I am still adjusting to a new schedule now that I am working full-time again. I’ve gotten pretty good at getting up early, which is an amazing thing for me. I’m not a morning person by nature. I’ve tried all kinds of tactics for many years to find ways to help myself get up earlier in the morning, and it’s never worked for more than a couple of days. By prioritizing my writing time for first thing in the morning, I have now managed to get up early (2.5 hours earlier than I am used to) for a full four weeks!
I am incredibly proud of myself for the commitment that I am showing to my writing life. I am also unbelievably tired because I am not doing a very good job at going to bed much earlier than I used to despite my new wake-up time. Obviously, my bedtime needs to shift to an earlier hour very soon if I want to continue to be able to keep this up.
However, I am learning to appreciate the importance of sleep in a whole new way from going through this time of relative sleep deprivation. I am acutely aware of how much my lack of sleep is affecting my moods, my thought patterns, my motivation, and how my body feels.
When I am this tired, I have trouble concentrating. I am forgetting things much more often. My body aches. My eyes hurt. I am unmotivated to do things I know I need to do (like cleaning the house). I am irritable and cranky. Everything around me seems more negative. I am easily discouraged and less hopeful. My confidence level plummets. Even little things seem to take a huge amount of energy. I fall into old patterns and unproductive stories more easily. I find it harder to be grateful. I experience my entire world differently when I am this tired.
All of this is giving me such a profound appreciation for the importance of sleep in my life. Seeing how the lack of it affects my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual worlds in such negative ways makes me realize just how much healing power sleep has.
I was reading tonight about someone who experienced a severe brain injury from a stroke and how she had to relearn so many things in order to be able to function independently again. She noted over and over how critically important sleep was in her brain’s ability to repair itself and to consolidate everything she was learning. Because the learning curve was so intense in the early days after her stroke, she needed a very high proportion of sleep time to waking time.
Although I know I function best when I get extra sleep (in fact, about nine hours a night is optimal for me), I so often tend to view sleep as “wasted” time. Her story, along with my own experience these last few weeks, reminds me that it’s not wasteful at all. It is actually critical to my brain’s health, and because the health of my brain dictates everything else about how I experience life, sleep is a critical component to everything else I experience in life.
How amazing is it that something that is free, natural, and easy to do has such a positive impact on our lives! And yet, the very simplicity and naturalness of sleep is probably why it’s so easy to take it for granted. I know very few people who truly prioritize sleep—making sure they get enough of it and making sure it’s quality sleep. I know that I am guilty of not prioritizing it the way I should, even though I tend to be more protective of my sleep time than most.
That’s about to change, though. My life is a bit too full right now to consistently get nine hours a night, but I can make getting eight hours a night a top priority. I can also better implement the many suggestions I know for improved sleep quality to ensure that those hours are as productive as they can be.
This is one case where my gratitude for this healing practice is driving a change in my behavior because I want to emphasize those things that make my life better. And on that note, it’s time for me to head to bed.
How much do your prioritize your sleep life? When was the last time you stopped for a moment to be grateful for sleep? It’s really an amazing gift when you stop to think about it.
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