sleep, sleeping, can't sleep, rem cycles, importance of sleep, sleep and disease, sleep and creativity
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?
— Ernest Hemmingway

Sleep is wonderful, no?

To slip into the dreamy soft cloud of your bed, surrounded by pillows and stillness, wrapped up in goose down and darkness, and slowly fade from consciousness to enter the underworld of rejuvenation and the limitless possibility of your subconscious is truly delightful.

And what a shock it is to one’s body, mind and soul to be ripped out of the depths of a bottomless sleep by an alarm clock or jet lag or any other such travesty that seems to have been created solely to destroy us.

As self-proclaimed vampire cats who thrive in the inky darkness of night both physically and creatively, anything that requires us to alter our habits and patterns to align with external forces that we have no control over, is both unwelcome and, to be honest, physically painful.

Spurred by an epic bout of jet lag and a job requiring 5 a.m. wake-ups, Nicole and I, respectively, have been forced to reconsider what sleep means to us, and the larger picture of living in a body that requires being on “off” mode each and every day in order to function.

And so, as we both lay staring at the ceiling after being rudely awoken (me by my inner clock, Nicole by her cell phone alarm), angry thoughts of the injustice leads to fevered research trying to justify our feelings.

Our findings: Sleep is important - and not just for alleviating crankiness. 

New research suggests that there are “powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.” (source)

And we're not just talking about losing entire nights of sleep, but rather, the research is pointing towards those who get less than 7-9 hours of sleep each night are not getting enough, and are putting themselves at risk for all sorts of negative consequences: from the scary ones listed above, to hindering your creative output, to just being an absolute grouch for others to be around.

You can spend your day doing whatever it is that needs to be done at work, and then go home to cook a healthy meal full of vitamins and minerals, then spend an hour at the gym increasing your cardiovascular health through squats and swimming laps and hanging out in downward dog, but if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s all for naught as your body’s metabolism will be out of whack and thwart your attempts to practice healthy habits, while also putting you at risk for disease.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
— William Shakespeare

Why don't we get enough sleep?

Although my morning and evening practice is sporadic at best, I know in my heart (and through years of personal development research and practice) that the last thing I do before bed sets the tone for my sleep, and the first thing I do in the morning sets the tone for my day.

Regardless of whether or not you think that's true, barring any such involuntary afflictions that keep us awake (chronic pain, and other diseases that cause insomnia), consider the barriers you actively place directly between you and a sweet, dreamy, 7-9 hours of sleep each and every night.

Here's our list:

  • Scrolling through the Instagrams and Facebooks
  • Texting a lover until all hours
  • Listening to hella interesting podcasts
  • Making mental to-do lists of literally everything
  • Watching just one more episode
  • Starting a movie we know we're going to want to watch to the end less than an hour or two before bedtime
  • Sleeping with our phone under the pillow, or within an easy arm's reach of the bed
  • Replaying the same embarrassing events from a decade ago over and over in our heads for no particular reason

* We love the Sleep With Me podcast to help us get to sleep on the rare occasions that we simply cannot will ourselves to do it.

All of the above contribute to a less than stellar sleep and hours spent rolling around restless. But you already knew that, right?

So why do we do this to ourselves?

And what is research and inquiry without action? I made it a priority for a week to sleep with my phone outside of my room. I couldn't quite commit to no screen time more than fifteen minutes or so before bedtime, but I made it a non-negotiable to keep the phone away from my bed and totally out of arm's reach.

Of course, as I lay there miles away from sleep, my mind would turn to such pressing questions as "Did I look at Champagne Papi's instagram today? I wonder if he's touring in Europe anytime soon? Why is my life so pointless? Am I really conscious, or am I the product of a simulation?" But sooner or later I fell asleep. Instead of giving into my brain and picking up a device to lose myself down the rabbit hole for another few minutes (or more than a few minutes), the thought would pass, my brain would relax, let go, and I'd be passed the fuck out.

Another trick is to use your awakeness to meditate.

What a perfect opportunity! I recently listened to a wonderful interview of Ariana Huffington -  a hardcore advocate for sleep - where she spoke at length about the importance she places on consistently getting a solid night's rest, and the tools she uses to get more.

She said that when she can't sleep, or if she wakes up in the middle of the night and her mind turns to work (but her phone is well out of reach, so she can't check on any updates), she uses the opportunity to meditate. I'm sure we're all similar in that we don't meditate as much as we should, and to trick ourselves into re-purposing this time for that means, leads us back to the sleepy end we so desire.

Sleep is God. Go worship.
— Jim Butcher

With the above in mind, we put the question to you: how much importance do you put on getting a good night’s sleep?

Do you prioritize sleep over getting one more hour of work in, or waking up early to go to the gym?

Take your cue from kittens everywhere, and find a warm patch of sunshine, curl up into a ball, and pass the fuck out for a while.