Work, Netflix, or Chill? How My Generation Has Lost its Battle With Eight-Hour Sleep

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Work, Netflix, or Chill? How My Generation Has Lost its Battle With Eight-Hour Sleep

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

 

I

am not a morning person, I am an “ek aur episode dekh lete hai” at 3.30 am kind of a person. I am also young, so almost by default, am also a compulsive coffee person. My need for a strong cuppa joe and it’s subsequent rush of caffeine is as compulsive as Noida residents’ urge to put up statuses that say, “OMG see guyz it’s hailing wow”. Which is why I don’t recall the last time I got a good eight hours of sleep.

Of late, a couple of my coworkers and I have also begun a new post-lunch office trend of sorts – wearing sunglasses indoors. Most of our colleagues think we’re making some kind of ridiculous fashion statement by strutting around in office with our wayfarers, but only the three of us know that the shades’ sole purpose is to make our afternoon siestas in front of our machines less conspicuous.

Here’s some stats. According to recent studies, 95 per cent of Indian millennials are stressed. And about 93 per cent of us are perpetually sleep-deprived. This can be attributed to high stress levels and our infamously toxic work culture that encourages the “long hours = hard work” philosophy. Our grandparents’ generation normalised having 12 children, and our parents’ normalised 12-hour work days. While I can forgive my Baa for adding to India’s population crisis (the ’50s were a boring time, after all), I’m not sure if I can forgive my dad’s generation for adding to the work culture woes of millennial India. Even new-age employers aren’t warming up to work-from-home set ups and are instead considering setting up sleeping pods in the workplace itself. Because fuck you and your social life, you entitled millennial.

To them, I’d like to ask, “What social life?” Even though being a high-functioning millennial in 2019 entails having a thriving social life, it’s actually a pretty daunting task. It’s really hard to just sit at home and do nothing these days, what with Instagram stories constantly reminding me that Sharmita from Marketing is out having kamikaze shots at Khar Social as I stare at my laptop screen wondering whether I sanitised the keyboard.

Even though being a high-functioning millennial in 2019 entails having a thriving social life, it’s actually a pretty daunting task.

In our 20s, there’s no greater juggling act than trying to balance work, a social life, and a decent sleep cycle. If you’re managing to do alright in your career while maintaining a semblance of a social life and somehow also managing to magically get a full eight hours of sleep every night, then teach me, senpai! Show me the light and enlighten me in adopting your ways. Because even at my best, I can manage to do two out of these three.

Like this past month, I focused on social life and sleep, effectively giving my career a bit of a jolt. My January mostly comprised conveniently missing deadlines and showing up late to work much to my employer’s chagrin. Because my first month of 2019 was spent consciously pursuing simpler pleasures like catching up with long-lost buddies in the wee hours of the night over Bade Miyan kebabs and pressing the snooze button until 9.30 am.

I’ve often found that when it comes to sleep, our conscience is split into two distinct animals that give us polar opposite advice: the inner night owl and the inner early bird. On a lazy afternoon, when your loud yawn distracts everyone in the boardroom, you might hear a voice inside your head go, “Yaar bahut ho gaya, let’s start hitting the hay by 11 pm from now.” This voice is your inner early bird. Wise and responsible, the early bird will tell you exactly what you need to do to get your shit together, sleep-cycle wise. Now, only if we fucking listened to it.

Instead, at 6 pm, when the work day is about to end and your fatigue suddenly disappears, your inner night owl rears its vile, reprehensible head. It makes you conveniently forget about the hot mess that your life and career are and compels you to shamelessly agree to mid-week drinking plans with seductive whispers of “chal na aaj daaru peete hai!” The most common side-effect of letting the night owl have his way is finding yourself three shots down and clinking the fourth at 2 am yelling, “Kal Thursday hai? Cool, kal ka kal dekh lenge bro. Cheers!” You might even find yourself drunkenly reading through the 1260 missed WhatsApps at 4 am from a group you haven’t replied to since 2017.

“So hell, let’s blame rent prices and teeny tiny flats without living rooms for our inability to sleep as well as we should be.”

Even if you manage to avoid the landmines of late-night social media sprees and instant messaging before bed, those aren’t the most dangerous technological innovations standing between you and your Zs. Even the most disciplined time management mavericks in my life have ended up sacrificing their precious sleep schedule at the altar of binge-worthy Netflix shows and documentaries. “Bas ek aur episode,” the night-owl says at 4.15 am. Sure, waking up fresh as a daisy after a healthy nine-hour rest is great and all. But have you experienced the petty thrill of bingeing The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 until 5 am on a Tuesday?

The reasons for why we do this to ourselves elude me, but at least I’m not alone. In an article titled “Unpicking the Millennial Issue with Sleep”, journalist Jasmine Kopotsha says, “We already know that our late-night digital procrastination isn’t exactly helping the whole sleep thing. Then there’s also the fact that we use our bedrooms for a whole lot more than just sleeping these days. So hell, let’s blame rent prices and teeny tiny flats without living rooms for our inability to sleep as well as we should be.”

This never-ending circle of bad decisions and worse sleep deprivation must stop somewhere. In time, I will hopefully master the art of balancing work, life, and sleep. But until then, it seems I am trapped in a vicious cycle, forever choosing between work, Netflix, or chill.

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