On Sleep...

Be gentle with myself. 

People often admonish me for not sleeping much. And I fret about my lack of sleep. Will I look older? Will my face look worn out, with night after night of 4 to 5 hours of sleep?

My sleep deprivation began when I started nursing school prereq. classes a year ago. The only way I could study between a full time job as a cellist in the Jacksonville Symphony and a mother of two was to study at night, after my family went to bed. 

I am realizing that I do not need much sleep. Most nights I'm too excited about articles I find online, studying and writing to be able to sleep. 
So why worry and beat myself up about it when I wake up on my own after 6, 5 or even 4 hours of sleep? 

Last night I was packing after a concert, drinking Jack Daniels. I finished at 1:30 a.m. I wanted to go for a run before the 12-hour drive, which was to begin at 7am. I told myself "if you get up early enough, you can sneak in a run before everyone wakes up."
I fell asleep looking at the full moon through the house window wondering when I would wake. I was awakened at dawn by the singing of birds. It was 5:30am. Well, I'm up... and very groggy. I meditate, quieting my thoughts and after go for a slow, easy run. 

I told myself "I'll sleep in the car when I'm not driving." So here I am, in the car; I close my eyes for a few minutes and the urge to write about ''sleep'' overwhelms my need to ''sleep.'' I pick up my phone and write.  

I am beginning to understand that my worry about lack of sleep, like the suffering I feel over other challenges, arises from fear. When I was young, I was repeatedly told ''You will get sick if you don't sleep! You won't have energy to get through the day!'' And now I go around like a parrot, repeating to my kids the same thing.

I often wonder if I will be able to memorize terms and formulas for class, accomplish a workout, or get through a day of rehearsals, because I didn't sleep the god damn 8 hours I'm "supposed to."  
Even after completing difficult climbs with long approaches, all with minimal sleep, I still worry. The last time I was ice climbing I cried before I even started the hike, wondering if I could do it, wanting to turn around and go home. 

Talking days later to a climbing colleague who just finished his service time at the navy, I asked him what he was most happy about. He said: "I'll be able to sleep now." What do you mean by that? "When we were stationed in Afghanistan, we slept 2 hours a day. As long as we had food and water, we were OK." I was so embarrassed of my own wining about lack of sleep to my climbing partner, who slept as much as I did. He not only charged on without complaint, but also endured my complaints without a word.

I do not want to create suffering through unnecessary worry, self-doubt, complaints, tears and, above all, telling my kids that they will be this or that way if they don't sleep "enough." They are old enough to start to experience for themselves, and know for themselves, what they need. 
I asked them: ''Elena, how much sleep do you think you need in order to get up at 7am?" She thought for a minute, and responded: "10 hours." What time does that mean you need to go to bed? "9:30pm." We dutifully corrected the math to 9pm, and off she went. Miles told me he needs about 8 1/2 hours, which put him at 10:30pm. Simple.

I will trust my body.  When I need rest, I will rest. Through meditation the barrage of thoughts is slowly quieting. And as a result I am more able to listen to my body instead, taking my inspiration and cue not from my often fearful, neurotic brain, but from how my entire being feels when my mind is quiet.

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