Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lesson #23: Sleep Is Important...But Losing A Night Won't Kill You

According to my birth certificate, I was born at 1:12pm.  That would definitely help to explain why I rarely feel functional and awake before 1:12pm on any given day.  Throughout all forty years of my life I have experienced a complete resurgence of creative energy that hits around 9pm, which needless to say, did not make school or regular work jobs very easy to perform.

I have been burdened with insomnia and restless sleep for most of my life.  Some of my earliest memories were lying in bed, trying desperately to sleep, and hearing the "hisssssssss" on my 1970s electric clock go off every sixty seconds as the numbers changed to later, and later, and later, until the birds started chirping.  My mind would spin with concerns as soon as my head hit the pillow. The worry about not getting enough sleep was ironically one of the biggest fears that kept me awake at night.  That, along with not doing well in school, nuclear war, and the possible cancellation of "The Doctors" weighed heavy on my childhood mind.

Around age thirty I finally learned how to stand up, and even conquer, the insomniac demons.  I was at work one day, after a night with minimal rest, and thought, "Hey I'm doing okay without sleep.  Why did I worry so much about this?" I realized that I can function quite well with no rest at all.  It is not preferable, and it doesn't feel good, but it is possible.  I came to assess that I had gotten through and accomplished quite a lot in my life without decent sleep.  Again, it was not something I wanted, but hardly the end of the world.

I also realized that it was irrational to spend most of the night worrying about all the things that could possibly go wrong for the rest of my life.  My experience had taught me that most of the things I worried about didn't happen, and I was quite able to deal with the traumatic events that did occur.  Given that, why was I going to waste my time and energy on doubting myself?  So I made a pact with me: if my mind is going to race at night, it might as well race with thoughts that make me happy.  The work of Jacob Glass, Marianne Williamson, and A Course In Miracles filled me with focused ideas and thoughts that helped me to feel joyful, hopeful, and relaxed.  Lo and behold, sleep soon followed.

Today I am blessed with the opportunities to work for myself in private practice, do outreach for HIV Vaccine Trials, and cover features for We Love Soaps TV.  All of these duties allow me to channel that creative energy I have late at night, and sleep through the dreaded morning.  Respecting my intuitive biological clock, instead of fighting it, has also done wonders for my ability to get long periods of undisturbed R.E.M. rest.

Occasionally I do have one of those nights that, for whatever reasons, sleep doesn't come.  But in forty years I have learned that I can trust the world and myself to handle it.  Losing a night of sleep hasn't killed me yet, it hasn't impaired by ability to enjoy my life, and I don't plan of letting it start now.  

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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