Sleep Challenge 2010: I Fall Off the Wagon (with a Push from Zorba the Greek)

Here is my existential question for you, dear readers: Would you cut short a fun night to avoid paying the groggy-headed price the next day, or do you embrace the moment knowing that perfection isn't always worth it?
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Okay, I have a confession to make. It's now Day 11 of the sleep challenge -- not even halfway through -- and I've fallen off the sleep wagon. But I have a very good excuse. Of course, everyone who falls off the wagon -- any wagon -- has a very good excuse.

My lapse happened on Monday night (Day 8). I was hosting a dinner for two friends who were in town from Washington. As the night progressed, everyone was having such a great time no one wanted it to end. Including me. At about 11:30, I started feeling guilty. I knew that I had to be up the next morning at 6:30, so I had already overshot my appointed sleep time by an hour. Now, unless I immediately fell asleep in my chair, I was looking at not even getting seven hours of sleep -- let alone the eight hours that is my goal.

My compatriot Zorba the Greek suddenly popped into my head, reminding me that life is about living each moment fully. You can't let anything, Zorba whispered in my ear, even something as positive as the sleep challenge, get in the way of fully embracing the moment.

So I surrendered to my inner Zorba (opa!), and ended up going to bed at 2. When my alarm went off at 6:30 the next morning, I knew that I was going to pay a stiff price. But it didn't become clear just how stiff until 3 that afternoon when I really began to drag. I soon found myself yawning at the most inappropriate time: while helping my daughter with a school project.

"If you find this so boring, you don't have to help me," she chided. Another wave of guilt washed over me. I thought of my mother, who used to say of being a mom: "When they take the baby out, they put the guilt in."

As the afternoon dragged on, I remembered that I had another dinner to go to that night, this one thrown by a friend. I quickly looked at my schedule to see if I had time to grab an emergency nap -- or a 15-minute meditation. Alas, the rest of the day was filled with meetings and conference calls.

Luckily my second wind -- or was it the third? -- kicked in, and I made it through dinner. I even fought off the urge to avail myself of the quick energy jolt of a sugary dessert -- I'd already maxed out my guilt meter for the day.

I made it home in time to crawl into bed and meet my eight-hour sleep goal -- and had a fabulous, creative, and joy-filled next day as a result. I could really feel the difference between not getting enough sleep and getting the right amount.

So here is my existential question for you, dear readers: What's your call? Do you cut short a fun night to avoid paying the groggy-headed price the next day or do you embrace the moment, pay the price willingly, and accept that perfection is a goal not only unattainable, but sometimes not worth struggling to attain?

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