Since the age of 18, I specialised in sleeping barely 4 hours a day. It’s a feather I wore with so much pride for almost 15 years of my life. When friends and colleagues complimented me on how I could make it the next day to college or work in spite of doing an all nighter, I felt far superior and considered myself ahead of the homo sapien race itself. For almost half my life, I sincerely believed that sleeping less and working more is the only way to success. Because for almost half my life, I believed that climbing the corporate ladder and making more money than the preceding year was the only measure of success. I did not know another way. Be ahead of the class. Finish your assignment before others. Arrive before your manager and stay back late if you want that promotion. Be available on emails 24*7. Work on all the projects. Be present in every meeting. When I had my son 5 years ago, instead of going on a maternity break , I worked from home. I worked on projects and emails while nursing him. I stayed up to finish tasks while he slept, though I was as sleep deprived as any other new mother.
This went on for what felt like ever. One day, when alone at home, I just broke down. My annual appraisal that year had gotten me a hike far less than I was promised or deserved. It shattered me. Everything I had believed about climbing the corporate ladder, sacrificing sleep to make money, giving up on family time, they all seemed futile.
I spent the next two weeks like most zombies you see in shows. Only, instead of killing people around me, I was killing myself. Sleeping even less than I used to wondering where things went wrong.Drowning myself in tears. Eating Junk food. I started looking for help online, searching for ‘ways to feel sleepy’. One thing led to another and I started reading more about the ill effects of sleep deprivation. It increases risk of diabetes, causes weight gain, mood swings, reduces sex drive, increases blood pressure. Clearly, nothing good can come out of not sleeping. It took me awhile to commit to sleeping well. After all, I was going against what I had grown up believing. But once I did and followed it through, my life felt magical. Here’s how it helped me.
CLEAR HEAD : I made sure I slept without any device around me and my lights would be off by 1030pm. Initially my alarm and then my instincts woke me up at 530 am. That gave me 7 hours. I woke up feeling fresh and not irritated. There was no urge to go back to sleep, except on those cold winter mornings, because I had slept enough. I felt ready to take on the world. And felt so without rushing to my cup of caffeine.
LOW IRRITABILITY: I found myself more happy. I was also snapping less at my colleagues, partner, mom, dog, house help, driver and next door neighbour. It helped that I woke up early. And hence got a head start. I wasn’t constantly feeling that I’m catching up with the world. Without the pressure of ticking deadlines and timelines, I was obviously more cheerful
DO MORE: With more sleep, I could actually put my thoughts into action. It was more sleep that got me more clarity, the will to move on from my job and find my own company. And do something that actually matters to me. With a former colleague, I now run a company that addresses your physical well being through preservative free food and mental well being by spreading awareness. Our parent company incidentally is called SVASTHAA, meaning good health in Sanskrit. I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to do something where you could actually impact people’s lives. It’s empowering!
WHERE ARE THE DARK CIRCLES: Believe it or not, I had dark circles for almost half my life. I had accepted them to be a part of my face, never trying to hide them or get rid of them. I wore them as a badge of honour, I sleep less to do more, I would tell people. Not realising until much later that I was doing less. Even today, my dark circles are not gone completely. But I can confidently claim that they have reduced by more than 70%. I do have a clearer face. And ‘ I don’t like a clear face’ , said no women ever.
TIME FOR ALL: It’s funny. I’m sleeping more than I ever used to. And I still find time to call my mom, finish checking my emails by 7pm, exercise and take dance classes. Sleeping more helped me declutter my mind. Which in turn, de cluttered my list of things to do. They were no longer a burgeoning list of tasks that I would never be able to get to. Instead, everything was done and done well in time.
Sleep is not a luxury. It’s not just for the old and sick. Sleep is a necessity. It’s what recharges your battery. And you owe it yourself to take care of you. You live in that body. There is no one else to benefit from it.