“There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock.”

– Anonymous

When we have to make some of the hardest decisions in personal and work life, a good way is to ‘sleep over it’. Though oft quoted but rarely put into practice, thinking over something in your sleep, i.e. in your dreams is definitely a great way to take decisions.

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

– Ernest Hemingway

I was reminded about sleep when travelling on a late evening flight from Bangalore to Delhi last week. Having arrived early at airport for the 9:30pm flight, I had had a nice soup and some bread at the restaurant in the airport and was looking forward to a relaxed flight reading Yongey Rinpoche’s amazing book, ‘In Love with the world‘. Had been reading it for almost a month and was keen to complete it during the 2.5 hours flight. 

After a 15 min nap after take off, I felt quite refreshed and started reading. I noticed the lady on the window seat next to me was having her late dinner on flight with a cup of noodles along with some cookies and a cup of tea. I assumed she had a long busy day and might not have been as fortunate as me, to dine before boarding the flight. 

Anyways, after she was done with her dinner, she tried to take a nap by leaning against the window. But it did not work. So then next she tried to put her head down on the food tray and sleep for a while. With the second option also not helping, she decided to look into the seat jacket to see if there was anything to read. 

Post pandemic, the airlines have come up with different ways to cut cost. And Indigo is among the better airlines so they have tried not to cut down too much. But to do away with the in-flight magazine was probably an easy one. Fortunately for my co-passenger, they had still retained the emergency exit operations manual in the seat pocket. She actually read it from cover to cover for 10-15 mins. Having failed to induce sleep in this way, she turned around and could not avoid a smile of embarrassment when I asked her about her failed attempts at sleeping.

I could notice the dark circles around the ex-crew member of the same airline, as she mentioned that she was to attend a late night wedding in Delhi and getting some sleep now would ensure she looked fresh at the wedding. Surprised that she did not have any audio/video or even text content on her phone, I offered her the digital books collection on my phone to browse and pick something to read. 

This is when I noticed how many of  the other passengers had come prepared. They were either reading a book, browsing on the phone, playing games and even watching a movie on their tablet/laptop. My neighbour was probably the only one who was unprepared for what she intended to do, go to sleep.

Reminded me of a very important advice my school teacher gave me: ‘You should never go to bed and go to sleep. You should always first go to sleep and then go to bed.’

Simple as it may sound, but it’s rarely implemented. Many of us literally toss around in bed, not just for minutes, but for hours, trying hard to get sleep in a pitch dark room with zero sound disturbance. Yet, they do not realise that it’s futile to try and sleep that way. The best way to get sleep for me is to either read in the bed or get up and do some other work which will tire me enough at some point, that I will get sleepy.

“Never waste any time you can spend sleeping.”

– Frank H. Knight

Having read Matt Walker’s phenomenal book ‘ Why we Sleep’ last year, I am also aware of the logic and science behind sleeping and the fact that the number of people sleeping too less far exceeds those sleeping too much and sleeping enough. While many claim they can sleep for really long hours, rarely can anyone do it nowadays, except for children during holidays. Our minds are pre-occupied with so many things, we tend to stretch our waking hours way beyond what’s considered as ‘healthy’. If you have not read the book, would surely suggest you do, to understand why 7-8 hours of daily sleep is quite essential for a healthy life. My best quote for the book, is that ‘Its a wake up call to sleep‘.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

– Anthony Burgess

Of course quality of sleep is as important as quantity. And while the best way to ensure that you have good quality sleep is to have a busy, work filled day, so that your mind would welcome the idea to sleep when you hit the bed, but of course, that’s easier said than done. Meditation surely helps to calm the mind enough to be able to gradually gravitate into a peaceful sleep.

As important as going to sleep when sleepy, is to be able to wake up without the need for an alarm. To be able to adjust your body clock to align well with the number of hours of sleep you need and to wake up without the tringggggg… of the alarm clock, is the healthiest way. Swamiji has also talked about the concept of ‘pillow alarm’ which is to tell your pillow to wake you up at a specified time. Try it,  it works!!

The pessimists downplay the idea of 8 hours of daily sleep. ” You mean I should spend 1/3rd of my life sleeping? What a waste of time,” they say. But little do they realise, that our productivity goes down and quality of work is anyway impacted by the lack of sleep.

So, when u decide to go to bed tonight, decide if you are really sleeping because Hetal asked you to ensure 8 hours of sleep, or because you are really sleepy!!!

“Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it’s time to get up.”

– Anonymous

pic credit: better parent

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