Ever since I can recall, I hated bedtime.
Sleep was always a foreign country to me, somewhere other people visited and told me about in the morning.
All through my school and college years I would awake, worrying about everything from exams to boys to student loans to job applications. And then when I finally started work, I worried about that too!
Each night I would toss, turn, read books, listen to music, watch films, do anything really, and eventually I would drift off – only to be wide awake two hours later and have to start the entire process over again.
The big change:
I never enjoyed my job, but it was a good one, one I had studied hard to get and one my parents were very proud about. However, when the law firm I worked for merged with another, and they offered voluntary redundancies – I jumped at the chance.
I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I knew I needed a change.
I travelled, found yoga, learned to meditate, had silly adventures, and amazingly, I slept well. Really, really well. For the first time in my life I enjoyed going to bed at the end of the day. It may have just been the heat, but it worked.
And to cut a long, clichéd story short, after a year away from my "normal life," I found I had developed a new perspective on life. Basically, the realization that before anything else, before money, before success, comes good health.
I decided to go back to college and study something I knew a lot about – sleep disorders.
And since then, I have been spreading the gospel, something that we all know, but so frequently choose to ignore – good sleep equals a good life.
Below are three of the revelations I had when I viewed the world through the eyes of a well-rested person, instead of through the thick fog of drowsiness.
1. People are nice.
When you’re tired everything annoys you. And this means everyone annoys you. Whether it’s your partner, your best friend, or the person who sat next to you on the bus who's breathing too loudly.
If everyone annoys you, you find yourself not wanting to spend time with people, which is a shame, because people are – on the whole – nice.
I only realized this when I had come through the other side of my sleep nightmare and found that, no longer crushed by my own tiredness, I suddenly had the ability to empathize again.
Instead of looking around and feeling disdain for others, suddenly I felt compassion and sympathy.
And instead of being annoyed by the slightest imperfection in the behaviour of others, I started to notice the many moments of kindness that fill each day, anything from doors held open to one driver giving way to another.
2. Sleep makes you say "yes" more.
My friends had been so used to me coming up with innovative ways to say no to their invitations to events and parties, that most had simply stopped asking me.
And when I did turn up to "unavoidable" events, I was always so tired and blue that I would hide away in the corner and take myself home at the earliest opportunity.
I just didn’t understand how my friends and colleagues managed it, their lives were so full and interesting. I felt so boring in comparison.
Well-rested, suddenly I found myself saying yes more: yes to parties, yes to events, yes to dates, yes to camping trips, yes to everything.
Even better, I found that when I went to these events, I actually had things to talk about. I realized that with a good night’s sleep I was actually a fun person, someone interesting to be around.
3. Sleep makes you stronger.
Sleep made me stronger – mentally speaking. I have always been an emotional person, I still am. I cry at almost any film, no matter how bad the acting. I've even been known to cry at advertisements on TV.
Unfortunately, this side of my personality often affected me at work. Comments from colleagues or just the stress of the day would have me hiding in the toilet with my tissues.
With sleep on my side, I am still prone to let out a good sob when watching the box, but I am far more confident of myself in other aspects of my life.
I now know that chronic fatigue shares a lot of similar characteristics with depression. And not surprisingly, chronic fatigue plays a big role in depression.
When you’re tired all the time, you feel as if you’re walking with a dark cloud above your head. Well-rested, this cloud vanishes and the sun shines on everything you do.
My advice for you, dear reader, is to take sleep seriously. Don’t treat it as something to be abused and neglected. Treat it like an old friend, respect it, cherish it. When I finally learned how to do this properly, it changed my life.
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