Sleep Doesn’t Come Easily For Everyone

Today we have a special guest blogger, our third team member Eleanor. She is sharing her own personal story about how sleep doesn’t come easily for everyone.

My relationship with sleep

Some of my earliest memories are of sleepovers with my friends. Though I couldn’t fathom then – and honestly still don’t really understand now – why they were called sleepovers. I spent every night that I wasn’t in my own bed staring at the ceiling. I was listening to clocks tick, considering how awesome my friend’s stuffed animal hammock was, or, later, reading. I spent many nights in my own bed that way too, without the stuffed animal hammock. My mom tells me that I slept nonstop for my the first six months and then decided that was enough and never slept again. 

I dealt with chronic and persistent sleep onset insomnia my entire childhood, my entire teenagehood, and deep into adulthood. I tried every trick in the book as a kid. I just couldn’t understand why everyone else seemed to be able to fall asleep when they wanted to. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties, when I had my own apartment with a separate bedroom, and enough room in the rest of the place to keep the bedroom clear that I was finally able to make the sleep hygiene changes I needed to.

It took two years. Two years to train my body to access sleep in certain conditions. Two years of blackout curtains, ruthless bedtime schedules, white noise machines, and sleep association routines. I still can’t sleep in beds that aren’t mine, but having any bed I can reliably sleep in feels so luxurious.

What sleep looks like for me

Now, as my new son learns how to sleep for the first time, I think a lot about sleep, about rest, about how easy it is to believe these things are innate, easy, and simple. How we view sleep and rest as luxuries instead of necessities. Even something to push off until later and avoid as much as possible. 

Both sleep and rest are skills, skills we need to practice many many times to master. For some of us, that practice happens when we’re babies or toddlers. For some of us, it takes until adulthood to find that path. I know there are many people out there right now, lying in bed, staring at the clock tick on, counting each hour of lost sleep.

I think I’ve got sleep pretty well nailed down, now. At least to the best of my ability. My son is doing much better than I ever did, and it brings me such hopeful joy to imagine a future for him where he can access sleep whenever he needs to. Rest, however, is still a challenge for me, and I know I’m not the only one facing that down. I want to do better, though. Not just because I deserve to be well-rested but because I want to model that for him too.

Rest is productive, but hard

I need to learn to practice rest, to prioritize rest. It might take two years! It might take longer. I might even never feel like I’m particularly good at it. But if there’s one thing I learned from my sleep overhaul it was that you can be bad at something for a very long time, but if you’re willing to practice, you can get better. Like the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is today. I’m going to invest in practicing rest, and maybe ten years from now I will have mastered it.