I have always had a precarious relationship with sleep. The bliss of restful sleep has eluded me since I broke a dependency on a life saving opiate-laced allergy medicine after more than eleven years of daily use, at age twelve. From there, I turned to massive doses of coffee to stay awake which only made it more difficult to settle down at the end of a long day. Not only do I have difficulty falling and staying asleep, which is no doubt influenced by anxiety, I also occasionally suffer from sleep paralysis — a terrifying state of affairs during which I either feel like I am already dead or as though death would be a welcome relief from the terror.
I have tried all kinds of things over the years to help me sleep better — melatonin, tart cherry juice (which contains melatonin), caffeine elimination, extra exercise, light filtering, screen time reduction, meditation, fresh air, and long rides in the car. I have also tried over the counter sleep aids, thought I haven’t for at least 15 years, and for a few years I took Elavil every night which really, really put me to sleep. Of all of those things, nothing sends me into a restful sleep like a five hour journey on the highways and byways of Pennsylvania. Thank goodness I am able to postpone sleep until after the trip is over.
I also almost never remember my dreams, perhaps just four a five a year. Knowing my imagination, I am sure there are quite a few that would be worth remembering. This is a rich, vivid area of my life in which I wish I could more intimately engage.
Sleep is super important. Nothing restores and refreshes our minds and bodies like deep, restful sleep. I love the feeling of awakening in the morning feeling fully rested, peaceful, and alive — a joy I unfortunately only know a few times a year. Naps are a wonderful delight. I don’t take them nearly often enough. I usually feel more rested after an impromptu one hour nap than I do after tossing in turning in bed all night.
Sleep is easily taken for granted; I know that I am guilty of this. It is something that everybody does nearly every day, so we just expect that it will happen for us too — even when it doesn’t, or when the quality of our sleep is negligible. Yet, sleep is so fundamental to the way we function throughout every moment of the day — it influences our mood, our reflexes, our cognition, our metabolic function, and just about every other aspect of our lives. Perhaps nothing is so important to our physical and emotional health.
If you have any ideas for sleeping well or would like to share a resource related to sleep, please do so in the comments below!