Why I No Longer Set an Alarm When I Go to Sleep

I used to believe it’s sad to think about sleep during the day, to be longing for sleep when you’re awake. Sleep, I thought, is an escape, and if you feel the need to escape, it must be quite bad.

But is sleep indeed an escape? And an escape from what? If the waking state was the primary reality of human beings, and if our living in that reality was always and without exceptions a hardship, then we could consider sleep an escape.

But our reality is composed of both sleep and wake, both playing a huge role in our well-being. That the waking state takes up two thirds, and sleep only one third of our lives, does not mean the latter is less important. We live in both, and need both.

The waking state is not always a hardship, either. I used to think it is for personal reasons, but now I’ve become acquainted with many more of the experiences that life has in store.

There is pleasure in life, and there is love. There is enthusiasm and exhaustion, and there is sadness and pain. There is also the feeling that one is actually lucky to be alive. And there is much more.

Coming back to not-so-personal beliefs, let’s remember that the time we spend asleep is equally valuable as our waking time. It is a time for rest, a time perfect for connecting with our inner lives, a time for dreaming and, let’s not forget about that: for growing.

But we’re reluctant to accept this fact of life, aren’t we, the twenty-first-century high-speed human machines? We minimize the time for sleep to have more of it for work, game playing, partying and whatnot. We treat sleep as if it was a necessary evil, often resorting to it only when we’re completely exhausted.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? If you haven’t, then my congratulations. But most of us relegate sleep to a place down at the bottom on their list of priorities. “Sleeping won’t get us a financial upgrade, awesome friends and photos from an enviable exotic trip, so why waste our time?”

There are at least two reasons… no, not to “waste our time”, but to change our minds about sleep so that it doesn’t seem a waste of time. Aaand to finally sleep enough.

Reason one is very simple, and you already know it: we need sleep. Our bodies, our minds, our everything needs sleep like plants need the sun. There’s no denying it, even if we like denying our needs so much. Remember: there’s no shame in being in need of something, so there’s no need to deny it.

Reason two is arguable, and I am going to argue for it: sleep makes our lives richer and more interesting. If we were to go with the current conception of a human being as a sort of organic robot, with brain for its main computer, stomach for the fuel tank and so on, we’d make ourselves dull and exhausted.

We’re not machines. We’re animals with an enormous capacity for experiencing things. Numerous things (see the personal paragraph above). And I have no doubt that we experience and remember them more fully when we are rested than we do when trying to fight exhaustion and boredom.

Our lives get more interesting also thanks to the dreaming we do while asleep. Seriously, wWhat would they be without those strange nightly phantasms, reflections on their possible meaning in the daily light, and evening discussions with our loved ones about whether they mean anything at all?

These are my reasons for not feeling bad when I think about sleep during the day, not setting an alarm when I go to sleep, and enjoying most of all the days when absolutely no external force can make my eyes open until they open by themselves in the morning.

What are yours? If you don’t have any, go find some, quickly. Because sleep is quite a lovely state.

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A source that made me reflect on my attitude to sleep, and also a place for you to look for reasons to start getting enough sleep: The Cure for Insomnia Is to Fall in Love with Sleep Again

On a less serious note: A video presenting a healthy attitude to sleep

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Nighty night!
mulan

Ugly Emotions

“I hit you in my sleep.”

“What have I done?” he asks jokingly.

“Nothing, I wanted to hit somebody from my dream but I hit you in reality,” I say, all brimming with guilt.

“Doesn’t matter. Come here.”

***

One of the most important lessons I’m taking in therapy continually is about accepting my emotions as they are. High or low, strong or weak, nice or… ugly.

Before I began therapy, it seemed kind of natural to dismiss all kinds of emotions that I didn’t experience as “nice”. I just wanted to see myself as a nice person, you know? And nice people don’t hate others or feel angry at them. Nice people, you know – they forgive.

Or whatever it was they taught me in religion classes. Did  you have religion classes, too? Doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of us out there – people who would prefer to be incapable of anger, hate, jealousy, reluctance, or spite. Because then, in the end, we could be sure we are the perfectly acceptable “nice” people we want to be.

I guess we could all blame our pushing the “ugly” emotions away from ourselves on religious teaching, on the expectation that every girl should be a nice little angel, on our failing parents… you name it. But the origins of this habit matter very little once you realize that it is doing you harm.

Suppressing emotions is bad for you, we all know it. You may, for example, end up having terrible dreams where you fight someone who made you angry ten years back, and be hitting your significant other in the present. Or you feel tense all the time for no apparent reason, or your body eventually says “no more of this” and falls ill. But if we all know the consequences of suppressing unwanted emotions, why don’t we stop suppressing them if we know it?

Because it’s not so easy. You probably already know that, too. It’s not easy to admit to emotions that you have been denying for a long time. Because, in a sense, you have been acting rationally – you have been denying them for a reason, and with a purpose.

Why, then? Why do we deny the existence of the “ugly” creatures that inhabit our minds – the snakes, the rats, the lizards? We do that precisely because we think of them as “ugly”. Cumbersome. Undeserving. We don’t like to burden ourselves with the difficulty of facing them and owning them.

And what for do we suppress those lovely – “ugly”, you probably still think – creatures of our minds? Quite simply, we do that to feel better about ourselves. It may also help you to avoid conflict with other people; but above all, it allows you to avoid conflict with yourself: you are now, without any doubt, the “nice” person you wanted to be, so everything must be okay.

It works so well that you may not even notice it that it has become your way of being. You don’t pay attention to feelings of frustration or jealousy when they appear around the corner; you tell your feelings to shut up when you’re angry at someone; you keep all the “ugly” stuff neatly hidden under the carpet. It makes you a super-nice person…

…who sacrificed an important part of themselves to achieve that goal. And if you think about it – was it worth it?

In my case, I think it wasn’t. Sure, this habit of keeping “the ugly” out of sight has been making my life a lot easier by providing me with a sense of security. I always knew what to do when an “ugly” emotion crept out of the dark: shove it back there! But you know what? I like to think of myself as an animal preserve. In that preserve, each animal has its own niche, and each should be fed and taken care of so that the ecosystem is – well, preserved, because that’s what preserves are for.

And each animal, including the “ugly” ones – my hate, my anger, my sadness – should be there, not out. Otherwise, I’d lose something very important. I think I don’t have to explain what it is.

So, what do I do to stop suppressing my emotions? What have I learned in therapy so far? Admittedly, no more than I what I have ranted here about up until now: that the “ugly” emotions that I’m afraid of, and that I would rather keep in a very dark, forgotten place, are just as good as the “nice” ones, and that all emotions need to be experienced.

And what do I do with that knowledge? Well, I just repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it until I’m completely bored with myself talking. In this way, I’m coming to believe in this simple fact of life more and more…

I’m a slow learner, that I must admit. But even if you are a slow learner, there are lessons out there really worth learning no matter how much time it takes – and worth sharing, too. If you want to share what you’ve learned, or any other thoughts, you know where the comments section is.

Have a good day!
Renata

Post scriptum: You can read a Polish version of this post at uczesiemowic.blogspot.com.