For the past few weeks I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night. I’m usually awake for an hour or two, but I usually fall back asleep until I need to wake up for the day around 5 or 5:30. This pattern has been starting to frustrate me, as it sometimes makes me tired in the afternoon. And, as anyone knows who works in a cubicle at an office job, sleepy afternoons = sugar cravings & trips to the vending machine.
I ran across this post on MarksDailyApple.com this morning, though, that made me look at this sleep cycle in a different way. Evidently, it was common for our ancestors to wake up in the middle of the night. This hour of wakefulness was used for meditation and contemplation. I love this quote from the article:
Robert Louis Stevenson liked the idea, too. Sleep historian (awesome-sounding job!) Roger Ekirch writes of Stevenson who, in the fall of 1878, while trekking through the French highlands on foot, alone, made a remarkable discovery. As anyone who backpacks or spends time outdoors will corroborate, Stevenson found himself drifting off to sleep shortly after sunset. He awoke around midnight, smoked a cigarette, and, only after “enjoying an hour’s contemplation,” fell back asleep. That hour, that “one stirring hour” moved him; Stevenson had never before experienced a “more perfect hour.” He had awoken not because of an interloper, a night terror, or any other external actor, but because of what he later described as a “wakeful influence [that] goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere” and is unknown to “those who dwell in houses.”
The article goes on to say that like most things, perception affects your reality, or makes your new reality. If, instead of getting frustrated and worked up about the 2 or 3AM wakeups, you view it as an opportunity to relax in a different way, the interruption in your sleep can actually be a good thing.
I’m going to have to try this approach when I wake up tonight at 3AM again.