Sleeping is a beautiful thing.
I speak as a person who can’t always manage it. Today I’m singing, chatty, smiling at everyone I meet, happy, positive, busy…I slept last night! I hadn’t realized how badly I was feeling until today when I’m feeling so good.
I know with my head how sleep is fundamental. Fundamental to our health, our well-being, our motivation, our energy… do I need to go on?
But today I feel it in my body, my mood, my level of activity.
Do you sleep well? Do you take it for granted? Do you wake up, after a good night’s sleep feeling rested and renewed? And do you take a moment to be grateful? Light a candle sometimes, in gratefulness? I’m quite boring- I nag my friends to be grateful for their ability to sleep. I simply cannot comprehend what it must be like to lie down, close your eyes and…go to sleep, every night. Just like that! Even when I’m sleeping better, I never go to sleep quickly and I almost never sleep for more than four or five hours at a time.
For so many years I lived with not enough sleep. Mornings I struggled to wake up, to get going, to get to work, was late regularly. I struggled through the day. Most times my main aim was to stay awake. Couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate, rarely felt alert, energetic, keen. Didn’t make longterm plans, day to day was enough. Life was hard. I struggled to get out of negative to zero. Get into the positive? Seemed impossible. I don’t remember ever sleeping easily and well.
Why did I continue like this? Think about common attitudes to sleep. I accepted the view “live with it, if you think about it you only make it worse”. Or, “anyone can sleep, it’s all in your mind.” Or, “you sleep more than you think”. And the criticisms: ” You’re always tired, You’re always late,…” Unless you’ve experienced chronic lack of sleep, you cannot understand. It’s the truth of “walk a mile in my shoes.”
For whatever reason, I lived with it. With chronic lack of sleep, with exhaustion, with poor concentration, with poor motivation- after all, why want to do something when I’d be too tired anyway?
One day, on the way to work, late as usual, I heard a specialist in sleep disorders interviewed. He described me. He described how I couldn’t sleep- hours to go to sleep, difficulty waking, feeling jetlagged all day… and named it as a sleep disorder!
Revelation! If I had a sleep disorder, then I could do something about it! It could be fixed! Maybe I would sleep and maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t always be so tired.
What to do? I found a hypnotherapist. One session and that night, I slept! I spent the next day in a state of wonder. I knew I could do anything. Fly to the moon, climb Everest, anything was possible. And I wondered. Did people who slept well feel like that every day? Was life that easy? That much fun?
Did better sleep continue? Am I now one of the fortunate ones who go to bed and go to sleep? Well no, it hasn’t been that simple. There have been periods when my life has been calm and sleep has been better. There was one scary and difficult time when sleep was disrupted completely, but that’s another story.
I understand myself better now. Such self understanding has taken sixty-six years and several years with a wonderful therapist. Self understanding, growth and change don’t come easy. Having now experienced times when I am rested I have great compassion and admiration for my sleep deprived self. How did I survive? How did I hold down jobs? Even turning up for work was an achievement. I can forgive myself for so much.
Today? I continue to learn about and to understand chronic insomnia.; to be grateful for the simple, necessary things of life; and to cultivate those practices that aid my rest.
For the times I’m rested and refreshed I shall be forever grateful. And for those other times? I’ll accept them and not worry. Today I know that if the non-restful times continue I seek help and I know that I will be helped. And I’m grateful for wisdom and experience that has given me tools so I’m no longer powerless or helpless.
What are some of the things I’ve learnt? Knowing when to ask for help and being able to accept it and having the courage to be vulnerable and humble enough to learn.