Sleep? In the discussion of a self-directed life, how important can the time be when we’re dead to the world? By incorporating a whole new way of dealing with my sleep issues this winter, I know the answer: very, very, VERY important!
My first memory is of not sleeping. I remember being awake while my parents were asleep, and feeling anxious, scared and somehow, bored at the same time. It wasn’t an all-the-time problem, but for at least one week out of every month, I would spend a couple hours awake in the middle of the night. This pattern has been a constant for me through every part of my life. It usually gets worse when I’m stressed and usually gets better when I’m on vacation, and it roughly seems to coincide with “lady time”. I deal pretty well as long as it last no more than about 2 weeks. After 2 weeks with not sleeping, I start to deteriorate. The worst time I remember was a month straight where I could Just. Not. Sleep. But, I had planned a big party, and by god, I was going to have it, regardless of my dopiness. I introduced my partner to his own cousin, who thought I was joking and said “Gee, I think we’ve met before!”. In complete seriousness, I said that I didn’t think I had ever introduced them before, so just how could that be!?
The sleep issue has been exacerbated over the last couple years because of a schedule that had me getting up at 5:30am most mornings to head to a far away gym before work. I would frequently be up for 3-4 hours in the middle of the night, and just have fallen asleep again when the alarm went off. Not surprisingly, my progress was slow or non-existant during those weeks where I wasn’t sleeping.
As part of our money saving plan, we decided to stop going to that gym in favor of a bare-bones community gym right around the corner. And, suddenly, I could sleep in an extra hour every morning, and still fit in my workout.
It was then that I realized that EVERYTHING in my life could be affected by getting more sleep. Have studies shown anything that does not improve with more sleep?! I am really trying to listen to my body and honor what it’s asking for with sleep. Which means I aim to be lying down for at least 9 hours a night. Yep, *9* hours! More often than not, I sleep the whole time. And if I am up for a few hours, I still have 5 or 6 hours under my belt. I’m not feeling outrageously good, but certainly better.
I’m also trying to stress less about the amount of sleep I get and I’m aware that fretting about being awake does me no good. It’s been helpful to look at sleep in a historic context. Pre-industrial Revolution, it was completely normal to sleep for about 4-5 hours, then be up for an hour or two, and then do another round. Modern society demands that we get our sleep all in one lump. So, the issue here (in my head) is that I’m acting completely biologically normal, but new constraints have changed an appropriate sleep pattern into a problem. I’m also really digging Playaways, little pre-loaded MP3 players that I check out from the library. Rather than lay awake and worry, I’m working my way through literature and keeping my brain on better thoughts.
So, what are your plans for tonight? If you don’t have any, turn off the TV early, tuck yourself into bed and join me for some zzzzzz’s!