Physical Activity

Making Time For Sleep


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Last night I had one of my first deep sleeps in New York. The myriad noises ceased to be unique and the cacophony blended into an authentic city soundscape, allowing me to wake, feeling deeply refreshed. I was physically worn-out from a few recent late evenings, and intellectually exhausted from energy spent working with a new client, so a reset was much appreciated.

While it took a little longer than usual for a profound sleep, new environments have an impact. A recent study from scientists at Brown University suggested that the first night in a new bed is like sleeping “with one eye open”. It is difficult for the mind to let go fully and enjoy the deep recovery that a peaceful slumber provides. Instead, the mind becomes like a relaxed fist, apparently in a “state of readiness for trouble”.

sleeping
Finding It Difficult To Sleep On A Train!

During my nomadic travel years, there were occasions when I would stay in dorm rooms. I slept in a new place every two or three days, disrupting my sleep cycle with a different environment.

Even when I had a private room, my sleep would still be broken thanks to loud neighbors, calls to prayer and/or unmuffled motorcycles.

I scheduled long distance journeys for overnight, saving on accommodation. More often than not by sacrificing a bed, I’d then be sharing a compartment that was jammed so tight with the locals, that even the most patient of yogis would struggle to find a comfortable position.

One example in India stands out. A particularly bumpy train ride into Kolkata on a packed cabin made worse by a passenger opposite who seemed to suffer Tourette’s in his sleep. Night terrors prompted his Hindi outbursts, neatly timed every ten minutes, which ensured that no-one within earshot slept a wink.

Now, I’m a little too old for overnight trips or to tolerate things that go bump in the night. Midnight is a rare sight, and I agree with Ben Franklin’s ‘early-to-bed’ sentiment, making sleep the most important part of my routine.

Speaking of which, time for a nap.

How important is the role of sleep in your life?


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7 Comments

  • Good quality sleep is very important to me at my age. When insomnia bites or I wake up at 3am it usually has a much bigger impact on me then it did in my ‘yoof’.

    5 hours a night is my minimum or else I need a small bell to ring warning others to only approach with caution and handfuls of chocolate 😉

  • It was in trying to alleviate my insomnia that I found peace. The same things that help us sleep (calming our mind, not overstimulating ourselves) also help us in our waking lives. Peace.

  • Hi, Peter! Your back story is quite interesting (got a kick out of your stint as an Underoos model!).

    Anyway, great post. I’ve never thought about the impact a new environment has on sleep, although it is almost always unsettling. Sleep is hugely important to me. As I grow older, I’ve lost the taste for late nights and erratic sleeping schedules. I never thought I’d be that person, but I now am up before 7am every day, even on weekends! As a result, my days are much fuller and more productive.

  • Not only sleep, but the edge, but at the edge of sleep and waking is a most important space. We can sometimes perceive things there that rarely make it through into ordinary waking consciousness.

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