Sleep? Why? I`ll never accomplish anything that way! How could I possibly sleep when I have so many important things to do? People are relying on me, my to do list grows faster than weeds after a good rain, I haven’t been to the gym yet, and if I decide to call it an early night on the weekend I will probably miss out on the best party EVER.
I used to be one of those people who viewed sleep as a necessary evil; one of those things that unfortunately mankind had not yet invented a way of altogether avoiding. And so, I committed myself to limiting my intake of the time-wasting substance to the bare minimum necessary to survive.
I was so committed to the cause that I became an expert at it. I learned how to survive consistently on 4 to 6 hours of sleep with a 7 hour night thrown in once every month or so for good measure. I became so good at it that I didn’t even have to try to stay awake. I simply taught myself insomnia.
Now you may be thinking that I must be crazy. Nobody wants to be an insomniac. And even if they did you can`t learn it. It’s a disorder, not a skill. None of this sounds quite right.
Fair enough. That`s what I thought too. For years I was convinced that I wasn`t choosing to stay awake - I just couldn`t fall asleep. I tried to sleep a full 8 hours, really, I did, but I just couldn`t get my mind to shut off. I would get up and do things at all hours of the night. I would tell myself - Might as well be productive if I'm awake anyways, right? And what was so bad about it? I was accomplishing things...and I was surviving, wasn't I? I still managed to get up each morning put on a game face and tackle life's busyness with a smile (mostly)...
And so I came to the inescapable conclusion that I just didn't need as much sleep as the average mortal. The experts could go around recommending 8 hours till they were blue in the face. I wasn't buying it. I didn't need it.
Sure there was a part of me that really wanted all of those 8 hours of bliss; a part that secretly reveled in that rarely felt feeling of being rested. But I didn’t dwell on it. No good thinking about something you can't have. I just wasn’t capable of falling asleep early enough. And there was too much to do anyways. It just wasn’t going to happen. EVER.
Or so I thought...
Yesterday I was thinking about my sleep habits over the past few months and I realised something SHOCKING. I’ve been averaging over 7 hours a night! I can even recall once or twice when I slept for close to 9 hours! WHAT?! (My sister will be proud!)
And so...I’m no longer able to tackle to-do list items into the wee hours of the morning, or write out a grocery list at 3 AM, or lie awake with thoughts of the happenings of my day and the possibilities of tomorrow dancing through my head. In fact I rarely have the ability to stay awake at all for more than 15 minutes after my head hits the pillow. I never thought I’d say this but... sleep just comes naturally.
So I guess I’ve lost my insomniac expertise. My hard learned skills are no longer of any use. I have to admit, it still gives me a little anxiety on occasion to think that I am spending 7 or 8 hours each night lying down under fluffy blankets with my eyes closed when there are so many awesome things to do in this world.
But if I’m really honest with myself I know I didn’t just lose my ability to survive on 4-6 hours of sleep and I didn’t suddenly cure my insomnia. I chose to give it up. That’s right chose. Maybe not consciously by making a decision to sleep more (I had tried that and it didn’t work), but in other, less obvious ways.
I started valuing checking things off my to do list less. I let go of the expectations I was placing on myself of what I had to accomplish each day. I started letting myself enjoy the feeling of being rested. I listened when my body said it feels awesome to be AWAKE and ALIVE each day. That awareness and those mental shifts have literally cured me of the insomnia I have struggled with for over 10 years.
And besides actually getting a healthy amount of sleep, two amazing things have happened since I stopped freaking out about all of the things I wasn’t getting done, or that I hadn’t gotten done, or that I had to do tomorrow:
1) my overall happiness has skyrocketed; AND
2) (this one may be a little bit more surprising) I actually get MORE done than when I was working half the night.
Lesson learned: sleeping INCREASES productivity (and makes life so much more amazing).
So...SLEEP more to DO more.
And most importantly...
SLEEP more to LIVE more.