„Sleep is for the weak.“
„I'll sleep when I'm dead.“
„Sleeping with the fishes.“
OK, this last one is a doozer just to get your attention.
How many times, though, have you heard the first two phrases or said them yourself? Brushing off sleep as an unnecessary nuisance, something your parents always forced you to do as a child while not doing it themselves. A hassle that takes time away from the entertainment, from all the FOMO you feel, from the tasks that desperately need to be done now. Ideal sleep takes one third (!) of your day, who has the TIME for that? Pfff, just skim off an hour from the beginning and an hour from the end, and you should be fine with 5 hours or so of sleep. You can’t afford to sleep while the rest of the world is awake, hustling and ahead of the game.
What can go wrong?
What can go wrong…how much time do you have for this answer?
Let’s start from the “benign” occasional night of 6 hours or less of sleep. Even one night of reduced sleep can often cause unshakeable irritability and mental fogginess that spans throughout your entire day. In and of itself, you might think that this is a price you are willing to pay. After all, don’t most people around us seem to be in a bad mood and lacking clarity? It must be the norm. The person walking down the street and greeting strangers with a smile while holding a clear and present conversation with the person they are with…that’s out of the norm. That, my friend, is a weirdo. After several instances of this, you might even accept the irritability (and the relationships it disrupts) as a defining characteristic of yourself, labelling yourself as “moody”. “Deal with it, it’s just how I am.”, resigning to your new way of being as “normal” only because many others around us are like that as well. Taken further, though, consistent sleep deprivation can cause serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even lead to stroke due to persistent disrupted functioning of the body. Not to even speak of the collateral damage of having opportunities and relationships lost due to an inability for our nervous system to respond calmly to the challenges of living, working, loving. The price of not sleeping is high. And though we might see short-term gains when we trade in sleep for a couple of more hours of work, Netflix, whatnot…the long-term gains are non-existent.
And now what?
Let’s assume that you are nodding in agreement or are even holding your chin sceptically but are willing to hear more. What’s there to be done about it? After all, sleep patterns are so difficult to change.
True. Sleep patterns are not easy to change because they depend so heavily on our lifestyle and habits, which (for most people) tend to be quite calcified concepts. I often hear: “What do you mean? Changing my evening habit of Netflix bingeing on movies with a high body count…it is how I relax!” or “Examining how close I want or need the people in my life who are persistent stressors in my daily life? Impossible…how could I say no to the things they ask of me?”, and similar thoughts dense with resistance to change.
We stay awake not because that just how it is, but because we are persistently not allowing our nervous systems to come to a halt, to feel safe enough to go into deep, restful states. We allow our dopamine fixes to determine how we spend our free time, we don’t set boundaries to when we deal with work or other people’s needs, we don’t prioritise ourselves. Instead, our nervous systems are wired and tight and are keeping us “safe” by staying vigilant.
So, no – it is not easy to change. Building a healthy sleep foundation takes work. It requires you to, bit by bit, look straight in the eye of your own life and seek out what is serving you and what isn’t. It requires daily practice to exchange the unhealthy habits with more nourishing ones. Above all, it takes dedication.
But the rewards are IMMENSE.
Can you imagine NOT waking up groggy?
Can you taste what it would be like to be present with the people around you, feel generous with your time and energy?
Could you imagine not even thinking of sleep as a nightly turmoil?
How you can shift your habits
If there’s even the tiniest spark in you that can imagine this, you are halfway there. Truly.
And there are ways to get there.
You can do this by yourself with honest and thorough reflection. And you can also do this with the help of others, be it a coach or a community of fellow insomniac or both.
I am happy to assist with individual and group sleep coaching precisely on this topic – making deep and lasting change in our nervous systems, which then in turn leads to more restful nights, by examining areas of our lives that need adjusting and tweaking so that they better match our values.
You CAN do this. Whatever way you choose.
No more counting sheep.
 A good reference for how disruptive sleep deprivation is: „Why we sleep“ by Matthew Walker