I start with sleep. Not because it lops off our biggest chunk of the day, but because if you go long enough sleep is uncontrollable. Sleep will literally overtake your body without you knowing it. Ironic, as sometimes your body doesn’t go to sleep when you want it to.
We know we’re supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep and we are repeatedly told that sleep:
- promotes weight loss
- restores and repairs our bodies
- creates more energy
- is a stress reducer
- promotes optimal hand eye coordination
- promotes higher cognitive thinking
What it comes down to is that sleep makes us wake up brilliant, beautiful and productive.
I don’t know about you, but when approached with this topic, I used to get protective of my waking hours. I would get defensive at the mere mention of “supposed to” or “required” when it comes to talking about sleep. Besides, I wanted to believe that I’m a better built human, who does more on less with that extra hour or two gained from sleeping less. Plus, look at the image. A third of our day? Isn’t that a lot to ask? I feel like I’m running out of time just talking about it.
Now that I get a full nights sleep, of course it is easy for me to say that I can tell the difference. I certainly like myself a lot better than I did when trying to survive on four to seven hours a night.
I remember the first time I conquered a night of tossing and turning. I was in bed after a long day and mentally preparing for the next day of running non-stop. Of course one doesn’t want to be caught off guard by being unprepared, so, I was trying to remember what I needed to remember. You know, reviewing mistakes so I don’t repeat them, trying to make the schedule fit, and plan for the fallout that always comes from a tightly packed day. … The usual stuff.
Then suddenly, I’m mad I’m not asleep yet. Immediately, I’m stressing because I know that people who slog around from not enough sleep aren’t prepared. Panic caught me when I realized, I am screwing it up before I even get started. I moaned and bit my lip hoping I didn’t disturb my husband. I needed him asleep, so I could get some sleep. “Why, oh why, is reviewing my day and seeking some comfort and satisfaction in the plan, so I can drift off into blissful and competent sleep, not working!”
Isn’t that what we want? To go to bed at night, bold, competent, content. Isn’t that what ending your day as a success is all about?
All this stressful crap means something’s not right and needs fixing. Right?
In the crux of my anxiety, I caught my breath and paused until I could feel my skin tingle and I had to remind myself to breathe. In regret, I’m wishing and praying for some peace and quiet in my overtasked day because, MAYBE, if I had a moment’s peace I wouldn’t get myself into these stressful situations.
Then it occurred to me that it IS quiet. Memories of what was and the way it should be, is that evenings are peaceful. Night is quiet. Most humans settle down for bed. Even the animals settle in and restore themselves for the next day. I caught the wonderment that, IT IS peaceful in the middle of the night. Well then a train whistle went off and later an ambulance drove by to remind me that people are busy with both work and causing trouble in the middle of the night. But still for the most part, this is the quiet moment that I’m always wishing and praying for, and I’m wasting it on stress.
Not anymore! Here it is and I’m going to enjoy it.
Whenever a stressful thought crept in, I put it on hold. Nothing I could do about it, so I quit thinking it and went back to marveling over the ambiance of my room.
I felt powerful controlling my thoughts. I thought I’d feel careless. Irresponsible. But I didn’t. I was in my space and I loved it. I enjoyed myself so much … I fell asleep.
Of course it wasn’t that simple. These things take practice. Actually… I thought going to bed stressful and changing my thoughts was going to be the norm from then on, but it wasn’t. In fact, if I have an odd night stressing, I can forget my new tools. Eventually I remember so the entire night isn’t wasted.
Also there are nights where I just don’t sleep. Instead of being angry I just lay there and try to keep myself as peaceful as I can. I constantly tell myself, if I’m not asleep at least my body is in a state of rest. This is not a fix, but I am more rested for the next day than if I had thrown a fit all night.
After that first night, I came up with a series of things.
- If it’s that important, I’ll remember it. If I don’t have that much faith in myself, then I think, if God wants me to remember it, I’ll remember it. Sometimes that takes a little convincing but usually it works.
- If it’s that important, and there is something to do about it, I should get out of bed and go do it. If not, I have to quit harping on it and go to sleep.
- I try to keep my eyes open in the dark, and watch the shadow play on the walls or ceiling. Yes, that is freaky for some people, but it works. When an invasive thought enters my mind, I refocus on a new shadow. It’s as if the longer I keep my eyes open the faster I fall asleep.
- I will also use my hearing. Believe it or not, silence isn’t really silent. Between sounds I try to see if I can hear the air. It is pretty cool when you are away from the refrigerator humming or the DVR whirring. Sound disappears into the night so I’m always seeking out a new one. When I go to bed I’m usually asking, can you actually hear silence?
When you are laying there, in your own bed, in the middle of the night, you can come up with anything you want. Just ask how yourself how you can clear your mind long enough to get to sleep. It takes some practice.
Over the course of time this practice taught me how to deal with fear. Nothing major, just normal everyday pesky fear that induces stress. Fear that I am going to be late. Fear that I am going to do it wrong. Fear that it is going come to fruition .. or not, for that matter. (Whatever “it” is.)
I also learned about submission. And how submission is not failure or giving up. When it comes down to it, nothing is going to get solved right there in the middle of the night. If it was, I would still be up and taking care of it.
The problem is the effects aren’t noticed until the sleep you deprived yourself over the years is restored. For me this took about three months. Hey, I pushed the limits for a very long time. Now I can say I won’t go back to my old ways. Now I can handle a short night sleep and be pretty close to my best, as long as I don’t make it a way of life anymore.
My first entry for outlining the daily pressure of “I should” is sleep 8 hours. Please stay tuned for the next entry coming soon.
Update … May 18th 2015
A daily post prompt on something I already wrote about! yay! 🙂