I asked myself this question this morning when I was doing my Morning Pages. A statement popped out which took me by surprise. ‘You need 9 – 10 hours solid sleep a night.’ It shouldn’t have, but it did.
Energy shifts have always plagued me and more critically since cancer. These waves of energy levels have been most frustrating for a long time. I know we all have different energy levels as part of our physical makeup. However, it would still blow me away that no matter how fit I got or how well I ate, others could run circles around me. Part of this problem, aside from my basic DNA, is the fact that my mind can conjure up more projects than my body can possibly act out. This impacts my sleep. My mind is still working.
People who know me wonder that I can do as much as I do, but I always see more that can be done. This has always been the case. As a child, I hated to go to bed because there was always that one more thing I wanted or needed to do. Then, in the morning, it was hard to get up and rolling.
My moment this morning was interesting. I finally realized that much of my energy fluctuations have to do with the quality and amount of my sleep. Turning my mind off at night is a challenge. My body can be exhausted but the minute my head hits the pillow; I am choreographing, writing, or planning. There are several techniques I’ve used over the years to turn my mind off, but they don’t always work.
These techniques are: muscle relaxation, essential oils, meditation, qigong, tai chi, counting mantras, breathing. Mostly they work, but the resulting sleep is not always restful. I might be asleep but the brain is still churning.
The days I wake up full of energy, a clear head, and the ability to burn through tasks and projects with ease are those days when I have a sound and restful sleep. The strategy now is to figure out how to make sure this happens all the time. Here is my plan.
1. Make sure I have 8 – 9 hours of sleep minimum.
This isn’t always easy. I’m a night person. Mornings have always been a challenge. Being a dancer allowed for this pattern to work as my job was at night. During my school years, all the fun activities in my life were at night – dance classes, rehearsals, and shows. As life moved on, being up in the morning became necessary – a job and kids off to school.
2. Book classes later in the morning or afternoons and evenings.
This could work and might be worth making the adjustment. Currently I have morning and evening classes. Usually I’m wide awake by the time I come home from an evening class. Going to bed then doesn’t seem like a great idea. However, the next morning if I have a morning class, it does. Hence I’m not getting my full 9 hours rest.
3. Reset my sleep schedule to be in bed earlier and up earlier.
Can one retrain one’s natural body rhythm? Not sure, but I may have to give it a try. This way it won’t matter when my classes are, hopefully my body will be tired at the right time to allow me a full night’s sleep – my needed 9 hours.
As my body is getting older, not my heart and soul, sleep seems to be more of a requirement. I’ve been pushing this boundary for a long time thinking I could push through as I did when I was younger. However, this is not working, as I’ve often mentioned in light of the change that happens after cancer treatment. I know that I have slowed down. I have gotten better at recognizing when I need to rest more, but for some unexplained reason, I just never went to the simple root of making sure I got my nine (9) hours of sleep every single night – not catch up nights.
You’d think I’d be smarter, but obviously not. We are all human. As much as I work so hard to walk my talk, there are times when I get off track and do the very things that I caution others to be wary of. Maybe that is why I so understand where you are coming from – I’m there in the trenches with you – slugging along doing the best I can under any given circumstance.
Life does not always lay out a well thought out plan for living. There are many variables that come into play. Unexpected events, illness, appointments, time to help others, technology that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to – do I need to go on? It is stick handling our way through the obstacles that we learn how to cope, to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and finally how to be proactive.
To be fair, sometimes being proactive doesn’t even work. Life will dump a big obstacle in your path to see how you’ll handle it.
Maybe this is the essence of life – what makes it exciting. You never know what you will wake up to the next day. I remember as a kid going to bed with butterflies in my stomach anticipating the next day and what treasures or excitement it might bring. There are times I still feel those butterflies. I feel them when I wake up and remember that each day is a gift. There is no guarantee that any of us have the next moment. There is no guarantee that life will always be the same. In the flash of a single moment, life can be turned upside down. I’ve heard and been witness to so many of these occasions.
What did I then learn this morning? Good question. Take charge of what you can and learn to stick handle through the rest the best you know how with the tools you have at hand.
With this said, I will endeavour to get my 9 hours of sleep a night and fill my body with energy to make the best use of the time I am awake in the daytime. Will it be easy all the time? Probably not, but then I know that throughout my life, anything worth having has never come easy. I have always had to work for it.
I will keep you posted on how this is playing out. I’d love to hear your stories of learning and challenges. I know we all go through them. It is the human condition.