Napping, on the other hand, I really associate with safe sleep. I associate it with a level of comfort that allows me to sleep when it is light out, sin alarm. I used to hate going to bed when I was little, and even as a teenager and in college, however, I could always nap. It was really the safe way for me to sleep. When I think of spending time with people I know and love and being comfortable and happy, I find myself in a state that allows me to nap (sleep). There is almost nothing I love more than taking a nap during the holidays. I think of Greg's house in Iowa and all of us sleeping on the couches downstairs with a fire and the dogs and cats after a big Thanksgiving dinner. I think of my parent's house and all laying on the couches, chairs and floors after Christmas dinner with the pellet stove on and a classic movie on TV--add some snow to either scenario and I cannot think of a place I feel more happy and safe.
As I get older and am able to sleep better, I do truly appreciate the rest and recharge that sleep affords me. There are some places I sleep better than others. I guess I should say, like most, I assume, I sleep best in my own bed. The difference being how awful I sleep anywhere else. For some reason, I feel more safe in my tiny little apartment in the middle of New York City than I do anywhere else. Growing up in a small town, I would hear every car, cricket, cat and creek inside and outside of the house. I am not sure if the noise outside the apartment in NYC just kind of drowns out the cricks and creeks, or it is just that our apartment is so small there aren't any real nooks and crannies to even worry about.
Knowing I have finally, after so many years, found a place I am able to sleep safely and soundly, the hardest part has become waking up for work in the morning. I wake up 2-3 times a night to go to the bathroom, or deal with the cat. I am tuned into every poop, morsel of food, or getting into mischief that occurs between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. While for me, this is me sleeping better, I am envious of folks who can actually sleep straight through the night. I cannot imagine sleeping straight through the night, I guess this is evolutions way of preparing me for motherhood?
We all know the benefits of sleep. Body, mind and soul all recharge. There are studies about appropriate levels of sleep benefiting memory, body weight and overall health and productivness. I know the range of sleep people need seems to vary. I have know doubt there are some times throughout one's lifetime where you are able to sleep more (teens and college) or less (motherhood/fatherhood) than is actually necessary for your optimal health. I would also guess that optimal sleep level does vary greatly from person to person. Some people can function just perfect off of 4-5 hours of sleep, while others have learned over the years they need more like 8-9 hours of sleep. I think I am about a 7 hr optimal sleeper.
One of the things I hate most about waking up is the jolt I get from my alarm clock. In high school and college I always used the radio alarm. I found it to be much more of a gentle jolt and more of a gradual wake-up process. Greg, however, could sleep through my murder and not stir. Since we have been living together and wake-up roughly around the same time, we have come to use an alarm vs. the radio. Each morning, I wake up between 5 a.m. -6 a.m. to go to the bathroom. I always head back to bed and the proceed to be awake until like 20 minutes before my alarm goes off. In this time I always find a way to drift off into a deep R.E.M., and am then jolted out of bed by my alarm clock.
My alarm clock does just that, it alarms me. It brings along with it a faster heart rate, a stressful wake-up and a jittery and anxious start to the day.
I have recently realized how much better I feel when I don't allow my alarm to wake me up. On the weekends I never set an alarm (unless I have somewhere I need to be before 8 a.m.). I sometimes sleep in a bit later than I should, but I at least have a gradual wake-up and stress-free start to the morning, as opposed to a quick pulse and a jittery day. Getting jolted by my alarm, to only head to an over-crowded subway, is not a great way to start my dealings with the world each day.
Last week, I decided to try to do the same thing during the work week. It is an experiment of sorts, as it has the potential to cause a stressful start to the day in another way, being super later for work. I have to say, it has been rather liberating not to set an alarm each night before I go to bed. It isn't because I am not going to go to work, or because I am lazy, it is because I am so sick of the unnatural and non-gradual process of waking up. It has been exciting to know that I will not be jolted out of my bed each morning.
So far, I am happy to report, that it has been working out ok for me. My circadian clock (cue in classic Seinfeld episode) appears to be in sync with my work schedule, so far. I also have to say that Greg's alarm is my emergency alarm. He uses his phone alarm, which is much less jarring than the alarm on my side of the bed.
I am hopeful I can carry this alarm free zone into the winter months and am hopeful the darkness outside does not prevent these alarm-free mornings. It really is liberating.
In addition, these past few days I have been trying really hard to assess how tired I am before I lay back down after 6:30 ish. If I am up at 6:30 to go the bathroom, I am going to continue to try hard to use this morning time more efficiently: not fall back asleep, catch up on some reading, head to the gym, write a blog, etc. I have always been a night person, so mornings and I.....not so much. There is, however, nothing that makes me hate mornings more than my alarm going off.
I like to think I can, perhaps, find a way to enjoy my mornings more. I would like to have some extra time each day to do things they speak to my mind (reading, learning) body (heading to the gym, walking, eating a healthy breakfast) and soul (meditating, blogging, being present). I know that I am always my happiest when I am conscious and taking care of my mind, body and soul--spending the necessary time being attentive to each.
Here's to hoping I can continue to find ways to control what I can and let go of what I cannot and continue to work towards finding peace and paying attention to the little victories along the way.
And thats all she wrote...