The Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project

First of all, I want to register a simultaneous apology and complaint:  My blog won’t post pictures today.  This has made me feel so defeated I think I’ll go back to bed.  Which leads me to today’s topic…

Something incredibly bizarre happened to me last night.I turned out the light at midnight, but didn’t fall asleep right away, because—this is the bizarre part—I wasn’t tired.

I didn’t know that was even possible.True, I was only really tired during one period of my life, but that period lasted from January of 1970 until this past June. By then I’d begun getting Messages From the Universe indicating that I’d spent enough time in a physical and mental fog.For example:

  • Having heard that Thomas Edison relied on refreshing mini-naps, I started taking them regularly. While driving.
  • I had elaborate, compulsive fantasies about sleeping with all the most beautiful people I know.None of these fantasies involved sex.
  • My caffeine-related jitters were interfering with seismographic readings as far away as Bangladesh.
  • I kept confusing Anne Coulter with Kim Jong-Il.
  • I was legally required to change the eye-color listing on my driver’s license from “blue” to “red.”
  • One night in a hotel room, judgment deeply impaired, I used the scissors from my travel sewing kit to give myself a haircut that was basically an Homage to Sheep Shearing.

Then an intuitive friend said something I thought was very profound:“What would you do if you knew that every good thing in your life depended on your getting enough rest? Because it does.”

At least I think that’s what she said. And I think it was my intuitive friend. It could have been the cashier at Target. Or Kim Jong-Il. It’s all sort of hazy.

Anyway, at that moment I made a radical decision: I would put sleep above all other priorities until I was no longer tired.Every night, I would sleep until I woke up. I would consume no stimulants, and I would go back to dreamland whenever I felt fatigued.

When I woke up six weeks later, the whole world seemed shiny and attractive, like Patrick Stewart’s head. I was filled with ideas. My eye-bags had shrunk to the point where they looked less like Hefty garbage disposal units than tasteful evening clutches. I felt an inner peace I thought came only from enlightenment or horse tranquilizers.

That was yesterday, and it was followed by the bizarre experience mentioned above: I just lay there, awake and perky, feeling the amazing sensation of not being tired, and vowing that somehow, I’d make the feeling last.

So I invite you to join me in something I’m calling the Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project (ASLEEP).The requirements for membership are simple: we sleep until we aren’t tired, whenver possible. And I mean WHENEVER POSSIBLE, as in, if you show up at your best friend’s wedding tired, you take a pillow and sleep through the ceremony. Better yet, don’t show. Man up. Stay in bed.

If you violate the project’s strict standards, the rest of us… won’t even know about it.We’re ASLEEP, remember?We don’t check up on our collaborators, evaluate performance, or do a damn thing with the data from our research.All we do is enjoy life a hell of a lot more than we did when we were always tired.Because every good thing really does depend on rest.Go get some.

43 replies
  1. Angelica
    Angelica says:

    Not long ago I read something on the internet that said our bodies manufacture melatonin from 10 – midnight .Well, I didn’t go to bed until after that, got up early because of insistent cat (6 AM) drank copious cups of coffee, sat down for tea and Oprah at 4:00 PM (because I was tired) yet prided myself on being able to exist on little sleep.
    However, when I read that I was never giving my body the chance to make it’s melatonin, I decided to try going to bed early. Luckily it was the beginning of summer and none of my favourite shows were on. The first night I went upstairs at 9:30 pm so I could write in my gratitude journal and read a bit, and turned off the light at 10:00 pm. I remember thinking “How silly – you’re going to wake up at 4 AM!!” but I didn’t, I woke up at 6:00 am – and only because of my insistent cat! The article said to try it for two weeks and see how I felt. So I did – and now it’s almost the fall season for TV and I am so hoping none of my shows will be on at 10:00 PM – or I’m going to have to buy a Tivo!
    I feel wonderful! I drink approximately a 1/2 cup of coffee a day and even that is just for the ritual. I haven’t had the afternoon tea for ages. I have lots of energy, and have been told I look vibrant.
    I must say that at the same time I also started drinking 2 litres of water a day, and believe that added to my wellbeing!
    All this is to say – Sleep is awesome!!

  2. Bridgette Boudreau
    Bridgette Boudreau says:

    I am IN!

    I actually have been participating in ASLEEP without even knowing it. Apparently I am doing an excellent job of meeting the standards for this important research…snore….

  3. ltg
    ltg says:

    Wow, what a great idea!

    I have definitely noticed that by late Sunday afternoon or early evening, I’m bloody brilliant and could easily run the world while standing on one leg juggling cats. The big question for those of us living in the land of the W2 is… How to convince the habitually up-late body to fall asleep early enough to wake up refreshed before the 800-decibel alarm clock…?

    Thanx for the inspiration. I’m gonna give it a shot.

    • lisa
      lisa says:

      Try melatonin time release spray (by source naturals) from the health food store. One spray and you start getting sleepy in about 20 minutes, helps you stay asleep too!I use it every night to get to sleep whenever I’m ready to go.Non habit forming and no side effects-It’s a good antioxidant too!
      Good luck!

  4. Deb
    Deb says:

    I hear ya Martha. I learned this from YOU!!! I started putting ME first and that included my body,whom I have treated like a nasty step mother most of my life. Which resulted in eating disorders, diabets, fibro, IC, all kinds of nasty stuff.
    I have a long way to go but like you, I don’t get down on myself, I just go take a nap or eat something nourishing or tell myself “I am enough”
    I love your humanness, Martha. Thank you.

  5. Layla
    Layla says:

    LOL! Martha, this is great, thanks for posting it. I’m totally with you on the sleep. When you can’t sleep, after a few days nothing else matters.

    Its funny, i’ve noticed I get the BEST naps when there is something else I SHOULD be doing. Something productive & unpleasant, like housework. That and football on the tv (for me) just makes for the most seductive and delicious napping. As they say in Spain, how beautiful it is to do nothing, & then rest afterwards!

  6. Hema Helal
    Hema Helal says:

    A very timely reminder for me, Martha! I’ll do exactly that right after reading this post once more 🙂

    I was driving my daughter to summer camp this morning & thinking how your life coach training has been such a blessing for me that changed my life forever. You & the tribe members are super awesome! The collective energy is so empowering, enabling & nurturing that i feel inspired to just run with my life. As if I’ve got the map & the compass, the tribe’s got my back & I’ll be just fine through setbacks & all. The MB family is a chart topper in my gratitude list every single day…

  7. Carol Saha
    Carol Saha says:

    SARK wrote a book called Change Your Life Without Getting Out Of Bed. An excellent book for nap takers. I’ve always made sure I get enough sleep. When I don’t I’m like a crazy person off their meds. And I firmly believe a lot of the health problems people face, physical and mental, are due to lack of sleep. Personal experience.

  8. Phyllis
    Phyllis says:

    Martha, thank you as always for the gift of your humor and insights!!!! 🙂

    I completely agree with you and I need 10 hours in bed a night to make it happen. Limits my other activities but WORTH IT!! Not enough sleep, life is REALLY HARD work and I get a headache. Enough sleep, it’s all fun! I am lucky that I can work the hours I choose so I have already been ASLEEP 🙂 However, there is a set of us, myself included, for whom tired and sleepy don’t necessarily connect. I would get tired at 11 and sleepy at 2 AM. It has something to do with Circadian rhythms being out of phase. Using an Appollo light in the morning has helped me sync that up so at least now I do get tired and sleepy at the same time of night.

    Blessings to you


  9. Gail
    Gail says:

    Weird! I’ve been in a self-induced sleep deprivation since the 90’s and with my four children in the second stage of sleepness nights (teenagers!) I hadn’t seen this ending any time soon. I’d resigned myself to catching up on my sleep sometime in the future when I’m nestled safely in a box six feet under. Until, yesterday when my disembodied intuitive friend (lack of sleep seems to invoke a lot of mental chatter)declared rather insistently that the only priority I needed to make if I wanted to enjoy anything, was sleep! Now with your post today acting like an emphatic exclamation point, it seems more than a coincidence. Count me in, I’m joining.

  10. isabelle from mtl
    isabelle from mtl says:

    Amen! I started taking mini naps at work when i was heading a small translation company. My goal was to be refreshed and then work more, more, more! But at one point, I realized I should be napping to… be less tired. And then miraculously, I had more energy and I was sick less often. Duh… they should teach that in a translation degree. So long live the mini nap, disco nap, cat nap and all the other siestas in between. As we say in French, bonne nuit, beaux rêves!

  11. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    My birthday is coming up and when my husband asked what I’d like as a gift, my response was, “Sleep”. When did sleep become a luxury item? It’s interesting that we feel like we’re indulging a whim when we take the time to get enough of it. Listen to your friends when they’ve slept in past 8:00…”Oh my gosh, I’m such a bum. I slept till 9:00!”

    I am reading The 4-Hour Work Week and in it Tim Farriss challenges you to ask yourself, “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?” I printed and taped that question to the top of my computer screen. Recently, as I sat perusing all my favorite time-suck websites, that question caught my eye. I asked myself what I was trying to avoid by mindlessly surfing the internet and drooling on myself in a half-stupor. The answer came almost immediately in the form a very small voice that said, “You’re tired and this is all you can manage to do on the small amount of energy you have.” I promptly got up and went and took a nap.

    Later I reflected on my definition of “important” and it took me several days and this blog post to concede that getting enough sleep really does come under that heading. It’s not just necessary, it’s important and has to be made a priority.

    As usual, your timing is impeccable! Thank you…

  12. Jeane
    Jeane says:

    Wow – this is big. It’s almost like getting PERMISSION to sleep as much as I need to, though of course I don’t actually NEED the permission, just the sleep. Thank you for a few laughs and…permission.

  13. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Great story! I can’t agree with you more!!

    After having 2 children I learned I don’t do well on little sleep. Now I have
    trained my children (age 5 & 8) to get up and turn on the tv when they wake up and not to wake up their mommy. Since our elementary school doesn’t start until 9am I can still sleep until 8:30 and get the kids to school on time.
    I now rarely get less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep and feel great!

    Recently we had some out of town guests which ended up in my getting much less than my usual amount of sleep. The morning that they left I woke up and
    felt awful – I thought I must be sick. The it struck me – this is a familiar feeling – I’m not sick I’m just tired! Now I can recognize my lack of sleep symptoms and either go to bed earlier or sleep in! It makes a huge difference on my entire life outlook!!!!!!!

  14. Aimee
    Aimee says:

    AMEN, sister. Coincidentally, I slept until 10:30am today. Woke up feeling more than a tad guilty, then suddenly had the urge to read your blog. Which has magically absolved me of my guilt. How ’bout that for timing? Great post! Thanks, Martha. : )

  15. Amy Lawrence
    Amy Lawrence says:

    Great post! I used to pride myself in needing very little sleep. Then when I changed my business model this June from brick and mortar to on-line, I found I’m sleeping in much more. I think I’m catching up from all those years of stress and less than 5 hours of sleep per night.

    The more I sleep these days, the more I seem to need. Thanks for your post, I had decided that my body must just need to catch up and now you’ve given me permission to do so. Thanks!

  16. jeannine
    jeannine says:

    a few days ago I stayed up late and got up early due to circumstances. I felt like crap. I realized this was how I used to live my life. it’s horrible. I am back to going to bed by 10 and getting up when I am ready. getting enough sleep is the only way to live, really. thanks, martha.

  17. Audrey
    Audrey says:

    Ha, I’ve been doing the ASLEEP programme ever since I’ve been an adult and can do whatever I like – I’m terrible at mornings and getting up early literally feels like being exhumed, so have built my entire life around being able to sleep as much as possible. The upshot is that I am completely penniless but look one f*** of a lot better than most people my age…

  18. Annette
    Annette says:

    I grew up on a farm, and the farmers’ saying has always been “it’s not how many hours of sleep you get a night; it’s how many hours you get BEFORE MIDNIGHT.” I thought that was incredibly weird when I was in my teens and 20’s, but now that I’m 50, the wisdom of it screams out at me.

  19. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    I heard (I think on NPR) a story about a sleep study that asked the sleep-deprived (all of us) to sleep 11 hours a day/night, and they found that it took three months of 11-hour sleeps for people to catch up on the sleep they had lost. Participants said they felt better than any other time of their life! So, I vowed to try it this winter. My one downfall is reading in bed. I get sucked into the story and the next thing I know it’s past midnight and the cat will be waking me up at 6:00 (a common theme in these comments). Anyway, thanks for another great post and a great reminder to get some sleep!

  20. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I started following ASLEEP in my last year of college. I read/heard (but do not now recall where I read/heard) that the only common denominator amongst centenarians was that they all got adequate rest on a regular basis. Some of these amazing people did everything you aren’t supposed to be able to do and still get really old – like drink a lot, smoke at all, eat fatty rich foods in generous quantities, soak up UB/UV rays with abandon – but they slept when they were tired, apparently. And I thought to myself, “I’m tired,” so I slept in and “poof” my life got way better.

    I have fallen off the sleep wagon many times, including here recently, and I thank you Martha for reminding me of the importance of rest and slowness. And even though it is 10:50 p.m. and I do have a 9 a.m. appointment, I will find a way to get enough rest soon.

  21. Naomi Niles
    Naomi Niles says:

    Cutting hair with travel sewing kit scissors. That must’ve taken awhile!

    I lived in Spain for several years. There they have the reputation of the late night fiesta culture. Dinner is eaten nightly between 9:30pm – 10:30pm. For the first few years I tried to adapt, but never could. Going to bed around midnight with a full stomach every night was the worst. So unhealthy.

    Now, possibly because I have the privilege of working from home, I don’t even use an alarm clock. I hate them and wake up around the same time every morning anyhow. Some days I feel tired still if I don’t sleep well, but I feel like my quality of life is so much better just because I’m making a conscious effort to take care of that part of it.

    Thankfully, it’s also eliminated the need for having naps because I’m not a nap person. I always feel more tired after a nap than before.

  22. marie-josee parent
    marie-josee parent says:

    I just plan to make a day of sleep. Eat, sleep, turn around, sleep, enjoy, eat if needed. Next monday for sure I’ll challenge my self softly in my sumptuous bed, my dear friend.

    I have felt sleep deprivation lately, circumstances, i guest. But now you really made it clear for me, my radiant joy depend on it and my capacity to radiate and enjoy my great adventure.

    Thank you, you can be so often on target, acute with the need of the situation.

    Your unknown friend, as many.

  23. Marly
    Marly says:

    I would really like to join this movement. But I’ll have to start tomorrow because for today, I have miles to go before I sleep…

  24. Grassizgreener
    Grassizgreener says:

    Years of undiagnosed sleep apnea where I did not get adequate or quality sleep contributed to my having adrenal burnout. Sleep is soooo important! I wonder how different/better my life would have been if I hadn’t been dragging through it for so long.

    As always, Martha, you are so right.


  25. Lakita Touma
    Lakita Touma says:

    I found some pictures of really cute hairstyles. No joke summer’s coolest hairstyles from Damien Carney, celebrity hairstylist. Now, if only Joico will show us girls how to look so fantastic. Here is the link: hairstyles

  26. Katinka
    Katinka says:

    I am definitely in and will recommend this to all my clients, friends, and family. Most of whom have an alarm-clock morning, so they need to shave off some time from their evenings to hit the sack earlier. During school vacations, I make my kids get up at 8 anyway to get them tired at night, and that keeps them perky all those weeks – same for me: Those early hours are the most productive, that is just a cosmic rule. But sleeping through them for a while to get a strength and clarity booster is a perfect way to give myself back to the life I am supposed to live. Thank you Martha!!

  27. Lynn Nelson
    Lynn Nelson says:

    As someone with myalgic encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to the uninformed, all the isolation, loneliness and sickly fatigue, I salute you, Martha. As I always do….


  28. Ayo
    Ayo says:

    Hey…so this is all fine and good but what if you can’t sleep? Martha mentioned someone in a book who is a sleep guru…does anyone know who that is? I can’t find the reference and wanted to research how to sleep some more (obviously I’ve googled it and know the basics…but I still could use some help!)

    • Editor
      Editor says:

      Hi Ayo – Search for “Yoga Nidra” resources to help with sleep issues. I don’t have the name of the specific practitioner Martha recommended in Steering by Starlight, but I know that is the form of yoga she referenced. Cheers!

  29. Wendy Haxton
    Wendy Haxton says:

    Am I the only person in the world with so little to do that I could actually sleep all day if I wanted to? Fascinated by what people do to make themselves so tired. Even when i had two small children and elderly relatives to visit, I never felt short of time or in need of sleep… think maybe people try to cram in a lot of stuff (after school clubs for children; just let them play!)which are unnecessary and exhausting. Relax people. 24 hours is plenty to do what is really important and still get your full 8 hours.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project | Martha Beck This is basically what I did last year during my Leptin Reset, after I got my sleep environment perfected. Blackout curtains, eye mask, ear plugs, temperature regulation. I went to sleep between 7-8, and awoke refreshed between 4-5. IT WAS LOVELY. I LOVE FEELING REFRESHED. I got so much done in the quiet of the morning — yoga, full cooked breakfast, writing, makeup and hair… Some day…some day… Also, daring Sleep Experimenters! If you try to get more sleep, be warned! Just as when you try to improve your food, there are totally SLEEP HATERZ. People who will try to make you feel stupid/like a loser for going to bed when it suits YOU instead of staying up with them and rehashing their personal problems for hours. Or for not staying up and drinking with them. BE WARNED. THEY ARE OUT THERE. My Leptin Reset Journey F 5'9" | 32 yrs old | small frame | HW: 187 | CW: 182.5 | GW: 135 Reply With Quote […]

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