On Sleep and Decision Hygiene


Once again, I'll be kicking off the Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers Conference this Friday at 12:10pm, ET. You can register here. It's free and you don't have to be a homeschooler.


This time around, I'll be talking about science-based Habits for Optimizing Learning. We'll be doing some movement (spoiler alert about one of the habits!) and, as always, there will be a bit of mindfulness practice and Q & A.


Mindfulness and Sleep


Another spoiler alert and something you might know about me . . . I'm obsessed with sleep and getting a lot of it. I've always been a good sleeper and tracked my sleep before there were trackers and wearables. As a result of getting great sleep and paying attention to my sleep hygiene, my heart rate, the quality of sleep, my heart rate variability (HRV), etc..., it's painfully obvious to me during the day if I'm off my sleep game.


The same is true with mindfulness practice. When I do my sit each morning and my body scan each night (that's my routine--you do you), I have certain quality of mind and body throughout the day. When I don't, it's noticeable. It's palpable. I heap some self-compassion on myself and remember I can always begin again. Tomorrow is a new day.


Both sleep and mindfulness happen inside the context of your life, and if you want to optimize them, you need some hygiene, which is a sort of clinical word that simply means--personal rules for setting yourself up for success.


What are these rules you speak of?


Rules are intentions that reduce noise in decision-making by removing the human judgment that is frequently responsible for errors in decision-making. We're talking about the process of making decisions, here, and not the decisions themselves. If you're evaluating your decision-making by looking at the outcomes, your evaluation process is living in the wrong place. There are many factors that affect the outcome of a decision that have nothing to do with your decision-making. Luck and other external factors you don't control are all part of the mix between your decision-making and the actual outcome. To blame your process--or credit your process--based on outcome isn't a good idea.


Instead, the goal should be good decision hygiene because, as professional poker player and decision strategist, Annie Duke, says, There are exactly two things that determine how your life will turn out: luck and the quality of your decisions.


I love the way she talks about this (and this isn't verbatim but it's close). Every decision you make is like a bet; it's a prediction of the future. Try to separate luck from the quality of your decisions, and increase the quality of the beliefs you have that are informing your predictions for the future.


Examples of Rules

For sleep, it could be something like: I am in bed by 9pm and I wake up after 5am. No naps. In other words, you have a schedule that you stick to. You're not winging it, day after day, depending on how you feel, what you ate, and whether or not your football team won the championship. AND baked into your schedule is 8 hours of sleep (yes, 8, and definitely no less than 7).


For decisions, it could be:

  • I don't make decisions over the phone.

  • I don't make a decision without my partner if the amount is over $250.

  • I don't go food shopping on an empty stomach.

  • I don't ever drink alcohol if I am driving--not even one, early in the evening (this is a helpful rule for sleep, too, as the sleep you get from alcohol is sedation, which isn't the same as sleep).

  • I don't drink caffeine (also helpful for sleep, too. Sorry.).

  • I meditate before I eat breakfast.

  • I exercise in the morning.

  • If all things are equal between two options, I flip a coin (if there's nothing else you can know, it doesn't matter which you choose, so this saves time).

About that last one . . .

All decisions have uncertainty--incomplete information. For big decisions, list what you know, don't know, can know, and can't know. The first three are where you concentrate your effort. There's no use considering what you can't know, however you first must realize you can't know it, which usually means you're making assumptions.


For example, you're choosing between two houses that both have what you want and need, and part of your process is also: who are the neighbors? There's a lot of assumption in there, potentially. Even if you sit in your car for a week staking out the neighborhood, all that tells you is what happened that week. There's no reason to assume every week is like that or that the same people will be there in a year. Spending time considering the neighbors might be a waste of time. As Duke says in How to Decide, when a decision is hard that means it's easy. It's a freeroll but you end up concentrating on the potential downsides that have equal possibilities for both choices and you end up wasting time. Instead, you should go faster, as you can't know which house you'll enjoy more over the next decade. This is an example of a decision that should be fast but for most people it's slow, for the wrong reasons.


Believe it or not, all of these topics are part of Mindfulness and Teen Life Skills as well as Mindfulness for Financial Advisors. Check out the next round of classes of all kinds here.


May you be at ease . . .

mm