It is going to sound strange but I am here to tell you how I managed to change my entire life by simply staying in bed.
And no before you click away – this isn’t one of those get rich quick tales where I explain how I made a filthy stack of cash without getting out of my pajamas.
No, what I mean is that I changed my life by quite literally staying in bed more.
After years of crippling insomnia and the whole host of accompanying issues that come with it, I learnt how to sleep.
The impact getting a good night’s sleep had on every single facet of my existence was enormous. Almost too big to put down in words. But I’ll try. For you.
I have always been a worrier. Simple as that. Even as a toddler I worried, or so my mum tells me. I worried about getting dirt on my dress. I worried if my toys would get scared being shut away in the cupboard. I worried about everything.
As a result I didn’t sleep well. Something they told me I would grow out of. Turns out I didn’t.
As a schoolgirl I lay in bed worrying about exams, spots – and why the other girls didn’t like me. At college I worried about exams, internships – and why the boys didn’t like me. Then as an adult I worried about everything. And I mean everything!
From the big things like – “What is my purpose in life?” – to, well, the slightly smaller things – “What will I wear to work tomorrow?”
And being unable to sleep affected every aspect of my life. It was like living with a dark heavy cloud over my head.
I got fired! Or well I should say I got made ‘voluntarily’ redundant. The law firm I worked for merged with another and it was politely suggested I find the door.
I was devastated. My job was my entire identity. And losing it was one of the things I had lain in bed worrying about for years. And now it had come true.
I felt I was left with nothing. I felt I was nothing. Without the structure of having to get up for work. My days and nights started to blend.
I lay in bed awake all night and then lay on the couch all day. Some days I didn’t even manage to open the curtains. I see now I was depressed.
Concerned about my behaviour my parents staged an intervention. One morning I opened the door to find everyone I loved standing on the doorstep – mom, dad, my sister and two of my closest friends.
They presented me with flights to Bali and a two week stay in a luxury yoga ashram. An ‘early retirement’ present they jokingly called it.
I thought of every excuse possible to get out of it. I was so tired that even the prospect of two weeks in paradise sounded like a nightmare. But they had an answer for everything I could come with me.
A week later all of them escorted me to the airport to make sure I actually got on the plane.
Cliche alert! I am about to go all Eat, Pray, Love on you now.
Those two weeks changed my life. The ashram was incredible and on my fourth night in Bali something incredible happened. I slept. all night.
I left the luxury ashram but I stayed in Bali. Two weeks turned into six months. I did yoga every day. I meditated. I swam in waterfalls. I learned to surf. I had adventures on the back of motorbikes.
I basically had a second chance at being young that all my worrying in my college years had deprived me off.
What Finally Sleeping Feels like for an Insomniac
If you have seen that film where the protagonist is offered a magic pill there are told will unleash their ‘true’ untapped human capacity. They take it and it all goes well for a while, they can run faster, think quicker and they also usually gain some nonsensical superhuman abilities.
Then they get addicted, they run out of pills and peril, jeopardy and drama usually ensue – the typical Hollywood nonsense.
Well, for me learning to sleep in Bali was a little but like the first half of that film, minus the the nonsensical superhuman abilities. I felt like a completely new person, a better one.
Building a New Life I Love
After six months of living like a nomad and sleeping like a baby, I returned home. But instead of looking for a job at a new law firm I spend what was left of my redundancy payment on going back to school.
And what did I study. Well, sleep of course.
I now preach about what I practice. I research and write about sleep problems and how to overcome them.
Along with two colleagues I run a website called the Sleep Advisor, a free resource which does exactly what it says on the tin – advises on sleep. And I absolutely love my job.
I see my role as little bit like an internet version of an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor but for anyone suffering from sleep problems.
Travel worked for me. Or should I say losing my job worked for me. I wouldn’t suggest the same course of action for everyone. But it is never too late to change your path.
What I would suggest for everyone is to take sleep seriously. Not enough of us do. The negative impact of sleep-deprivation can not be underestimated.
Treat sleep like a close friend, respect it, allow time for it and you will learn to love it like I have. @drSarahCummings (Click to Tweet!)
Before I go let me ask you one question:
When was the last time you really woke up feeling refreshed? Be honest now.
Hi, I’m Sarah Cummings. When I’m not writing about sleep for The Sleep Advisor, I’m doing yoga on the beach in sunny California, making yummy vegan dishes and, of course, getting my sleep on! I am a recovering insomniac and I firmly believe that we could have a happier, healthier and more stable society with better-quality sleep!
Image courtesy of automnenoble bogomolov.