. says:

      Something similar works for me, too, when my mind won’t stop working on my own current real-life drama, I make myself think about whatever books I’m reading at the time, trying to figure out what will happen next, making myself remember obscure character names, etc. Usually puts me out pretty quickly…

  41. Barbara says:

    Seeing as I was up til 4 am watching Earth Girls Are Easy and Vamps on Roku, I have no idea what works for me. And haven’t seen a 10 pm bedtime in decades.
    What I rely on is coffee, my cat, my books and music. I’m not giving up coffee. I’ve cut back. I believe that other people have it together and I’m the only one that has sleep issues. My brain takes a long time to turn on. Not true. But feels true.

  42. Wendy Bussell says:

    I have been a horribly light sleeper for years. Every little noise or bump in the night would wake me. I started taking a raw form of vitaminD3 and magnesium and now I sleep great!! go to bed almost like clockwork at 10pm. Wake up at 4:50 to meet a friend to walk 3 miles 3x a week. Don’t get to drink caffeine because it changes my brain chemicals. And I’m allergic to dairy. It makes me have to use an inhaler. I would rather not. I have also stopped eating refined sugar and most grains. My mental life has started to slow down enough for me to catch up. And I feel great. Do I need naps? yes, sometimes. But I have noticed that as I age, gracefully, my body needs more or less of something. Its is all physiological. So also, get your hormones tested. They can tell you so much more of whats going on in your body. I watch Netflix everyday with my husband. Sometimes its 30minutes sometimes its more. Its ok. I don’t have anything else to do. ^_^

    • Sarah K says:

      Me too, Lee. I watched a number of seasons of Scandal, getting more and more uncomfortable with the S&M theme connected to 2 characters, and then there was an episode that ended with them committing such drastic and unexpected violence that I quit the show immediately and never looked back. I’m a finisher, so it took a lot for me, but they crossed the line and I was OUT.

  43. Julie Goodman says:

    I often have to tell myself ” Tomorrow is another day” and make an effort to stop reading that one last chapter, answer that email, finish that show on Netflix. I have to shut my brain down and remember tomorrow will be soon enough.

  44. Well, I can’t give you any wisdom re: watching a show and still getting enough sleep – I haven’t figured it out for myself, not even close! But the “thing” that seems to work for everyone else that doesn’t work for me at all is falling asleep in silence. Everyone says that a dark, quiet room is best for sleep and, while I love the dark, the *quiet* part kills me! I have to have some kind of background noise – a podcast, an audiobook, a TV show, SOMETHING – to get me focused. Otherwise, my mind goes in a million different directions and I don’t get any sleep at all. I know it’s “wrong”, officially, and “bad sleep hygiene” or whatever, but it works for me, so I’m sticking with it. (It’s caused more than one argument with my husband, who’s a quiet-room sleeper, but we solved that pretty early on with a decent set of headphones and an agreement about volume hahaha). Keep doing you, doll!

    • Erin says:

      I’m like this, too! My husband doesn’t get it, but I need to focus on what someone else is saying in order to quiet my own frantic thoughts and fall asleep. What Should I Read Next? is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to at night because of Anne’s soothing voice.

  45. Hilary says:

    What doesn’t work for me? COSTCO. Whenever I’d go, i’d feel overwhelmed and come home angry. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s just too big and I hate how it’s laid out. ALso, I don’t have great storage for 85 cans of anything, 600 rolls of TP, etc. It really isn’t a big deal for me to run to Kroger/ Aldi/ Trader Joe’s to buy what I need on a regular basis. I don’t get the Costco love at all.
    Also, the sleep thing. ugh. I got into it with some friends because they want to run super early on the weekends. I’ve begged them to start a little later. I’m tired (ha!) of sacrificing my sleep for these insane runs so I just have to go solo sometimes. I am just not ready for bed at 8 pm : /

  46. Libby H says:

    Podcasts. How do people find the time to listen to them? I love the idea of them, but the only time I have to listen to one is when my kids are all at school, which ends up being a precious 5 hours throughout the week. And since this is the only time no one is talking to me, I just can’t bear to break the silence!

  47. Dawn says:

    My daughter has a medical condition that requires treatment at home, but at the same time every night. I mention this because we picked 7pm, and this has changed my sleep habits for the better. Now, instead of being willing to have activities or late dinners or whatever into the later evening hours, we have to cram it all into the time before 7. That means she gets her treatment and gets to bed on time, every night, which means I have a luxurious amount of time to slow down for the day and go to bed, on time, every night, too. It’s such a happy time in our house. We are all better rested, and the treatment is working; she’s feeling better. The treatments go for about a month, but I’m looking into ways we can keep our “home by 7” habit once school starts. I didn’t realize our wanting to “fit it all in” was a trade for down time, lower stress, or simple living.

  48. Rebecca says:

    My husband and I never start a Netflix show after 9 PM – unless it’s the weekend – and that’s more his choice than mine – but I’ve gotta admit, it works.

    We also both eat lunch around 11 instead of 12, which means we are both hungry for an early dinner – which eliminates wasted time between ending the work day and starting on dinner – I also wasn’t a fan of this at first. But now I love it!

  49. Aubrey says:

    I always feel so lame, but I just can’t do caffeine either. It increases the frequency of my migraines and I don’t want to have my life disrupted anymore.

    And I just can’t do more than two social events in one day, and I can’t be out of the house more than two-ish evenings per week as an ongoing habit. It works for lots of other people, but not for me. It really curtails what activities my kids can do, but a sane mom is better than an insane one, unless I want to give them great material for their tell-all memoirs later.

    And, alas, I am now of the age where what I ate the night before really impacts my morning workout. I basically cannot eat cow unless I want to be inactive for the next two days while it digests.

  50. Whitney Conard says:

    This absolutely resounds with me – I have two small kids, and work part time, and have lots of other friends in similar situations who are involved in WAY more commitments than me. I wonder why I can’t do all the things they do. But I’ve realized that every family has a different need for margin, and I need a LOT of margin in my life right now to feel rested, focused, and grounded in what is important to me. I have to remind myself of that whenever I feel I’m not ‘enough’ or that I should do more.

  51. Sadly, I cannot watch all the TV shows/movies/netflix that everyone seems to watch regularly. First, because I just cannot find the time. I feel like I’m doing the bare minimum and by 9 pm I have just finished putting kids to bed and am too exhausted! Second, my imagination is too vivid… if a movie or show is too intense, I won’t be able to stop thinking about it. I will be distracted and dream about it and walk around in a daze for a day or two. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV when I was a kid so I’m not desensitized to it.
    Books are more my speed, with the occasional mindless comedy/action movie date. I am not normal.

  52. Lara says:

    I can really relate.
    Just lately I have tried to stop and ask myself what I really want to do or what I like, not what is trendy or what I just read that “everyone is doing.” I am much more aware of what I like/don’t like or what works for me or doesn’t.
    (And Madam Secretary is a great show. I highly recommend it. ?)

  53. Anne, Sorry to be so late answering, but I wanted to say, take it from a 65 year old contrarian, listen only to your heart and where it wants to lead you. I spent years trying to fit in until one day it dawned on me that was making me sick. I’ve done some really crazy things that are against accepted conventions. In 1996, my husband and I sold our house to fund an around the world trip. Even though it was difficult once we got back, I have never regretted that decision.

    Thanks for this blog and your podcast. I love them both.

  54. Amy Flett says:

    This is sooo relevant to me right now. I just left home very suddenly due to danger and instability in the country where I grew up. Now, I’m newly arrived in the United States, and it seems like everyone has their schedule jam-packed and no expectation of even getting home before 9 or 10 pm, much less getting to bed earlier! I’ve discovered that going to bed late doesn’t work for me, even if I sleep in—8 hours from 11 to 7 just isn’t as restful as 8 hours from 9:30 to 5:30–but here, everyone stays up late and thinks nothing of it. After 10 days of sleep deprivation, I have to accept that while staying up late works fine for other people, it doesn’t work for me. Your post reminds me that it’s okay to accept that what works for everyone else isn’t necessarily good for me. Being low-maintenance doesn’t have to be my #1 priority right now, and I don’t need to feel guilty about choosing to go to bed a little earlier.

  55. I realized a couple of years ago that for me, “low maintenance” was code for “I’m not worth it”. I told myself a story that I was low maintenance while secretly being envious of women who were higher maintenance. It was part of my poverty mentality and I’ve worked on overcoming it ever since!

  56. Sarah says:

    I’ve accepted that I will always need more sleep than other people. I noticed during college when I went to bed at 11, but people stayed up all night to study. I tried to fight it while I was an intern and after college, but it made me feel miserable.
    I later found out that due to a genetic disorder that I didn’t know even existed, but I have, I also have hypersomnia. But, I also tend to get insomnia. So I can end up in bed until noon.
    I can’t handle sad books. I really loved the book club pick about the man who married the former actress, but halfway through, I had to put it down. I couldn’t finish it. I can read certain types of sad, and sometimes I am in the right mood, but if I am under any stress, forget it!
    And I keep fighting my naturallly fine and thinner hair with styling products, styling, and cuts. I haven’t given up head. I love big hair. I want full hair!
    Oh—and pretty handwriting. I journal, fill out my calendar, etc., but my handwriting is never what I want!

  57. Lindsay says:

    I have struggled with being a very noise-sensitive person. I don’t listen to music in my free time. On the rare occasions that I listen to the radio or an audiobook in the car, I can do about 30 minutes, absolute max. People are always surprised and almost personally offended (“Wow, music is my life!”) that I don’t listen to it. I get a lot of arguments about “background noise,” “de-stress,” “switch your brain off,” and “feeling it,” through music. But I can’t. Prolonged noise spikes my anxiety and makes me miserable. After dealing with the noise of a workday I need silence. And I’m just starting to be ok with that.

  58. Cathy says:

    Mrs. Darcy, if you are tired, it’s a common problem with young mothers. You need to probably change your diet some and eat foods that are giving you energy and are healthy. I raised my kids by myself and I taught school and was on the run 24-7 to everything the kids were involved in. I stayed tired and didn’t eat right. Because of my lack of taking care of myself I found out that I had to have quadruple bypass surgery before Christmas. I had no idea!!! Take care of yourself in order to be there for all the wonderful things happen now and after the kids are grown. They love you
    andwant you there to enjoy
    life with them. I have 2 kids and 13 of the most wonderful grandkids and they love me and want me in their life. The beautiful part of all this is they are now growing up, marrying and one has made me a great grandmother and 2 are getting married this year. Take care of yourself and enjoy your family because it’s goes faster than you can imagine. My girlfriend and I use to joke about “Lordy, are we every goi g to get these kids raised.” I’d love to do it over again. God Bless!

  59. Michelle R. says:

    This is such a great topic. And a timely post as I’m wrapping up the 4th of July holiday weekend having done a lot of unpacking post-reno, pot planting ( delayed due to a long work trip) and catch-up on paperwork. It took half the weekend to settle into this being the right activities for me – not the boating and bbq-ing others are doing. In between all my catch-up and house stuff, I reached out to half a dozen friends. The surprising result? I got updates and pics from some and future summer dates with others. This post was a great reminder of the same things not wyfor everyone.

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