When I was a girl, I’d sometimes go to bed in my clothes just so I wouldn’t waste any time getting a start on the next day. For much of my life, a shortage of sleep silently signified I was half as hardworking as my German mother of eight.
As a young mom of two under two, stressed by building my fledgling law practice and struggling in my marriage, sleep took a back seat to my beliefs about survival and success. Out of touch with both my body and my burnout, I pushed through my days oblivious to my exhaustion and the impairment of my attitude.
If divorce is in your future, your present, or your recent past, sleep may not come easily. Even after an early collapse into bed at the end of a day, the worries and fears about everything from rent deposits to depositions to deadlines can awaken you with dread at any hour. Or the reverse may be true. The weight of grief can be so heavy that you can barely sit up in bed let alone get yourself to the office on time. Sleep might be your escape.
Over the years scientific research has revealed more about our critical need for sleep and Ariana Huffington’s Sleep Revolution describes our sleep deprivation crisis. I was a slow learner. Until one August.
John had not left our home for two months. His big travels were from our bed to the sofa where he would spend his days saying farewell to a long line of loved ones who came from near and far. As we approached our ninth month of home hospice, I saw—finally—the importance of sleep as self-care. I wanted to be my best for what would be his final days.
I finally gave myself permission to sleep. To take a small nap when he did—advice I’d ignored when my children were babies. To let the laundry pile up. To be early to bed beside him so that when we awoke to the 3 a.m. to the beeping alarm of a failed morphine pump I could instantly have some portion of my wits about me.
It took my dying husband to teach me that when I am well rested I am my best for those I love while also protecting my waistline, my health, and my enjoyment. As I look back on my sleepless years, I wonder, How much more joyful might I have made my workplace? Would I have been more playful with my children? Could I have laughed a little more?
I can fall asleep about the importance of a good night’s rest, getting distracted or forgetting. But when I remember that it is not only for others but for my own hope to live a long, healthy, and joyful life, I’ll sleep more easily in the nights ahead.