I’ve been talking a lot about sleep recently. I used to suffer from a lot of sleep trouble in my early 20’s. Laying in bed for hours on end staring at the ceiling, staring at the clock, turning over and slipping into that weird limbo between being awake and being asleep where you don’t actually rest, your mind just wanders for several hours and before you know it the sun is creeping into the room. You are exhausted before you even get out of bed.
Sleep is absolutely fundamental to functioning as a human being. I have had many experiences, self inflicted or otherwise, where I have had very little or no sleep at all and let me tell you, it’s really, really shit.
Working in hospitality, your shifts can spill over into 16h+ of madness. It’s absolutely outrageous, I agree, you can get all mad about it and bang out the Working Hours Directive, sure. However most restaurants have you sign into a contract that opts out of all the clauses. Now I’m not bashing hospitality at all, I still work in the industry and I’m not saying this happens all the time but…
You will definitely work more than 48 hours in a week.
You will definitely finish at 1am and be back in for work at 6am.
You will definitely work for 6 hours and not get chance to take a break.
You will definitely work Wednesday to Sunday one week, then Monday to Friday the next week (know to some as a massive dix week).
You will definitely get called a very disproportionate-for-the-situation name by somebody called Shaun because their ice cream is missing marshmallows. That’s quite specific I apologise.
You get my point. It can be a tough job and trying to cram some sleep in there too can be an exercise in efficiency. I’m sure that other industries have their stories to tell and I would love to hear them, I can only call upon my own experiences.
Imagine the dread when you settle down at 2am for your delicious 3 hours of sleep and you can’t fall asleep. Too worried that you’ll sleep through the seven alarms you have set. This used to happen to me quite a lot.
That 4am slot used to be when the real dark thoughts would take over my mind. It can be the loneliest place in the world. You are trying to empty your mind so you can fall asleep but we all know that emptying your mind is very, very hard.
Before you know it, every bad decision you have ever made comes back to haunt you and you are sharing your bed with the past decade of your life.
So perhaps unsurprisingly I got into this negative funk after I tried to kill myself of not being able to sleep at all. I was so terrified of what my subconscious mind would inflict upon me in my dreams that I didn’t want to be asleep. But I also couldn’t really handle living. The phrase about a rock and a hard place doesn’t even cover it.
I’d started reading about the power of forgiveness and I was searching for somebody in my life to forgive. Who was the source of all my pain?
Was it my parents for splitting up when I was young?
Was it the bullies at school when I was a teenager?
Was it my relationships?
Was it my boss?
Was it fuck.
It was myself. I needed to forgive me. I had to take responsibility for the past 26 years and not blame it on somebody else. I remember the night it happened so vividly because I laid there in bed as the tears rolled down my face.
In that moment I knew I had to change something. It was a lightbulb moment. I couldn’t cripple myself with these never ending nights of brooding over my thoughts.
I got up. I cooked a meal ready for me to eat the next day and let me tell you, cooking a meal and not eating it is a very rare occurrence for me.
I did some washing. I tidied my bedroom. I started to apply for jobs. It was 3am and instead of worrying if I would get enough sleep to function the next day, I began to function. By 4am I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I fell asleep on my keyboard and slept solidly until the next afternoon.
My neck was absolutely goosed when I woke up. I’d dribbled all over the keyboard and I can’t tell you what kind of nonsense was pasted all over my CV.
But I was rested. For the first time in years I’d fallen asleep with out the help of sex, drugs, drink, music, TV or another other distraction. I felt like a new man.
Ever since, that has been my tactic for when I can’t sleep. If I’m in bed 20mins and I’m not out for the count, I get up and just start the next day. In this day of a 24/7 culture the excuse of ‘it’s not the right time of the day’ is absolute bullshit.
If you are reading this and it’s 2am and you can’t sleep. Stop it. Right now. Here’s my list of what I do when I can’t sleep.
- Read a book
- Pay a bill
- Do the online shop
- Have a shower
- Iron tomorrow/today’s clothes
- Pack a bag ready for tomorrow/today
- Cook a meal to have tomorrow/today
- Play a musical instrument
- Play a board game
- Go for a run
It still happens today and now I embrace it. I forgive myself and use this time to do something positive for ME. I don’t spend it sat in bed for 6 hours crucifying myself for something that happened in the past. I don’t spend this time justifying why I’m going to be in a shit mood tomorrow. I take responsibility and don’t let myself be a victim.
I biked 17.5miles at 1am after I finished a 10 hour shift the other day. I don’t think I’ve ever cycled more than a mile in my whole life. Why did I do it?
Don’t have a fucking clue. Sounded like a laugh. I had a blast and when I got home I was amazed at what I’d accomplished and I was fucking knackered.
There’s always loads of shit about Carpe Diem and seizing the day, that’s cool. But if you are struggling to sleep; seize your evening!
But whatever you do don’t get a Carpe Noctem tattoo because I doubt anything will have a sweet clue what the fuck it means.