The Worthiness of Sleep

Lately I’ve been averaging around 8.5 hours of sleep a night and it’s been pretty glorious. This much sleep mainly happens because things slow down for me in the summer and I’m able to adapt my schedule to the way my natural rhythms are- I love to go to sleep around 1:30am and wake up around 10. I actually enjoy having a more leisurely morning and then really getting going on work later in the day and into the night. That works great for me. However, this schedule doesn’t go well with the structure of society today.

Not only is our society not for night owls, it’s also not for sleeping ‘extra’ hours. Today, you’re considered a ‘hero’ for sleeping less and working more. You can brag to all your ‘lazier’ friends about being so busy you had no time to sleep. Workaholism is an esteemed trait nowadays. Yet, I wonder if we might be able to do better work and bring better creations to the world if we’re better rested.

Lately, more and more awareness about the value of sleep seems to be coming to light. Arianna Huffington recently wrote about our sleep deprivation culture in her book The Sleep Revolution. I have not yet read it but I really want to. Just the other day, a blogger and thought leader that I really like, Marie Forleo, sent an email newsletter about the book including an interview with Arianna Huffington. Then, a bit later, a friend of mine forwarded me that same newsletter- so the importance of sleep has been a recurring theme lately.

Here’s a quote from the summary of the book on Amazon:

“In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives — and even our sex lives. She explores all the latest science on what exactly is going on while we sleep and dream.  She takes on the dangerous sleeping pill industry, and all the ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. She also offers a range of recommendations and tips from leading scientists on how we can get better and more restorative sleep, and harness its incredible power.”

I’ll write more reminders on the importance of sleep in future blogposts because I know that our busy world can get in the way of us ever prioritizing  having a long, restful night. When you can, try to congratulate yourself when you get more sleep and not yell at yourself for it. You’re benefitting everything else you do by sleeping more! And of course, don’t beat yourself up if you’re at a time in your life when you can’t get the amount of sleep you desire. After all, it’s not worth losing sleep over!

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Can You Get More Introverted As You Get Older?

I just got back from my theater company’s writers workshop and I feel seriously drained. To be fair, I’m already running on less than adequate sleep, but my energy is super low when it’s usually super high after an awesome and creative theater meeting.

Part of me feels like I haven’t fully recovered from working a major auto show in Chicago- I returned from the show a full week ago- last Monday- but it kind of seems like yesterday. My days back in New York have flown by. I spent a good amount of my time back home working on taxes and projects that needed to get done, and other days catching up with people I really wanted to see.

For whatever reason, I just want to crawl up and be alone and do nothing all day for the next few days (don’t we all, sometimes, especially us introverts?) but I have to travel out of town again tomorrow for another show. And the sensation of wanting to be alone and do nothing for days and days in order to recharge is stronger than ever.

So I just googled ‘does introversion increase with age?’ and found mixed opinions. I know that it’s my introverted nature that makes me need alone time to recharge, but I usually love socializing, especially one on one, and don’t feel as drained as I do now by not getting enough time alone. The google search results were a mixed bag, generally not stating that introversion increases with age, but a ton of people had also asked this question, making me think that it’s common even if undiagnosed.

If introversion doesn’t actually increase with age, perhaps we’re just more aware of it as we get into our thirties- we’re more aware of what we want and who we really are. I know that I’m less willing to push myself to the point of burnout, and am much more conscious of my feelings and opinions. So this newfound awareness of how I feel and where my limits are may make me feel like I’m getting more introverted  as I get older when in fact I’m just more aware of what I need.

Actually, writing this is making me feel better. I’m playing classical music and I just made tea and am gonna take a hot shower and I’m writing to you guys and you guys are great. And I’m blissfully, blissfully alone. Le sigh…

But a good le sigh.

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Are Your Problems Caused By Being Tired and Sleep Deprived?

For the past few months, I’ve been getting glorious sleep. Like, incredible, way more than just adequate sleep. I’ve been getting indulgent, 9-13 hour a night sleep. I’ve been prioritizing sleep heavily. More than socializing and partying and exercising and work.  And it’s been amazing.

With over 8.5 hours of sleep a night, my mind is clearer, my thoughts flow easier, I remember people’s names, facts stick with me, and I have much more positive energy and a way calmer outlook. Sleeping more is like eating 5 pounds of broccoli and exercising for 3 hours and working for 4 extra hours and going to a spa and getting a massage and a facial and a PhD all rolled up in one. Well, maybe not the PhD part exactly. But close.

I never realized that I needed more than nine hours of sleep before, because most people never get that, and it’s not known as ‘normal.’ And most of my life I’m pretty sure I’ve been walking around in a sleep deprived haze. Everything can seem a little harder to process when you’re sleep deprived- my feelings always felt a bit ‘gray.’ My thoughts always felt a bit duller when lacking sleep, and it was much harder hard to remember things or be infused with any kind of positive energy when running on less than eight sleep-filled hours.

My friend and fellow thirty-something coworker, Natasha, who I wrote all about in Playing Dress Up In Your Thirties, is one of my sleep inspirations. She sometimes races back to our hotel after work in order to get to sleep even faster- she claims she needs ‘instant sleep’ in order to get her necessary ten plus hours of sleep in before the next early workday and has no shame about grabbing the hours she needs. It’s pretty amazing to watch someone brag about making sure they get lots of sleep as opposed to bragging about being soooo busy all the time. It’s extremely refreshing to see someone prioritize such an important but seldom-respected part of a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve been getting a lot less sleep in the past few days because of my crazy work schedule in an exciting new city (St Louis), where I’ve really enjoyed spending every waking moment (pun intended) exploring. I haven’t been able to always race back to my hotel and get my much-needed sleep. And I can feel an extreme difference in my thought patterns. It’s been worth it to explore the city, but it’s still not a great feeling.

I intend to prioritize sleep once again, and stop staying up so late. Starting now. And soon I will get back to my amazing nine to thirteen hours in bed. Goodnight!

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First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

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Has A Breakup Nearly Destroyed You In Your Thirties?

My friend Seth went through a really bad breakup a few years back. When I say bad, I mean horrendous. Bad to the point that it took him almost two years to get over it…and during that time he was anxious almost every day and couldn’t sleep. His anxiety about the breakup permeated every corner of his thoughts and dreams…and turned the act of sleeping into a constant nightmare.

I remember meeting up with him during this time and barely recognizing him. He felt like a shell of the boisterous, smiley person he usually is. Seth is a self-employed composer and lyricist who is always extremely creative and prolific, writing songs at all hours of the day and night, playing piano at auditions, and presenting showcases of his work. He even has his own webseries.

However, during the years after his breakup, he was on so many different anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills that he could barely function…and he’s the type of person who normally never even drinks coffee because it makes him jittery. Both Seth’s nights and days were wrecked, first by his ex’s departure, and then by the constant anxiety and even panic attacks that just wouldn’t go away.

My friend Seth and I in better times.

Seth and me in later, happier times.

Have you ever gone through a breakup that leaves you reeling for far longer than you think it should? Have you ever felt like you were the only one who just couldn’t let it go? Did you think you were going to marry the person who left, or did the person end up leaving the marriage you already had? Have you ever had even your absolute best friends wonder when you were going to get over it? This happens to people way more often than you think.

There’s no set timeline on grief, and a breakup is legitimately a loss. Breakups can feel kind of like mini deaths that you have to grieve and eventually move on from. Any act of grieving can take quite awhile, leading to intense discomfort, especially around your friends and family who may just want you to ‘get over it.’

It’s hard to just get over something on a timeline, and the time needed for grieving any particular loss is personal and unknown.This recovery time includes breakups as well as deaths- any type of loss can take a very long time to get over, really. Sometimes grief can even go away for awhile and then return as an intense sneak attack!

When Seth finally started to recover, and even during his grieving process, he attempted to open up to others about what he was going through. Little by little, he heard similar stories from friends who experienced similar breakups that brought them to the ground.

Seth and I after his recovery, when I directed his concert, Broadway Meows, benefitting the Humane Society

Seth and me after his recovery. I directed his Humane Society benefit concert, Broadway Meows

Seth realized how helpful it was to have friends around him and people who understood his situation. And it was extremely helpful to realize that other people had gone through similar situations after a breakup.

So he wrote a book to share his experiences.

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The book is called Sleep. Write. Nowand it chronicles his entire spiral into depression and insomnia after the breakup, and his very, very slow recovery. The book is breathtakingly open and vulnerable regarding the painful moments that occur after a breakup, from the embarrassing (private journal entries of positive affirmations that all don’t work) to the horrendous (loss of friends after recovery ‘took too long’ and he was ‘still too obsessed with her’) to the hilarious and touching (how his cat helped him through some of his darkest moments.)

I highly recommend Sleep.Write. Now, and it’s easy to grab on Amazon. The book is an amazing read for anyone who’s gone through or is going through a traumatizing breakup and feels alone. Remember, grieving takes time and it can take a lot more time than you think it will. Breakups are a natural part of life (you can’t marry everyone you date!) and rejection happens to everyone.

Always remember- you are not alone.

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How Much Sleep Should a 30-Something Get?

Remember a while back when I shared that I purchased a Jawbone Up? Well, after a few weeks of wearing it (on and off), I’ve found it’s pretty awesome. It’s a wrist bracelet that tracks my steps per day and the amount of sleep I get, breaking it down into “light” versus “deep” sleep. More than anything, I’m fascinated by the amount of sleep I get. For me, sleep is invaluable. It’s a huge health priority for me and I know that I only function well with 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Here’s what the sleep graph on Jawbone Up looks like. (And no, I don’t sleep 10 hours a night regularly! This was one of my post-flight, jet-lag nights of sleep. But man, a night of 10 hours sleep feels really good.)

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What’s cool about Jawbone Up is that they give you little facts about how you compare to other people in your same demographic. I’m not sure if you can read the text in the above right image, but it says that I get “1 hr 20min more Sound sleep than other women in their 30s. They average 3 hr 13min of Sound sleep per night.” But that was not an average night for me. Usually, I average about 7 and a half hours a night. It was cool to see how that particular night of sleep compares to other women my age.

So how much sleep should a 30-something get? Looks like the scientific advice is 7-9 hours per night, according to this article on Slate. In addition, I’ve read that you should try and learn how to fall asleep within 30 minutes of laying down. Not sure exactly how one goes about doing that, but creating a sleep ritual is a nice idea.

To happy and healthy sleeping in 2015!

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