Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If you want facts on the underlying causes, health risks, long-term effects, treatments and cures, you won’t find it here in this post. (There are many other blogs, plus books and sleep clinics, for that.)
But if you’re eager to learn about the benefits of restless, sleep-deprived nights, every now and then, read on.
In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a light sleeper. I don’t need a full eight hours to feel rested (five to six hours are usually enough).
And despite practicing tips for sound, healthy sleep, I am prone to nocturnal awakenings (especially now, as an expectant mother). Yet rarely does fatigue set in. When it does, I call in sick. Except for the occasional chai tea latte, I stay away from caffeine and other stimulants.
So, here are the three things I like about insomnia (or, here’s how it can be good for you):
1. Insomnia can prepare you for a BIG EVENT or BIG PROJECT that will require loads of your time and force you to reduce your sleep hours or sleep in shifts.
I keep hearing that being a first-time parent is a big event. Just yesterday, my husband Michael and I attended a four-hour prenatal class that began at 8:30 am. I was alert for the whole thing, despite having slept for just three hours due to a bout with insomnia.
We learned that newborns have very small stomachs and need to be fed every one to three hours (8 to 12 times daily). Having some sleepless nights now is firsthand training for what’s to come.
Similarly, reduced sleep hours or intermittent sleep might be necessary to complete big, crucial projects. Regardless of your organizational skills, there could come a time when you need to push through the night to get work done or respond to an emergency. Experience with sleeplessness enables you to pull unavoidable all-nighters.
2. Insomnia can be a WAKE-UP CALL to take action on important stuff.
The question “what keeps you up at night?” often carries negative connotations and presumably involves deep-seated worries. But it can also be taken as a constructive inquiry into the direction and meaning of your life. Approach it with curiosity and openness.
Insomnia frequently stems from unconscious emotions and unexamined behavior. Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings surrounding your restlessness, fear, anxiety or general angst, instead of suppressing them. Without labeling them right or wrong, use them to create positive change.
Are you way off course? Is there some self-destructive behavior that you need to stop? Is there an action step that you must take, but have been delaying? Do you tolerate unhealthy situations that you’re better off without? Do you need to modify your lifestyle or change your habits?
Don’t automatically reach for sleep-aids, meds, or quick, unnatural fixes for insomnia at the expense of tackling the root cause. Take note of what keeps you up at night. Initiate a plan to resolve it or make peace with it.
3. Insomnia can lead to your BEST, CREATIVE WORK.
The next time you’ve tried everything to fall asleep or stay asleep, but just can’t, get up out of bed. Welcome your wakefulness.
The middle of the night or wee hours of the morning provides quiet, space and solitude that you don’t otherwise get. Take advantage of it to ponder the big questions, brainstorm ideas, and make uninterrupted progress on highly desired goals.
Rather than pace the floors, toss and turn, or stare at the ceiling because you can’t sleep, get a head start on your day – and do your best, creative work.
* * *
At a time when many are asleep so they don’t struggle to wake up on Monday morning, I’m completing this blog post. (It’s now three minutes before midnight on Sunday.)
While I need rest and rejuvenation through sound sleep, I can appreciate episodic or short-term insomnia – and make good use of it – when all else fails. And so can you.
# # #
Photo by: Benjamin Watson