Sleep and I have a sordid history.
I’ve been gifted (I PREFER TO SEE IT AS A GIFT!) of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and so for much of my choice-informed life I’ve chosen experience over going to bed.
In college I would regularly start my school work at midnight, closing up shop at 4am and rising at 7:15am just in time for my 8:00am Greek class, my participles all accounted for.
I got good grades. I got poor sleep.
I both lost and gained weight in college. Up and down. It made it hard to buy clothes.
No, that’s not correct. I had no money to buy clothes.
It made it hard to fit into the clothes I had. Too loose, too tight, too much inconsistency.
I fully believe that my sleep habits affected my weight. Affect my weight. It certainly affects my food choices. Skipping meals, or eating high calorie dishes to get energy because I was just. so. tired.
These habits have followed me off and on throughout my life. Being a parent has exacerbated the sleep issue. By the time the boys are in bed I’m tired as all get out, but they just got to bed so those twilight hours are the only ones I have to myself.
It’s a real struggle.
Add into the mix the desire to workout (in the morning? night?) and to meditate (morning? night?) and to write consistently (morning?! night?!). When the day begins at 6am, there are breakfasts to be made and kids to get up and out the door.
The night feels like it’s really the only time…for everything not work or kid related. But by nightfall my body has said “peace out,” and my brain has this big error message scrolling across it and my old patterns aren’t working anymore like a quilter who is trying reproduce a stitch by memory, only the fingers aren’t as nimble.
And also, let me be perfectly honest as a parent: by 8pm if I get one more request, one more touch, one more anything I might just spontaneously combust into a ball of feeble utility.
The pandemic has made these sleep issues worse. Insomnia has crept in as an uninvited houseguest, sometimes banging around on the pipes of my brain for no reason other than to make perfectly clear that redundancy causes my neurons to go on the fritz.
This week’s experiment with getting into bed at 10pm, come hell or high water, is in its infancy, but I’ve already noticed three things.
First: I’m not missing out on much. Late night TV is largely banal. I console myself with the idea that I can always watch the rerun anyway…and then never do, which seems to be a deceptive pattern that works for me so I’ll keep it.
Secondly: I’ve had to say no to work. A lot of times I’d crank up the old hamster wheel laptop again after the boys are in bed to finish a report, an excel, a writing project, a blog…the past two nights I’ve thought in my midday brain, “I can finish that later tonight” only to realize that, no, I can’t.
And probably shouldn’t. I have to get to bed.
St. Ruth of the Bader-Ginsburgs once wrote that, “You can have everything in life, just not all at the same time.” I’ve come to realize this is true about sleep for me. I can work or I can sleep. And now, at this point in my life, sleep is the more needful thing.
And, finally, the last two mornings I’ve gotten up at 5:00am consistently without even really wanting to crawl back in bed. The most productive periods of my life have been marked by early rising. It’s felt good to want to get out of bed, to meditate in the twilight hours, to make coffee and read and see the first news (always the freshest takes!) and take stock of the universe before the pitter patter feet tumble out of their trundle beds.
In the scriptures we regularly read that the Christ sought a place by himself to pray and be alone, and slept when he had the chance. In the Hebrew scriptures we know God instituted a sabbath, meaning that there were times to work and times not to work. The people turned that into a commandment, when really I think it should be seen as permission.
I’m seeing it as permission.
I have FOMO, but I’m choosing not to miss out on sleep right now. It’s my stage in life. Who knows how long I’ll be in this stage, but it’s time to get back into a better relationship with sleep.