I cannot function without a good night’s sleep. Or, rather, I can function, but I’ll feel awful, like I’m moving through sludge.
Most nights, I sleep uninterrupted and feel refreshed in the morning, although it depends on the more-often-than-I-would-like trips to the bathroom at some point around 4:00 or 5:00—a matter of age, and if I drank too much fluid in the evening.
How I feel in the morning also depends on whether an alarm wakes me in the middle of a dream. If that’s the case, it will take me longer to orient myself and get going (which is a long process, anyway, given hand-care and eye care and stretching exercises and the time it takes to get dressed). It also depends on how weird the dream is. And I have weird dreams.
I wake up most refreshed without an alarm, when daylight filters through the bedroom shades. That’s how we’re supposed to be, I suppose. Given that I’m an owl, not a lark, I often don’t get to sleep before midnight. Daylight around 7:00 arrives at just the right time for a seven-hour night. That’s also when the heat comes up in our home, which at this time of year is essential for me to get myself out of bed.
There’s plenty of research that explains why sleep is so important to each of us—for physical and mental well-being, absorbing and processing new information, retaining memory, paying attention. Especially for those of us living with chronic medical conditions, sleep is essential for healing and staying as healthy as possible.
There’s also plenty of good advice about sleep hygiene, how to create the conditions to help you get a good night’s sleep. For me, most nights, getting to sleep is not a problem, so long as I haven’t eaten too close to bedtime, have turned off the news before I’m ready to turn in (absolute necessity), and have a good book to read until I start yawning so much I can’t read anymore. Getting to sleep is easiest if I’ve exercised during the day, especially walking outside in fresh air.
On those nights when sleep eludes me, or I can’t get back to sleep after an interruption, I’ll start ruminating. Listening to a meditation sleep-cast usually, but not always, does the trick. But even if I can’t go back to sleep, I try to stay in bed and count backwards from 100 or try to recall all the state capitals, just to rest my joints if not my brain.
And if all else fails, and I’m dragging during the day (more true in cold weather, which makes me want to hibernate), I’ll lie down and take a 20-minute rest or power nap to rejuvinate. This is most likely to happen around 2:30 in the afternoon, the low point in my daytime circadian cycle.
When I do need that break, I am very grateful that I work for myself at home.
And so, Dear Reader, here’s to a good night’s sleep on a regular basis for us all. Be well.
Image: Cris Sauer