Sleep: Disorder or Liberated?
If you struggle to sleep for 8-9 hours each night – you are not alone.
Sleep is not – as modern culture declares it – a luxury. When we skimp on sleep – our essential restoration processes are disrupted and our whole system suffers…
Research shows that we are collectively more sleep-deprived than ever. With our never-ending to-do list and our 24/7 techno-connectivity – we are sleeping less. But perhaps one-size does not fit all, when it comes to sleep?
Sleep & wakefulness:
There’s a rhythm moving through me. Life. Creating. Writing, resting, loving, teaching, napping…
Yes, life is good and steady right now.
But my sleep was out of sync there for a while. And not just for a night or two!
Generally I sleep really well. A miracle really. Although it wasn’t always like that. I’ve trained myself to sleep well. (That’s a separate post… or book). Seriously.
Y e p – s l e e p , f o r m e , i s e a s y .
Until there’s a little stress or too much excitement in my system. A sudden fluctuation in my day-to-day. If I don’t ‘move’ much through the day. Or I have a little too much tea (caffeine) or a piece of dark chocolate after dinner. Being a highly sensitive person – I’m a sensitive sleeper. I wake easily – if there’s a sudden sound, or light or the temperature is too hot or too cold.
Yep, I’m a fussy sleeper. I can own that.
So, there I was, in the depths of winter… The early phases of writing my ebook. Inspired, excited and ‘in-the-flow’. My sleep became erratic.
In winter I’m usually in bed reading by 8.30pm. I’d fall asleep, no problem. But I’d wake between 3 and 4.30am. Overcome by a feeling or idea… I’d fumble for my phone and start recording – or turn on the lamp and scribble it down… Assuming I’d go back to sleep. But my brain was awake! So I’d get up, make tea. I’d be writing by 4am. While the rest of the world (or Australia at least) was asleep. Even before the very first bird song.
The magical hour(s). I know some of you know what I mean.
(Unless you struggle with insomnia. Then they’re the hell hours.)
I’ve seen this before. The Muse. And I know better than to turn her away. I figured it would only be a few days. No problem.
I can go without adequate sleep on occasion…
But a few days stretched into a week. A week became two…
I decided to lean in – rather than resist. To surrender. I adjusted my life and work around this new sleep pattern. My Muse was delivering so I didn’t need much convincing! I felt like a channel.
I’d sleep 5-7 hours. Then I’d write (and make beauty) for anywhere between 3-8 hours before having a decent nap.
It wasn’t always up to me. The Muse, you see?
But I would NEVER skimp on the nap.
The afternoon sleep remained non-negotiable. I wouldn’t risk tipping into sleep deprivation. Those days – of pushing it, and stressing my body – are over.
I was fascinated. Posting about napping on social media – having some lively conversations with my tribe…
I began to research it some more. Turns out multi-phasic sleep is seeing a renaissance, of sorts.
Cooool. Or is it?
There are people who ‘chase’ the more nutrient deep-sleep stages (achieved in 90 minutes). Known as poly-sleepers – they literally design their sleep cycles (and lifestyle) using timers and alarms. Seriously. The primary motivation for this ‘sleep hacking’ appears to be to squeeze more non-sleeping hours into each day. Little wonder I’m no advocate. For me – there’s more to life than being productive. The body is intelligent and will tell me what it needs. And I’m ALLLLLL about the joy and sweetness of life, right? As you may know (nodding).
I LOVE my bed. My bedroom is a sanctuary. I will never see time spent in there as an indulgence or a waste of time.
It’s true – some people’s sleep suffers due to trauma and the like – and therefore can benefit from ‘training’ themselves to sleep well. But sleep hacking is not for me… or you, sweetheart.
Monophasic sleep is one sleep per 24 hours, at night, averaging 8 hours. It’s the most common and convenient (except for shift workers). Suitable for those with conventional lives – such as 9-5 jobs. It also minimises the risk of sleep deprivation.
Biphasic sleep is 2 sleeps – or one sleep and one nap per day. For example a 6 hour sleep and a 1.5 hour nap. Suitable to certain cultures such as mediterranean countries. Napping improves cognitive function and memory. This pattern can work for night owls – but they must be disciplined if bad habits are a tendency. Napping minimises the risk of sleep deprivation for those who sleep inadequately at night. Insomniacs need to watch the effects of napping on night time sleep.
Polyphasic sleep refers to more than 2 sleeps within 24 hours. Common amongst the elderly, infants, animals and people with irregular circadian rhythms, dementia or head injuries.
Interrupted or segmented sleep lies somewhere between monophasic and polyphasic sleep. Two periods of sleep are segmented by a period of wakefulness. Research show that this might actually be our more natural sleep style. ‘Interrupted’ suggests that sleep is punctuated by wakefulness that is not voluntary, rather than by ones choice or design.
Call it what you will – I highly recommend resting deeply or napping each day (as long as it does not adversely effect your night time sleep) – particularly in winter, and during times of stress or transition.
Modern Sleep cycles now include Everyman, Dymaxion and Uberman sleep. Basically they range between 4 to 6 sleeps or naps in 24 hours. I think you get the idea. You can google these if it lights you up.
Sleep Disorder or Innate Wisdom?
Thanks to my Muse…
I ‘ d u n w i t t i n g l y b e c o m e a p o l y p h a s i c s l e e p e r !
Or more accurately – oscillating between biphasic and polyphasic sleep. ‘Poly’ just has such a ring to it – especially in Byron Bay! (Grin).
It’s recommended in most of the mainstream literature to get 8 hours of sleep each night, right? Monophasic sleep is the most common, by far. But our ancestors slept 2-3 times per day, for shorter periods. And there are many people that continue to sleep this way. Including – it would seem – my Muse. (Eye roll).
You see – you don’t need to look back too far in history to discover that how we sleep today – or how we are told we should sleep – is a bi-product of the industrial revolution. What is particularly interesting to me is that this insight poses some great questions about sleep:
- do we truly have sleep disorders?
- or are our deeper, innate human instincts for sleep simply being revealed?
- are we actually wired to sleep 8 hours in a single chunk?
- or is this expectation just an echo of the modernisation of our human lifestyle. Meaning – is it just keeping us in jobs to make the world go round?
What if – when you next wake up at 2 or 4am – resisting wakefulness – you considered: what if there’s nothing wrong?
What might your life look and feel like if you made peace with that – and began to work with it instead of resisting it? Like I did.
Perhaps it’s just a phase? For me – it was during the really peak creative and exciting part of the book (about one month)… I am happy to report my sleep pattern has settled again. However – I am blessed enough with the life I have created – and trust enough to go with it when I wake in the wee hours. I know a nap later in the day is all I need to be ok.
Could you consider – if waking in the night or early morning is a well worn pattern – that perhaps it’s your natural sleep pattern? Is it possible to re-organise your life around that at all? Or at least experiment?
Food for thought hey?
There are risks (with the restructuring, and the more radical approaches). So be sure to get informed if you feel to explore becoming a poly-sleeper.
I have been biphasic for a few years now. I generally nap most days – or at least deeply rest (move into parasympathetic response).
And I love it.
So I wanted to begin the (overdue) conversation.
I would really love to hear from you too!
What’s your sleep like? Did you have any ‘aha’ moments reading this? What stands out?
Please post your comments below.
Sleep that soothes away all our worries.
Sleep that puts each day to rest.
Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds.
Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.”
– Shakespeare. ‘Macbeth’, Act 2, scene 2.
Wishing you peace with your sleep darling. Liberation.
Especially when your Muse visits…