The Art of Self-Restraint


It’s 10:30pm. I have to get up early for work tomorrow, so it’s time for bed. I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s bad for your sleep if you’re on the computer before you go to bed, so I decide to read a bit before I go to sleep. I grab my e-book reader, pick a new book, and get going.

It’s 11pm. This is about the time I should be going to bed. I’ve even reached the end of a chapter that isn’t a cliffhanger. I reach to flick the switch on my e-book reader, then in a flash of brilliance decide that a peek at the start of the next chapter won’t hurt. After all, I’ll only take five more minutes, then I’ll go to sleep.

It’s 11:30pm. I’m two and a half chapters beyond where I originally meant to stop, but it’s getting good. The book’s building up to the climax, the mysteries are deepening and the characters are about to get themselves into far more trouble than they can handle. I do some quick calculations in my head. I need to get up at 7am for work, and if I sleep at midnight I’ll still have a whole seven hours of sleep. That’s a respectable amount, and I’ll be able to function well tomorrow. Yes. Midnight will do.

It’s midnight. I don’t notice.

It’s 2am. I’m still awake. I know I should have been in bed three hours ago. I also know that I will be kicking myself ten ways to Friday when my alarm rings. But I look at the flashing digits of the clock that say 2:07am and convince myself that I can read for another three minutes.

It’s 2:10am. I glance briefly at the clock and decide that since I’ve already gone so far beyond my original bedtime, five more minutes isn’t that big a deal.

It’s 2:30am. Okay, I know I said five more minutes. But this is the part where everything’s gone to hell, and I need to find out what’s going to happen to everyone. I’ll stop once the characters get past this particular obstacle.

It’s 3am. Good. They got through that problem in one piece. But I’m not that far off finishing the book–from what my e-book reader tells me, there’s only about 50 pages to go, out of the 300 or so. Hell, I’ve already ploughed through the rest, so I might as well finish it. It’s not that much more.

It’s 4am. I am done. Done! Damn, that was a good ending. I finally put the e-book reader aside, turn off the light and fall asleep thinking happy thoughts about the world I’ve just left.

It’s 7am. My alarm goes off. I hit it, and it snoozes.

It’s 7:20am. I’ve hit the snooze button three times already, and I really should be getting ready for work. I hate myself. I hate the me of the previous night. I curse myself for my complete and utter lack of self control. As I brush my teeth and wonder how I’m going to get through the day, I swear I’ll never do it again. Next time, I will turn off the reader right on 11pm, no matter where I’m at. I will go to bed, and continue reading tomorrow as any sensible person would do.

A week later, it’s 10:30pm. I’ve had a long day, gotten home late, had a thousand other things to deal with even after work, and I just want to unwind. I figure I can slip in 30 minutes of reading before bed, and grab my e-book reader…

Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.

Photo by Neil Fein, via Flickr


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