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I am NOT a morning person
I love sleep. I am a great sleeper. My husband says I could “sleep for Scotland” (if it was an olympic discipline). My favourite time to sleep is the morning. Slumbering between 6 and 9.30 a.m. is for me the most revitalising and rejuvenating time. I also like to nap somewhere between 3 and 5 p.m.
I live in Germany. People here like to start work around 7 a.m., sometimes even earlier. This is not for me. When my natural circadian rhythm is allowed to flow, then I tend to sleep until 9.20 a.m. For YEARS, DECADES even, I have struggled with this cultural norm of working before my body has even woken up. I don’t function properly before 9.20 a.m. (sometimes later).
Going against my rhythm
For years I struggled to get to my workplace somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m. We had the chance to start at 9.30 a.m., but that made the day feel very long and it cut into my afternoon nap time, so I did my best to get there earlier. By the time I got home I was not able to function at all and quite often just fell into bed and slept. My colleagues who started early would always try and entice me with the “reward” of getting to be home early afternoon. I tried this. I was so tired by the afternoon that I did not have the energy to enjoy the time. I mostly had to go to bed, or I sat zombified on the sofa. I decided I preferred having more time to wake up in the morning.
When I got to work, I was often met with colleagues who had been working for two hours already, and had been up way before dawn. They would often greet me with a scathing tone, kind of like “afternoon!”. Thanks to my family of origin, I am absolutely UNSHAMABLE when it comes to sleep. I know, understand and value its importance and I am not about to give up because somebody else doesn’t.
“You get used to it”
It is perfectly natural for people to have different sleep patterns. The cultural norm to get up early, and the need for an alarm clock so that we can “be productive,” is a more recent invention (see industrial revolution). There aren’t many of us here in my environment who subscribe to the “late sleepers”. I have often heard that “you can get used to it,”or similar, but I NEVER felt this was the case for me. Now I am certain we don’t get used to it, we can either do it or we can’t. I believe going against our own natural rhythm over a long period of time can actually cause illness, burnout or (worst case) death.
Strangely, it feels like doing without sleep or getting up early is associated with some sort of virtue in this country. People kind of brag about how they are up at the crack of dawn as if that is some kind of skill to aspire to. Makes no sense to me. It is as if the earlier you get up, the better a person you are. For my in-laws, sleeping in until after 9 a.m. is laughable, however having a nap after lunch is completely acceptable!
We only heal during sleep
Martha Beck tells me (after she read an excellent book on sleep: I think it is Matthew Walker “Why We Sleep” but I haven’t read it yet) “we only heal when we sleep.” This is something I repeat to myself and often to other people now. We often start to feel tired but dismiss it because we don’t understand the reason for it. I reckon our bodies just know when they need some rest, and some healing.
Rest and replenish
According to research quoted in Pilar Gerasimo’s book “Healthy Deviant - a Rule Breakers Guide to being Healthy in an Unhealthy World” our bodies are on a regular rhythm, called an ultradian rhythm, which means throughout the day we are capable of being productive for about 90 to 120 minutes, then our bodies need 20 minutes rest. If we take this rest seriously and properly, we can continue to be just as productive throughout the whole day. However, typically, we feel more and more diminished as the day goes on, as we are quite often unable or unwilling to take those 20 minutes to replenish our resources, ignoring our body’s signals.
Never mind the fitness watch
I was intrigued about my sleep patterns, so I got myself a fitness watch. Oh my! The advice about sleep from my fitness watch just made me crazy. Suggesting the best time to sleep is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.. Best for who? Not me, I can tell you! It also made no allowances for the fact that I was a menstruating woman, which automatically changes sleep patterns, depending on which half of the cycle I am in. Other annoying advice included getting out in the fresh air, lots of exercise and a healthy diet. Do not get me started!
Taking time to rest
When I was on my last legs before burnout all I wanted to do was sleep. I now hear “if you don’t feel any joy or know what makes you happy, you probably need to rest.” Boy! Did I need to rest. When I broke down I immediately knew I needed months, just to sleep and rest! I hadn’t realised how long I would need, but I knew I needed A LOT. After years of pushing past my biological needs and working towards a schedule which was not my own, my body, mind and soul had to relearn how to sleep and rest naturally and I had to learn to trust my natural rhythm.
According to some research, not sleeping can be even unhealthier than smoking, drinking or any other drugs you can poison your body with combined. I am now off for a nap. I recommend them, ANYTIME!
Here is a very interesting and extremely relevant podcast on sleep, rest, capitalism and white supremacy: https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/we-can-do-hard-things-with-glennon-doyle/id1564530722?i=1000582486920
Find more information about Tricia Hersey and the Nap Ministry here: thenapministry.com.