This is not one of those how-to articles telling you to drink chamomile, or to soak your pillowcase with lavender to get quality shut eye. Chances are, that if you have wrestled with sleep, then you have digested all these listicles. You know that you should create a consistent sleep routine, as the experts say. And that it is helpful to create the right ambience for sleep—put away your screen, turn off the lights, not have coffee after 2 am etc. And yet, sadly, you probably know that there are nights when after clocking in your ten thousand steps and high impact cardio, after drowning yourself with chamomile, and even refusing to look at your phone after 8pm—your body can still run its own schedule and wake you up at three a.m.
Let’s not even bother talking about the pitfalls of not getting enough sleep. Everybody’s fitness trainer, and cousin, and grandmother, knows that the best deal is 8 hours a night. This knowledge is touted in a way that makes it appear as though anyone over thirty intentionally chooses four hours of sleep. Whether you are up because the demand of your crazy corporate job requires odd hours, or just because your body runs its own show, you already know that poor night sleep leads to a shitty day. And that even if you take three small naps in the morning, that nighttime interruption has already twisted your coherence in a way that may not be recoverable through the day.
Okay, now that we’ve established that this piece is not about how to get rid of your insomnia, what exactly am I rattling about? Lol. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a very small thing, but small things, when added together, can make very big things. I remember a sermon I listened to many years ago about how to manage insomnia. The pastor basically said that if, as a Christian, you find that you cannot sleep at night, then it was God calling you to pray. (Aside, much of Pentecostalism believe in a more pronounced efficacy of night prayers.) Anyway, this is not me dissing what the pastor said, but instead, where the thought pattern is coming from. Interestingly, I also remember a motivational speaker who publicly denounced the benefits of sleeping. He claimed that if you sleep eight hours a night, then you were sleeping a third of your life. His advice was to follow the path of great thinkers, innovators, change activist and well, get to work.
Yes, this is what I want to talk about. There is no reason, if you find yourself awake at night, to try to catch up with laundry, or meal prep. Technically, I understand the logic—since you are up, you might as well be useful. After all the house needs to be cleaned, emails are awaiting responses. Well guess what, they can wait till morning. Even prayers. Believe me God still hears morning prayers.
I am saying this because we need to redefine the goal post. For those who struggle with insomnia, even if it is just occasionally, the aim should not be sleep, it should be rest. Yes, rest. I know lying in the dark wide awake, while the world snores around you, can be incredibly boring. So boring, in fact, that you’ll consider taking on extra work you don’t have to just to escape that inanity. Still, for the sake of your health and hopefully, extended brain function, sit with it. Lie in bed. Keep the lights off. Resist the urge to reach for your phone. If possible, keep your eyes closed.
What this does is allow your body, and mind, recalibrate in a different but still useful way. Sure, you might get up still feeling sleepy during the day. But you will be less irritable. More so, one upside of practicing this stillness, is that it tends to bring sleep. Seriously. So yes, later tonight, or maybe some random night next week, remind yourself that doing nothing is still good use of your time. And oh, of course, take the chamomile, and lavender, and supplements.
Wishing you all the sleep that you desire.