A Day in Bed

a day in bed

I sometimes have days where I feel like I just don’t want to get out of bed. How nice it would be to have the time to just think and reflect, maybe read good books, write poetry, and drink tea, without any expectation of productivity. But I never do. While a day resting at the beach seems to be a perfectly acceptable means of relaxation, a day in bed comes across as somehow slovenly and pathetic.

Although I intellectually realize how important rest is to physical and emotional health, often leading to improved productivity in the end, I have a difficult time allowing myself this indulgence. So even on those days when the bed and the precious gift of time for me is calling my name, I wake up no later than 6:30 a.m. (weekends included) and pack my day with sensibly constructive activities—many of which I enjoy, and others which merely feel obligatory.

I do allow myself the occasional nap, though I find it difficult to wind down and relax. I’m always on edge, always thinking about what I ought to be doing, always considerate of the great need in the world and how I can in some small way be making a difference. Naps can be refreshing, but they can also provoke unnecessary anxiety when they detract from fulfillment of my purpose. Or so it seems.

A few years ago, I created a t-shirt that simply stated ‘my dharma is to breathe and to be.’ While I sincerely believe this mantra in my heart of hearts, I so often have a difficult time embodying this fundamental belief through my daily actions. My purpose is complex and intertwined with commitments to myself and others.

But if only I would focus on the breathing and the being, I believe I would be a better servant. A more fulfilled human being. I would contribute more in the end.

So while a day in bed may seem, at first, to be a totally unproductive waste of time, I think it can instead be a form of radical resistance to the chaotic monotony of always doing, striving, and pushing forward. It is a way to be still with myself, restore my spirit, enjoy life and the moment at hand, and appreciate connection to life through the simple beauty of my breath. Perhaps I will try it one day.

I’ll Sleep On It (Or At Least I’ll Try)

sleep

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!