I can’t get no sleep
The whole sleepover in a teepee with seven strangers thing wasn’t doing much for my beauty sleep.
The lack of privacy I can just about handle, it’s more the constant unzipping of the tent for twilight toilet trips and the fact that every time I peek through my eyelashes in the darkness, I can see my lovely co-volunteer Sofia sitting up directly opposite me with her face lit up blue by her computer screen and oversized headphones that look like ears.
All of that plus I’ve developed a new fear of snoring in front of people.
If I do decide to potter about the planet for a while, this is definitely one of the things I’m going to battle with. Can volunteers not get a large room with a king size bed, silk sheets and an en suite, preferably with a bath?
Sleep when you’re dead
My motto used to be sleep when you’re dead, because I didn’t see the point in missing out on life by having my eyelids closed. I’d quite easily go out until all hours of the morning then wake up early the next day, having had no more than a few hour’s sleep, and go on a hike, have a day out somewhere adorable, play scrabble with The Idol or see friends.
As I’ve crept over the fence and into my thirties, my perspective on this has started to change. I now need sleep. If I don’t get enough, I feel that crankiness that I used to hear people talking about, my eyes get puffy and my appetite goes up a level. I start thinking it’s acceptable to binge-watch romantic comedies on Netflix and that a whole block of cheese doesn’t contain any calories if you eat it sliced.
I now need sleep to save me from this madness.
Sleep is when our brains regenerate, when our muscles repair and when we will fill ourselves with energy for the waking day ahead. Without sleep I find it pretty much impossible to get up for any kind of morning exercise, I don’t bring my brain game and my clumsiness, which is already on red alert, switches up a level.
So nowadays, I let myself love sleep, and having a lazy Sunday is one of my favourite things to do.
Rise in the morning Sun
Back in the day when we were hairy lairy Neanderthals we’d wake up and go to sleep with the sun.
In the modern day world we keep ourselves awake more than the natural hours of daylight in cities that are permanently awake. Our lights are never out, our devices are never off. Bars and restaurants keep us eating and drinking way past what is natural to us. We keep active when the sun’s gone down and push past our body’s natural longing for rest by knocking back stimulants in various forms.
Western science tells us we need eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Ayurveda, however, says our body goes through four six-hour cycles every day and that it’s sleep between 10pm and 2am that is key for our bodily regeneration.
Whichever theory you choose to believe, they both say natural light and darkness regulate our sleep-wake cycle, endocrine system, hormones and the neurochemistry of happiness.
So I guess that’s one good thing about teepee life; you’re on Mother Nature’s watch, rising with the sun and when it’s gone down over the hilltops, it’s lights out.
I’m at a meditation retreat and yet up until the silence, I hadn’t stopped. If I’m not on the saddle, racing around the countryside, I’m researching stuff for my potential start up, applying for volunteering positions and temporary jobs all over the world, entering writing competitions, registering with freelance writing agencies, reading my book or scribbling down a never-ending to do list.
So, today I decided to listen to my body and rest. At two o’clock, after a lunch full of lentils, I headed to my monk bed for a Siesta Fiesta.
The famous tradition of a Spanish siesta started when workers on the land would need to shelter themselves from the heat in summer months, take some rest and continue work when the sun was starting to set. In later years, shops, bars and restaurants adopted the same approach – with shops usually taking a slightly earlier slot and restaurants and bars closing later on in the afternoon.
With shifts in legislation relating to working times and business opening hours in Spain, the tradition seems to be on its way out a little. A lot of Spaniards may occasionally take a siesta in the summer months, particularly on weekends, but on the whole, lunchtimes are down to one hour long and the working day finishes at six.
But whatever the tradition or the law is here now, I was full up on goodness and melting in the midday sun, so that three hour nap did me wonders.
By finally acknowledging my body’s need for sleep, I’ve started observing what works and what doesn’t for sending me off into the land of nod.
Jordan Peterson talks about making your bed as his first of twelve rules for life and he’s got it right, it’s all about setting up your environment. I’ve made my little area in the teepee tent as homely as I possibly can. My clothes are out and folded into hanging pockets by clothing type, my favourite stuff – mostly virginal sacrifice style white frocks – hangs neatly on the rail. My bed is made every morning, my diary is close by for momentary scribbles and there’s never any mess.
When the sun is setting, I shower and get into my pretty white cotton PJs. I massage lavender oil into my temples and head, dab a little under my nose and sprinkle a dose on my pillow. My laptop is off, my phone is faced down and I lie in savasana with my eye mask on, ear plugs in, breathing deeply and focusing on clearing my mind as it’s the whirling thoughts that tend to keep me awake.
There’s only ever one cheat, if I’m struggling to empty my head. On Insight Timer there’s a meditation called Yoga Nidra for Sleep by Jennifer Piercy. I listen to her dulcet tones for two minutes, do what she’s telling me to do in counting down my deep exhalations from ten, and before I’ve got to three, I’m quite literally out for the count.