This was a long week. From late-night scares with our animals to working early the next day and heat so hot it’s not sexy, all my energy has left me. It started with high energy: Staying at my boyfriend’s, visiting best friends, and attending my transfer orientation at NC State. Since then, I’ve been exhausted. Too tired to sleep. Too tired to write. Too weary to will myself into anything other than sloth. It’s somewhat sickening how little I’ve done–and yet under this oppressive heat, even the tiniest actions seem to take the greatest effort.
It’s Shabbat again. I haven’t been restful one bit–not other than an afternoon nap, at any rate. I helped at SOAR this morning and met some enthusiastic new students. I did some shopping for essentials I’ll need on campus. And I even drove a bit. It’s no wonder I needed a nap. Yet as they say, no rest for the wicked.
And according to this teaching, I’m especially wicked.
3.5 Rabbi Hananiah ben Hakhinai taught:
One who stays awake at night, or one who travels alone and turns his thoughts to trivial matters, endangers his life.
More than any other historical figures I know, the Rabbis had foresight. It’s as if they were able to gaze into the future–their future, our present–and see the emergence of electricity and cell phones. Cheap illumination has opened the night as our final frontier and texting, of all things I know of, is the most trivial thing we can turn our thoughts to while driving–surely endangering our lives and others’.
I could give an impromptu lesson on the importance of sleep–how REM sleep helps sorts through subconscious issues, leaving us well-rested and calm, or how sleep refreshes the mind and the body and short naps increase information retention throughout the day–but a quick Google or Wikipedia search would do more good than I could.
I could also give a rather curt discussion on the dangers of distracted driving–such as how driving while tired is as dangerous as driving while drunk, or how even changing the radio station can lead to car crashes–but I’m sure you’ve all heard this before. Or you’ve watched Glee and maybe every local news network I know of.
Instead I’m going to talk a little bit about habits. Habits are easily made and hard to break–if they’re bad habits. I’ve never understood why making healthy choices is always harder–healthy choices make you feel better and live longer. Shouldn’t they be the easy options? Perhaps a general overpopulation of the earth has caused our genes to compel us to self-destruct and make room for future lifeforms. Altruism for the win.
The point being, I’ve got awful sleeping habits. I stay up far later than I should–sometimes simply for no other reason than being too bored to sleep. Some nights my mind won’t shut off. Some nights I’ve got homework to finish and tests to study for. Some nights my back hurts. Some nights I get carried away watching TV or playing games or reading a good book. Some nights I’ve got too much physical energy to settle down. Some nights I just don’t care.
I find some nights I can cure this by reading a little or playing a game of Sudoku. That last bit’s interesting: When I’m awake, Sudoku and math make me feel more awake. But when I’m tired, they make me feel even more tired. Especially Sudoku. Last night I watched a couple videos on linear algebra–and after the third one, it took a large amount of effort to not watch a fourth. Or a fifth.
What’s worse is that I have a problem telling myself to stop. If I’m in the middle of something, it’s hard for me to take a break so I can go to bed, or even start to go to bed in the first place.
Again, these Rabbis had foresight. Or perhaps their teachings are merely timeless. From this today I gain the sense–the admonition–that no matter what angle you look at the issue–whether physiologically and mentally or even spiritually and religiously–focus and sleep are important. But sometimes knowing the importance isn’t enough. Sometimes even knowing the extensive benefits of a new habit doesn’t make it any easier to adopt.
Do you have trouble getting to sleep at night or winding down or just telling yourself to stop and go to bed? If you do, what have you done to get over it? What are you doing to try to change the tide and earn some much-deserved rest for the wicked?