45 Things I Learned... 39

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Alarm picture from newsweek.com

Since I was born, I gave my mom a hell of a time to sleep. It's like my body and mind wanted to experience life instead of wasting it away napping¬†ūüėĀ And my sleeping habits didn't change much until about 5 years ago when I finally learned how to self-induce¬†sleep...

My mother was very strict about our bedtime on a school night. We had to be in bed by 7 pm. During summertime, we could play in nature as long as the sun hadn't set but TV time was also restricted. I didn't care much for that: I had my favorite companions, my books. But what to do to finish reading a story when it was time to turn in? We had power outages and sometimes I would pretend I needed a candle lit next to my bed at night, just to read some more. I finally mustered the courage to sneak a small flashlight into my bed one night and hide it under the duvet. I had to know how the story would unfold! This didn't last long. I was careful and pretended to sleep when I heard mom's footsteps approaching our rooms to check on us. I was the eldest and had my own bedroom. So I always had some time before mom got to me. But one night, I was so absorbed in the adventure that mom caught me. Needless to say, I was forbidden from reading in the dark and mom explained that sleep is necessary for me to grow properly. As I whined that I just wanted to finish that chapter, mom threatened to deprive me of books until the weekend, which was 3 or 4 long days away. What horror! I promised to behave and sleep. But tossed back and forth all night. I had to find a way to read myself to sleep! I was in a terrible mood till the end of the week, so much so that mom, who has a golden heart and loves to read herself, devised with dad to get me a small lantern that I was allowed to use for one additional hour after curfew. I was ecstatic!

Fast forward to my university years. You all know the drill of having to submit papers on schedule. That meant a lot of sleepless nights, especially when working in a group. I was more efficient and diligent on my own but some studies required to be drafted with others. Back then, I was young and healthy. I slept on average 2 hours a night. Exercised about 3 hours daily, Sundays included. I always had a lot of energy, did a lot of things simultaneously, and if I could avoid squandering those few hours of sleep with doing something I would have. I kept this lifestyle until my late thirties. I always had a good excuse not to rest or to sleep. I created my own company at age 28. And that was a major reason for me to work extremely late hours, seven days a week. I would take night flights between the continents where I was based, work on board the plane, and head straight to my office as soon as I landed. Although I felt great, I missed exercising, but my priorities centered around my business and career. I had grandiose plans and working hard was required. I could always relax later... One night, around 3 am, I felt restless and couldn't sleep. I suddenly felt a sharp pang in my left arm and my chest started getting very painful on the left side. The spasm was excruciating and when, a few moments later, I couldn't breathe, my brain was churning up trying to figure out what was happening. I couldn't get any sound out of my mouth and tried very hard to focus on what to do. My legs wouldn't support me. I crawled the few meters on the floor towards the bathroom. Still kneeling, I reached out to the bassinet and sprayed some water on my face and neck with my right hand. The left limb was painful. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. I had to envision what to do. I needed to get back home and have myself checked up asap. The next evening I was on a 15-hour journey back to Beirut and admitted myself to the hospital as soon as I landed. Only to discover that I was perfectly fine and that was "probably only stress"...

Some quotes on sleep:

Sleep is like the golden chain that binds our health and body together - Thomas Dekker

Tired minds don't plan well. Sleep first, plan later - Walter Reisch

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I am awake, you know? - Ernest Hemingway

I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting - Mark Twain

Sleep is the best meditation - Dalai Lama

Several years later, when I attended my first Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)¬†course, I understood that had probably been an anxiety attack. I also started reading more about healthy ways to live. I¬†acquired the tools to deal with such events and promised myself to slow down the pace a bit. I still slept only 3-4 hours at a time but I permitted myself to take breaks that would let me recharge. I was beginning to listen¬†to my body. And worked hard on admitting¬†that sleep was not only restful and relaxing, but it was also restorative and essential. And even if I cannot sleep unless my environment is completely dark, still, and peaceful, I exercised on long hauls to induce sleep... and one day, I finally did it! I was so happy that I repeated the experiment on a train, but the noises were not easy to be canceled out, especially since I cannot stand earbuds. But I had found¬†a way to doze off when I wanted to. This was an achievement! To date, I am not always able to do it and it depletes my energy, but most of the time, I am successful. Because sleep and rest are crucial for our bodies. And whatever we would pause to relax will surely be awaiting us when we wake up¬†ūüėĀ

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