We all need it, sometimes long for it, delight in it and relish the sweetness of it. Some need eight hours or more and some people get by on six. There are medical studies devoted to sleep now. Doctors have realized how important sleep is for all of us and even the impact it has on weight management and the functioning of our endocrine system. I’m more interested on what it does for me and how it makes me feel.
Sleep has been many things to me. It’s my escape when life overwhelms me. I can sleep eight to ten hours at night and then nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon when life becomes more than I want to face. It can also be a delicious end to a long physically challenging day. Sliding between the soft embrace of the 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets I indulged in a year ago is the next best thing to a real hug from a dear friend. Those sheets are as soft as velvet, smooth against my skin, like the skin of a newborn. The sensuality of sleep is only one of its delights.
Dreams are also a big part of sleep. Some nights I’m not aware of dreaming and at other times my dreams help me sort out the myriad problems and decisions of everyday life with friends and a large extended family. My dreams even sort out how I feel about what I should be doing with my life. When I wake, my first thoughts are thoughts of gratitude. First I voice my gratitude for my health and a good night’s sleep, next my thoughts turn to family, those who are doing well and those who are facing a variety issues, I offer prayers for them and all of those in the world who are alone, hungry, cold, without a warm bed and roof over their head. I’m overwhelmed with awareness of how fortunate I am.
Some nights when there are too many things roiling around in my mind, but not enough to keep me awake, I sleep for a few hours, 4-5, and then get up to go to the bathroom and sometimes read the scripture readings for the coming day that arrive in my e-mail overnight.. The readings calm my mind and substitute meaningful thoughts for the worldly shallowness that were stressing me out. Afterward I go back to sleep for a couple more hours and wake up at peace. The worries of the world have taken a back seat and seem much less important than they did a few hours ago.
I remember my dad and his struggles with insomnia. We didn’t dare make a sound after he retired in the evening or we’d really hear about it and suffer the consequences, usually some onerous chore like sweeping out the overheated garage filled with moth carcasses or washing out trash cans, stinky with the residue of leaky garbage bags. I often wondered why he struggled so much with steep, both getting to sleep and staying there.
I’ve watched my children when they were small just drop into a deep sleep anytime and anywhere. Sometimes they were in the most uncomfortable looking positions possible for their tiny bodies and I was sure they would have aches and pains when they awoke but they never did.
Now I have to have the right place, the right temperature and a peaceful mind and an empty belly. I’m at an age when I can’t eat a full meal within a couple of hours or going to bed. It has to be dark and it can’t be too warm or I toss and turn trying to get comfortable. I’ve seen mattress pads to warm a bed but I need something to cool it surface of the sheets and have the ceiling fan running all summer.
I needed black out drapes in order to sleep when I visited anchorage in May and I had to pay attention to the time or I would just keeping and going as long as it was light even twilight. The nice thing about my light affliction is that if I follow the daylight and go to bed after sunset wherever I travel I never get jet lag. My body automatically adapts to the light cycle.
Our bodies are amazing creations, each different from others and if we make it a point to know ourselves intimately and accommodate our individual needs we can be optimally happy and healthy. The challenge is to make our accommodation fit in a life within our living community.