Reading a recent blog with the following startling statistics prompted me to share my own experience in overcoming this problem.
People today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety, with more than 30% of our population suffering from insomnia. To combat this, approximately 10 million people in the United States use prescription sleep aids (better-sleep-better-life.com).
I never had trouble sleeping until I became pregnant. My evening routine of prayer, reading the Bible or other inspirational material, and writing in my gratitude journal no longer guaranteed me a lasting night of sleep.
What did help?
I went to church one evening and shared this experience with fellow church members. They each had a unique experience and insight to share. One woman shared how she had never needed much sleep in throughout her life. She was able to function perfectly well on just a few hours each night. This skill had enabled her to take far more than the usual credits when she was in graduate school.
Another woman shared how when she woke up in the middle of the night, she prayed for the world and her church. She felt there was a spiritual reason or “calling” for her to be up at the hour (to love her fellow brothers and sisters) and she was able to sleep again after spending time in prayer.
I contacted a Christian Science practitioner for ideas on this subject. She said that she loved waking up during those hours in the night and for her it was like “free time” when she got to do things she couldn’t normally do.
Instead of seeing myself in a dark, lonely house, wishing I was doing something (sleeping) that I was not, I started to appreciate the opportunities this afforded me. I prayed for humanity; I learned more about God; I ate something; I did chores; I worked, etc. I lost the fear and anxiety about being up at that time, and it became very productive for me. Since I was able to accomplish more during that time, I found I could take the opportunity to sleep later in the day when I felt rested and peaceful.
“Siesta” – or nap and resting time – is built-in to the day of many cultures. However, it’s not part of the American culture. My husband told me that his grandfather in South Africa has taken a nap ever day of his life. I realized I didn’t have to be boxed in to what my culture says is “normal” (i.e. sleeping and working in 8 hr blocks). I felt anxiety because I didn’t fit into this mold, and I realized I could step out of this mold and follow a God-directed and inspired schedule. This change in thought really helped me. It didn’t negatively affect my work or the people around me. And it gave me a greater sense of peace and the ability to follow divine inspiration and feel the gentleness of God throughout my day. Sometimes we just need to be a little more gentle on ourselves.