Too often, we take sleep for granted. But great sleep is one of life’s great pleasures.
My family has a tiny, wooden a-frame cabin deep in the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. It sits at the bottom of a sea of 100-foot tall Douglas Firs. Thick, bright green moss covers everything. The weather is typically dark, cold, and raining, the drops pinging the metal roof. There’s no service, no Wi-Fi, no screens.
And so it should come as no surprise that this is where I’ve achieved something close to sleep nirvana. Like consistent, teenager-like, relentless, deep sleep. Sleeping in the cabin overwhelms you. You can’t resist it. The cabin is the only place I’ve ever in my adult life been able to nap or sleep past 7 am.
And really, is there anything better than great sleep? What else is free, totally revitalizing, requires zero effort at all, and is one of the most important factors for your health? What else makes us consistently look and feel so good? What else makes us feel so whole, so energized, so … ourselves?
Sleep is good for our brains, for our memories, for our immune system, for our productivity, for our moods, and is associated with healthy weights, hearts, blood pressures, and life expectancies.
Sleep doesn’t come with a hangover. There’s no monthly subscription. No hidden fees. You don’t have to exert yourself in uncomfortable ways, or use your brain in a fashion that makes it hurt — quite the opposite in fact.
The only requirement for sleep, other than a decent mattress and bedding I suppose, is time. Which, okay, is admittedly quite the commodity. And sleep does require a lot of time — a third of your life, if you’re lucky.
I suppose that because it’s so free, so painless, so innocent, so simply dependent on an uninterrupted chunk of time, is the reason we often take sleep for granted.
Read more: 7 Sleep Myths — Debunked
Raising a baby will put that in perspective for you. After our daughter was born, a few months of interruptions every two to three hours made us realize that more than diet, more than exercise, it’s sleep we are most dependent on in order to be decent human beings on this planet.
And so in our household, we do everything we can to prioritize the good stuff. The conditions at the cabin are impossible to replicate, but we do our best: we keep the bedroom dark and cold, we limit screens, we read, we don’t drink very often, and we start our bedtime process shamelessly early.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Like diet or exercise, sometimes life — a deadline, a sick kid, travel — just gets in the way. Stress has a way of weaseling into my brain and emerging right as I try to drift off. Those nights are inevitable, of course, but fortunately not the norm.
Usually the routine does work. And when it does, there’s really nothing better.
Read more: What Is Sleep Debt? Can You Pay It Off?
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