A good night’s sleep. Since when did something that should come so naturally become so elusive? And it’s not just those of us with young families who are struggling to keep their eyes open. These days if you ask anyone from teenagers to retired folk how they’re doing, the chances are they’ll reply, ‘Tired’. The worrying thing is that we’re starting to accept this general low-level of exhaustion as the norm. But we mustn’t. Life should be lived with zest, not merely coped with in a zombie-like state. It’s time we addressed our sleep crisis, and fast.
Firstly we have to accept that in this manic world sleep isn’t going to just happen. Our frazzled primitive brains, hardwired for a more physical, screen-free existence, need to re-learn how to shut down. The irony is, we all know how important it is to prepare our children for bed but completely ignore this principle when it comes to ourselves. Take our household for example. Having always followed the classic evening routine of food-bath-prayers-book-bed all the children sleep through. Mummy, on the other hand, ends the day reading enervating newspaper articles, or writing witty posts on Facebook, and wonders why she often lies awake, mind buzzing. My hunch is that if we put a little more effort into preparing our grown-up selves for bed, we’d be a step closer to sleeping like babies.
Our next challenge is to be realistic about our relationship with sleep. I, for example, would love to be one of those types who can survive on 5 hours. Experience suggests, regrettably, that I am not. Henceforth I’m going to be working with my biology instead of fighting it and allowing for the 7 hours’ shuteye my body needs. You will have your own challenges. Are you spending valuable wind-down time obsessively tidying your lounge? Leave it as it is – the kids will only mess it up again in the morning. Does your medication curse you with restless nights? See if a daily power-nap will restore you – keep it short by setting an alarm, mind, or you’ll wake up grouchy. Whatever your circumstances, the important thing is that instead of side-lining sleep, you make it a priority – your wellbeing depends on it. So good luck, and sleep tight.
Elise Eminson, 40, lives in Sussex where her husband Mark is a vicar. A former secondary school English teacher, Elise now stays at home to care for Grace, 5, Martha, 4, and twins Joseph and Beatrice, 2. Follow her on twitter @eliseeminson
Verse in the title is from Psalm 127