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Changing My Mind About Sleep - Livin' the Good Life

Feb. 26th, 2012

04:15 pm - Changing My Mind About Sleep

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Nathen and I must be in sync. I woke up this morning determined to write about "sleep" in my blog. I had had a wakeful night, as I often do, and had some insights I wanted to share about it. Then, Nathen posted this link on Facebook today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783
How funny that we would both be thinking about this very thing, even though we hadn't spoken about it.

I used to sleep like a log. Even having babies in bed with us didn't prevent me from sleeping well. In fact, my fifth child slept with us until he was past five, and I believed I was getting the best nights' sleep of my life! I speculated that I was just so tired by then that I couldn't help but sleep deeply. I would wake multiple times during the night to attend to his night time needs, then immediately go back to sleep. I would have to try very hard to remember if I'd woken up at all the night before. Waking up at night was a "non-event" for me.

Since I hit menopause in my mid-fifties, however, things have been quite different. I go to sleep quickly and easily, but I wake in the middle of the night and I remain awake for hours. This used to bother me, and I would fret about my "lost" sleep. How could I function the next day without eight consecutive hours of sleep the night before? In recent years, though, I've developed a new viewpoint about my sleep needs.

The truth is that I don't seem to need as much sleep as I thought I did, and it DOESN'T need to be in one stretch. I can wake up at 2 AM and go back to sleep at 4 AM with no apparent reprecussions the next day. I think it was the belief that I needed eight hours in a row to feel well that made it seem like a fact to me. Once I relaxed and stopped with the "shoulds", I began to actually enjoy my nightime "wakeful hours".

When I wake up in the middle of the night, I end up THINKING. The thinking causes me to become more wide awake. In order not to disturb Steve, I get up and go in my office. I have my "prayer chamber" in there, and I will get in it and read or pray or go over what might be bothering me and keeping me awake. When I work at it long enough, I usually come to some peace about it. Then I read something inspirational that will help divert my attention to something new. My peaceful state of mind usually makes me feel drowsy and reading becomes too much of an effort. So, I turn off the light and easily drift off to sleep. I normally wake feeling refreshed and rested.

I think that I often have a lot of "undigested" material left over from the day that pops up for me at night. I need to mull it over with no distractions, and the middle of the night is a perfect time for that. I might be worried about something and not be aware of it. I might be mad about something and haven't acknowledged it. I might be overwhelmed at the thought of tackling some project and need to make a plan before I can relax. I usually search my feelings and see what comes up. If I have a tight spot in my solar plexes, I know I need to look at something. And at night I have all the time in the world to do that without interruptions from the outside. It's a good system. My ultimate goal is to welcome my wakefulness. "Oh, here I am awake again. I wonder what needs to happen before I can go back to sleep? This is like an adventure!" An inner adventure. I believe that my dad, at 93, spends about half his time in inner adventures and he highly recommends them!