What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Like so many, I snatched up last month's issue of People magazine with the gorgeous Lupita Nyong’o on the cover. She was, after all, the world’s most beautiful person. Honestly. Just vicious, that one.
As I read through the brief interviews with some of the world’s other beauties, I noticed a trend. Many of these women (Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, etc.) cited sleep as their beauty secret. J-Lo even called it “one of the biggest luxuries” in her line of biz.
More than expensive creams and serums made of unicorn spittle and giraffe tears or injections derived from the leg fat of babies, the leading beauty “trick” was something simple and old-fashioned and free to all: a good night’s rest.
It totally makes sense. Study after study has shown how sleep operates like a dishwasher for the brain, clearing out all the neurotoxins that build up during our wakeful hours. I've read plenty of science-service pieces about how sleep improves overall health, boosts memory and might even stave off Alzheimer’s.
Chronic lack of sleep is linked to a whole bag of problems: poor concentration, pinched problem solving and reasoning skills, increased risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and your sex drive on ice.
Sleep starvation is a trend that we definitely want to work against. Actually, it’s more than a trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s a public health epidemic. Whereas most adults need 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep, nearly 40 percent of Americans are going sub-7 each night. That’s less sleep than folks in Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the UK. The only country that the U.S. fares better than here is Japan.
The whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” thing? Nah, son. Miss me with that. The slogan should be: Not-sleeping is for suckers!
But the thing is (and this is plain ridiculous -- I was probably yawning while reading those tips from the celeb sleeping beauties) that when it comes to this necessary brain reboot, as free and glorious and restorative as it is, sleep too often gets the short shrift on my life list.
Nearly every night you can hear me start the familiar refrain: I neeeeeded to get to sleep early. I neeeeeded to get some solid rest. And then every morning-after, there I am, cranky, complaining and singing the same old song from the top: I’m so tired.
It got to the point where my husband just stopped listening to my looped grumble and completely muted my worn-out chant. He knows that I know what to do to meet the self-prescribed 10:30 bedtime. It involves logging out from all the glowing screens, big and small, at least 30 minutes beforehand. Mid-sentence, mid-clever tweet (yes, they’re all witty gems), mid-Instagram, whatever it is, shut that shit down and go to bed. But he also knows that I can’t seem to bring myself to do this simple ALL SYSTEMS DARK thing with any regularity.
Just these last few pages and I’ll be at the end of the chapter…or so.
Just this last sentence and I’ll be done with this draft…pretty much.
Just this last email and I’ll be dug out of this inbox cave…kind of.
I’ve basically just this last thing’d my way into being perma-tired. You know, it’s that thing when you’ve racked up so many nights of choppy, substandard sleep that tired becomes the new baseline. It’s the new normal, when you know dang well that there’s nothing normal about nixing sleep.
I’m too old for all-nighters and we're four-plus years out of the newborn bootcamp game. I should be getting good rest. I need to be getting good rest. I don’t want to clog the dishwasher. Plus, I’m tired of talking about how tired I am. Tired of being tired, and ready to do something about it.
So at the start of this month, I decided to set a sleep challenge for myself and anyone else in my social media/bloggy world that wanted to join me. The rules are simple: Aim to get a solid 8 hours of sleep -- if that’s what your body needs. Maybe you only require 7. (Yeah, all those folks talking about, “I run off of 4 hours, max”? Like Ricky Rozay told y’all: The devil is a lie.)
The challenge didn’t have the most auspicious start. I had flown in from LA on a red-eye on June 1 and was fighting jetlag for the next few days. By the end of the week, though, I had logged an impressive 8-plus hours of good rest.
The days following that were anything but smooth sailing. Deadlines, pushy To-Do lists, and a little bit of “my road bike got stolen from the damn garage!” drama totally derailed my efforts before they even had a chance to be called progress.
Now it’s mid-June, almost halfway through the challenge and I’m back to cranky, complaining and that worn-out chant. Granted, it’s nowhere near this level, but a change go’ come. Starting today. I even took a nap in the middle of the day. Your girl means business! And tonight, at 9:45, it’s all black everything.
Log off. Lights out. Dishwasher on. Wish me good luck. Or better, wish me good night.