If I was to define my relationship with sleep, it would look a little something like a disastrous dating story: the harder I pursue, the more it evades me. I'm the needy, overbearing partner in a one sided, sneaky relationship. It creeps up on me when I least need it, and hides away in the shadows when I'm desperate to be fresh faced and on form the next morning.
I've always been aware of my tempestuous relationship with rest and relaxation. It tortures me (and my partner), to the point of distraction. I'm strung high as a kite and my mind reels at a million miles an hour, never more so than when my head hits the pillow. My recently purchased Fitbit tells me I achieve less than four hours average per night, waking up around 15-20 times. I toss, turn, talk, (I've also walked), and generally get up and down throughout the night like a yo-yo. Basically, I'm a massive pain in the arse and it's a miracle I've managed to find someone who'll put up with me.
Upon deciding to write about my sleep habits as part of The Sleep Revolution, I had a good, long think about those times in my life when I've slept well, and I define only two. The first was after I spent a long spell in hospital - free from technology, distractions and work, I allowed myself to sleep freely, whenever I wanted. I took long, long naps, and slept through the night. This continued for about a month after I got out of hospital, before slowly creeping back to my old, insomniac ways.
The second was when I was travelling Australia and working on a farm. Up for 5am, I worked hard physical labour all day long, and was asleep for 9pm every night. Again, the defining factors here were lack of technology - there was no phone signal or wifi - lack of work pressures, and generally being bloody knackered.
I'm also aware of the relationship between my anxiety, and my sleep patterns. I become consumed by anxiety every few months - anyone who suffers from this will know what I'm on about. It's not a wringing of hands, or a bit of a worry. It's an alteration of your entire thought process, where simple things become seemingly impossible, and irrationality creeps into every corner of your mind. This manifests itself particularly with sleep for me - at one point I was unable to sleep - even in the dead of winter - without the window wide open and a glass of water within arms reach, as I'd developed a fear that I'd suffer an allergic reaction during the night and my throat would close up. Cray.
In my early twenties, I was far more flippant about my need for sleep than the point that I've reached now - I'm no longer willing to accept it. Writing and thinking about it now has made me even more determined. I deserve to sleep well, and I will. I'm making three pledges to myself:
1) Technology - I'm removing all phones and tech from my bedroom, and will not check my phone at least two hours before going to bed
2) Work - I love my job, and my lack of sleep is affecting how I perform. We are lucky enough that our founder Arianna Huffington has implemented some incredible work/life policies, and I'm going to take advantage of every one of them.
3) Mindfulness - I'm going to tackle my anxiety with Mindfulness. I've never undertaken any of this training, and I'm going to sign myself onto a course. The benefits are proven, and I'm hoping it will lead me to a better, more peaceful nights sleep.
Sleep, I'm coming for you.