Sat on the tube this morning, I looked around me and was met by a sea of tired and yawning faces. As I focused on one guy sat opposite me, I could see that his eyes were red, weeping and sore from exhaustion, struggling to stay open. In that moment it suddenly dawned on me that even though I feel a little more tired than normal today; those used to be my eyes and that total exhaustion used to be my steady state. Every. Single. Day.
I tortured my poor little tired eyes by forcing my contact lenses in each morning, then attempted to relieve and revive them with eye drops throughout the day, looking for a fix for the symptoms of tiredness, as opposed to a cure.
I was brilliant at being exhausted, propped up by whatever liquid stimulant I could get my hands on. A true master.
It hadn’t actually occurred to me until today that this has all changed for me and that the investment I’ve been making in learning to rest, and learning to support true rest and recovery time in my sleep, had actually been begun to pay off.
It’s been a bit like setting up a standing order to a savings account; if left alone, the money just goes in each month so you kind of forget it’s happening. Then you check on the account a year or so down the line, and discover its way more than you ever thought you’d manage to save. Magic.
That’s been totally been my recent experience with sleep.
A bit like the terrible spending habits I adopted throughout my early adulthood, my sleeping habits were a hot mess.
The real big change here has come from a combination of lots of tiny changes that add together to create one big whole rested creature.
The biggest of those small changes being:
- My commitment to creating a set rhythm for my body, by waking and sleeping (or at least attempting to) at the same time each day.
- Removing caffeine from my world has massively impacted the way I sleep and rest, and my ability to connect to myself enough to know when I am exhausted. It used to mask all that and I used to feel like I was propelled by rocket fuel (happily I have since learnt that I am haha, but now it’s facilitated by rest and plants).
- Having a cut off point for screen time and allowing myself some peaceful time before I start to wind down to sleeping.
- Keeping my bedroom as a place of rest, not a place of work. That’s really important, to make the room itself a place your brain associates with rest.
Please also note there are days when I am still a little tired. Today is one of those days. There are also times when I may choose to stay up slightly later to be a part of something I care about enough to do so. To support that I will be mindful of this throughout the rest of the week, and make sure that I have created the right platform of rest on the days that surround it.
My friend (and coach) Zofia Sharman once told me to view my sleep pattern like the tide. So some nights it might not come in so far, but the next night, I can choose to make it come all the way in. That supportive ebb and flow is what I now work towards, so that I can support myself well for those nights when I stay up a little later than usual.
But what of the benefits of real rest (as if I really need to tell you!)?
- The intoxicating feeling of being fully present and alert as often as possible.
- The quality of mood that I am able to bring to each interaction.
- The resilience to the stresses of day to day live that I’ve been able to build up.
- The beauty of waking up naturally most days around the time of my alarm.
Everyone is different, and it can only be about figuring out what works best for you; what’s your optimum amount of sleep, how can you best support and allow for true rest etc.
As for these little tired eyes, just like the tide, I’ll just make sure they get to turn in a little earlier again this evening to build up those reserves.