This is my final post of the semester and so I think it’s fitting for me to dedicate this one to the life-force, the stronghold, the foundation of my health.
Extra firm futon mattress, this one is for you.
My bed is the location where I recuperate, where my body has a chance to regenerate, and where my mind rejuvenates. I spend 7-9 hours sleeping in my bed each night, and I am not ashamed of it.
That’s right, folks. I sleep enough! Often, it seems like in this rigorous academic environment, there is an unspoken competition among classmates to be the most sleep-deprived student. “I slept 4 hours last night.” “Lucky you, I slept 2.” “You think that’s bad? I pulled an all-nighter at Robarts.” So, in this bizarre game, who wins?
Sleep-deprivation turns into a weird and unwelcome badge of honour. I think we should work to change that culture as students. I think it’s natural to be well-rested, and its commendable to carve time out of our days to give our bodies and brains rest.
If only there was a prompt on LinkedIn that could recommend you for sleeping enough….
Somehow, the value of sleep seems to dissipate in the face of other responsibilities. I would like to suggest that our priorities are severely misaligned when taking care of our bodies becomes an afterthought. I know at this point in the conversation you may start to feel defensive about your sleep habits. Maybe you’re thinking, “What does this chick know about my life? She couldn’t possibly understand how busy I am!”
First, let me say that we can still be friends, even if you’re not sleeping enough. No judgement from me, I promise. I just hope you know that I think you are worth at least 7 hours of quality sleep a night.
Also, I know your struggle. I am also busy. I work (3) part time jobs, I volunteer on and off campus, I take a full course load, I spend time with people who bring me joy, and I frequent the gym and other wellness spaces daily.
And my secret is not that I am superhuman. It’s simply that I am well-rested, I take breaks, and I try to constantly check in on what my body needs to sustain my lifestyle. Part of my learning curve this year has been focusing on embracing fewer responsibilities, asking for support and guidance, and giving myself permission to drop the ball every once and a while.
Sometimes, this means closing my laptop when I am halfway through a reading, to be in bed before my bedtime (Yes, and then I wake up naturally every morning at the same time!). Other times, I sleep in really late on a Saturday and I miss my morning weight lifting class (because my bed is warm and comfortable and I’d rather not lift heavy things over my head). Frequently, I take a mid-afternoon nap because I know those are 20 minutes well spent. I take cues from my body, and when my body and I are in sync, my waking hours are productive.
I interviewed my buddy Conor two weeks ago, and he stressed the importance of sleep after personally experiencing a week without sleep at Basic Training for the Canadian Navy. Not only is our ability to function the next day compromised when we are sleepy but being sleep deprived is extremely detrimental to the body in the long term.
It’s like that Snickers Commercial. You’re not you when you’re exhausted.
Also, this funny commercial.
I hope that if there is one message that I can impart to readers of this blog, it is the importance of practicing self-compassion. I think this theme is what all of my blog posts have pointed to this year. This means being okay with ourselves (right now, in this moment, not when x, y, and z is accomplished). This means treating ourselves like we would treat a close friend—with love, attention, and respect.
Self-compassion looks different for every individual. I’d suggest a good place to start is by giving yourself permission to sleep enough, because you deserve to, every night of the week.
I especially see value in resting after a good day’s work. We should celebrate our accomplishments, not only at the end of the year but all along the way. Take a bath, take an afternoon stroll, take a break, take it easy, and please take the time to take it all in.
With much gratitude,