sleep. and, my home is an emotionally shitty environment, part 2

By Laura Gao • 12 min read
May 2023

The world is beautiful. Why waste it by being sleep deprived?


the first time i screwed up my sleep schedule really badly was atlas, august 2022. slept at 2am-4am every night for a week and half before I gave out. the ensuing pain that followed taught me that my quality of life is dangerously worse when I'm sleep deprived. i feel my best self when i'm in bed for 8-9 hours and I wake up 2-3 hours before school starts. in the recent 4-5 months, i haven't been adhering to this value, sleeping consistently between midnight and 2am. then, the next morning, when my alarm goes off, i want to stay behind the blissful darkness of my eye mask. id spend my day tired and in pain. but the cycle repeats, mostly due to texting people, seeking comfort on autopilot. [1]

i maintain that staying up late last night is justified and a good decision [2]. i believe it's okay to stay up late once to twice a week, but i do not wish to live a life where this happens on more than 50-70% of days, because my quality of life would be substantially lower.

dad, i understand that reading english is difficult for you. you can feel free to stop reading here.

[1] What I found helped me is: tuning into my emotions. Emotions contain useful information. If I take a minute to breathe, pause, get away from discord at 11pm, I'd notice the aching down my legs and the "veil of tiredness" across my visual gaze. I'd notice that I want to sleep rather than keep texting.

For the past half-year or so, I believed in sleeping early. I know I'm not doing a good job and I already feel terrible about it. Therefore, when you, mom or dad, remind me that I'm not sleeping well, you're not really helping. (You do, however, help me feel guilty.)

To be clear, this is fine. Perhaps your goal isn't to help me, but to point out where I'm doing wrong so I can improve. I don't expect you to help, because this is my problem that I am capable of fixing on my own. I just would prefer it for you to acknowledge that you are not helping, and any progress I will make is attributed to me.

[2] this week i had been fed up with myself. then, sunday, i didnt text that much and i stayed focused on writing and i was one of the most productive days id had in 2 weeks! i am rediscovering deep work writing flow! i was sosososo proud of myself.

i sit. down. at my desk. i am typing in obsidian. i am writing out the "recap of my arguments" of the parenting essay that id been struggling to articulate for the past week-ish and now im finally doing it! i hear footsteps up the stairs. i consider shutting off my laptop and pretending i'm asleep, but nah, that's against my policy on honesty and integrity.

dad opens the door.

"Laura! Why can't you be a normal person?"

My body involuntarily jolts upward.

"Do you see the time? Why aren't you asleep? Why can't you be a normal person -- go to bed when you're supposed to sleep, wake up when you're supposed to wake up? Instead, you work when you're supposed to be asleep and then sleep during the day when you're supposed to be working."

My dad's voice is loud. Harsh. It's the sound of a teacher screaming at a grade 1 student to STOP TALKING IN CLASS GODDAMIT THIS IS 100TH TIME IM TELLING YOU!

He continues. "What can you be working on that's so important?"

"I'm writing an essay. This essay is pretty important to me. I've been trying to write this essay for the past week, and it hasn't really been working. Today, I finally managed to sit down and write a draft, so I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm planning to finish up this draft."

Rookie mistake: interpreting this as a genuine question.

"What essay is it? For your website, to publish for no one to read?"

"No, actually. This is a letter to you."

"Well, if you really want to write a letter to me, write it in Chinese."

"Yeah, I planned to do that, but I think that might take me a year."

"That's not the point. The point is, what can you be writing that's so important? No one cares about your essays, did you know that? Even if you finish it tonight, no one will read it, because no one cares."

My dad's voice is piercing. Sharp. The needle in a haystack when you comb your hands through and scoop up a fistful of hay, a sharp pinch as your fingers curl around and suddenly your skin is unzipped open. It's the iron blanket of words that wraps around your body in a dome, and you want to just cut it open and poke your head out for some fresh air but YOU CAN'T.

"I care. This essay is important to me. This has been an issue that has been bothering me for many years, and I'm finally trying to write about it."

"Well, if it has been bothering you for many years, then you can write it slowly. Write it tomorrow, in the daytime. Why does it have to be at night?"

"Like I said, I've been trying to write this essay for the past week. And only today have I actually started to feel good about it. So I want to continue my train of thought before I lose it. I am actually worried that if I don't take the opportunity to it now, I won't be able to write it for another week. Writing is hard."

Rookie mistake: interpreting this as a genuine question.

"There is no way this is that important. This is only important in your imagination. You can write it tomorrow, there will be difference. I know, I've written stuff before."

I look at him.

"Ok, think about it this way. If right now, I get sick, and I need to go to the hospital. Would you sit here and write? No. You'd take me to the hospital! Therefore your writing isn't that important. What do you lose if you don't write tonight? Nothing."

I lose my week of agonizing over this essay and being a depressed ass to the people I love that I interact with because I'm trying to sort out my thoughts, how do I communicate 17 years in a few pages?

Besides, if you are going to the hospital, it'd be more important than sleep too? This feels like, a false comparison. A red herring? No. That's not right. Definitely some logical fallacy though, although I can't put a name to it.

Dad shuts the door.

Oh well. I do pretty much have a skeleton today already. I guess it won't be too hard to touch up the rough sections tomorrow, put some placeholders now.

Dad, I know. You didn't really come up to my room to tell me that my writing isn't that important and no one will read it.

You're concerned for my health and sustainability.

I think that conversation we had misses the point. The point isn't about how important my writing is.

The point is that sleeping well is a good habit. Your habits have a big influence on your life.

Not sleeping feels terrible. I know, trust me. I'd wake up in the morning, I'd try not to put my head down during biology test because I might fall asleep. Everything hurts everything hurts everything hurts. Sleeping well raises your baseline level of happiness.

Life is too beautiful to waste it on being sleep deprived. i feel my best self when i'm in bed for 8-9 hours and I wake up 2-3 hours before school starts. in the recent 4-5 months, i haven't been adhering to this value, sleeping consistently between midnight and 2am. then, the next morning, when my alarm goes off, i want to stay behind the blissful darkness of my eye mask. id spend my day tired and in pain. but the cycle repeats, mostly due to texting people, seeking comfort on autopilot.

Texting has been like an issue. Primarily AoC, tbh :skull:. it's very easy to passively scroll, unlike dms, which require well-thought-out responses.

Also an issue with day to day work. I probably spent an average of 4-6 hours per day texting, with aoc and [redacted] and tops server/frens. I felt guilty I lost my ability to focus on deep work. I've been trying to write this piece for the past week or two, both the parenting piece and the "history of laura," and i never really properly sat down to write except for an hour at a time before getting disciouraged that my writing wasn't making sense so id go waste time on discord again.

so today i actually sat down to write for a few proper hours, I was so proud!

I was like overcoming this. wheeee. i am stopping my default boredom behaviour of going on discord, which would help me with sleeping better too if i keep this up!!

dad walks out the room. his words ring in my head.

your writing is not important. it's only important in your imagination. even if i write it, no one cares. no one will read it.

I know don't mean it, dad. You're just concerned about my health, I am too, and this was your way of expressing it. You wanted to say that you think sleep is more important than my writing, not that my writing is useless.

What I don't say: David Perell says writing is the most rigorous intellectual activity he does. I think it might be the same for me. Argumentative essay writing is: starting with a tangled thread of arguments in mind, trying to parse them onto the page in a clear, linear way, but the first two or three drafts are just words on a page that don't flow as nicely as they did as in your head, and then you realize maybe you don't understand this topic as well as you thought. I rely on writing to think clearly

I know you just want the best for me, so it's illogical for me to feel hurt, but I feel hurt anyways.

What I don't say: ive been full-time focusing on improving my writing for ~4 months, and part-time for like a year and half ever since i took philosophy.

those insults are completely uncalled for given the situation. all they achieve were hurt my feelings. (they don't actually make me more likely to sleep?) in an ideal world, I guess I'd hope you say sorry. but even if you don't, i forgive you anyways. if i keep feeling hurt, it'd be my responsibility.

i want you to see that i am trying my best, i really do believe in sleep and yeah i failed at it in the past but today was a rare day where it was actually justified. i guess it'd be hard for you to believe that, oh it just so happens the one day you catch me awake at 1, it's the day it's justified.

Nobody's perfect, yeah, I guess we all fall short And I can't hold this unforgiveness in my heart no more


What I don't say: i guess im lucky that i have enough of a support sytstem that i don't believe that my writing is useless.

  • anthony, as he read he sent over quotes that resonated, asked qs, an hour convo spining out of the piece discussion. "ah. made it to the end of the piece. fun read, can't wait to see it finished."
  • sophia, starting a discussion about what were the moments that caused people to stray from the path. hmm first principles is an inefficient approach
  • naman, "hehe i guess i'll have to diligently studying ur work"

but wtv im admitting to having slept before midnight a grand total of <7 times in the past 3 months. and yesterday night was probably one out of less than 5 days it was justified for productivity reasons. i think there mighve been ~10 days where it was justified for social reasons.

What I don't say: david perell says it's a skill thatd help you stand out in any knowledge work, and i agree. thigns that writing has gotten me in the past include: getting into university. ms brennan, a person i look up to, telling me im the earnest type of student she wants to encourage everyone to be. sigil, my 2022 review, im one of the ppl he's the most consistently impressed with(?), a job interview. technical blog posts so ppl thought i had tech skills enough to do a softeng internship at 15. emil bet that id be a millionaire at 24.

maybe you'll believe this.

what i don't say: when i write, i pour my soul into these words. trying to replicate the content of my brain. writing is preserving a slice of ephemeral memeories, a photograph in a kaleidoscope of words.

update, 1 day later: part 2

leave a msg for laura

i respect your emotional rawness. keep introspecting, maybe a little less inspirational quote posting...

msgs are anonymous. optionally leave ur name & discord (or other contact info) if u want me to respond