Reframe sleep and reclaim your day

13 Jun 2016 10 Minute Read Article by Tui Fleming

It’s 5.22am on a Saturday morning. I’m away from home (and my children) in Wellington for one blissful night with my husband; to reconnect, rest and recharge. I’ve been awake for three hours. The one night I thought I was guaranteed sweet, sweet slumber, uninterrupted by a 3-year old who’s lost her favourite bedtime toy or a 4-year old whose latest is “I just want a snuggle, Mummy”… and here I am. It’s 5.25am.

Would you feel ripped off if you were me? The old me would. But through years of personal development, reflection, and the introspective process of writing a book, I find myself thinking differently.

Because here I am. In a hotel room, wearing a cosy robe, sipping a cup of tea. I may have got less sleep than expected, but surely I got a whole lot more than the homeless man we saw lying outside Subway in a thin sleeping bag on the cold concrete pavement on this windy winter’s night. We bought him a meal – he asked for a Subway melt. We ordered him a foot long and added a cookie and a bottle of water. We didn’t talk about what we were doing; we went about it quietly. Yet a customer in the queue behind said: “What you’re doing is nice. There by the grace of God go you and I.” We could only assume that she had also offered to buy the man a meal and he’d said no; that someone else was inside doing just that. In dire circumstance, this man showed no greed.

In the dim light of my hotel room, I find myself thinking, who am I to be greedy for sleep? I’m not in dire circumstance, as that woman so rightly observed. I can catchup tomorrow night, perhaps have a nap on Sunday.

Sleep is so influenced by our perception of it and by our response to it.

As women we are multi-roled, multi-tasking, multi-talented beings. We’re busy. We stay up late getting things done. Sleep comes at the end of the day, so for many, it takes up the default position of last on the to-do list. The irony is that sleep is an enabler; it helps to keep us in good health and give us energy so that we can get through our to-do list. So how about this for a different way of thinking: what if you were to put sleep at the top of your list; to think of your day, your 24-hour day, as beginning when you sleep at night? It’s a different way of thinking, a new story to tell yourself. It could go something like this:

“It’s 10pm. If I go to bed now I’ll be giving my body and mind the best* chance to charge up ready to tackle my to do list – and to enjoy my day. “

It’s scientifically proven that around 10pm is when our bodies, in their natural state (unfuelled by caffeine or stimulants), are most receptive to deep, restorative sleep. Adults need 7-8 hours per night. Which means if we get to bed around 10pm, then come 5am our bodies are naturally ready to awaken. I know, I know, that will sound mad to many of you. And that’s because it’s our minds that respond otherwise. Our minds are powerful. They tell us stories, like: “It’s 5am, it’s dark outside, it’s not time to wake up, I need another hour or two.” But we can manifest a different response by manipulating the story in our minds: “I went to bed at 10pm. I’ve already slept through the deepest most restorative stage of sleep, so I must be okay to start the day.”

There are other ways too, that you can respond to sleep – or lack thereof – in order to frame up a more positive perception in your mind. I find it helps to think not of sleep, but of energy, afterall it’s this outcome of sleep – energy, not sleep itself – that we want and need. Stop and check in with yourself now. What makes you feel energised? Think small, write your answers down and try to include these things in your day. For me it’s a quick handstand against the wall, a pause for a few deep mindful breaths, a big slug of water, going outside and drinking in nature, exercise.

I know what it’s like to be tired. This past year has been my busiest, with mummying two pre-schoolers, working part-time managing Skin Institute’s marketing, writing and self-publishing my first book, and all the other things that come with being a woman! But, in the words of Wayne Dyer, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.

It’s now 7.17am. I’ve been awake for almost four hours, and toiled over this blog for two. Time for a slug of water and a morning walk – I may not have got my full night’s sleep but on the plus side, I’ve got a full morning, childfree, to enjoy. I’ve re-framed sleep, and I’m claiming my day.

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