Day 13: Harnessing That Elusive Unicorn-Sleep!

“Sleep is like the unicorn – it is rumored to exist, but I doubt I will see any.” – Dr. Seuss

Dear friends,

No matter your culture, race, religion, gender identity or politics, the one thing most creatures great and small have in common is the need for sleep. It’s not news to anyone here that sleep is one of the most important things for a human in order to function, and there are many studies and articles at our fingertips about this. We know that sleep plays a huge role in physical and mental health, productivity, focus and general well-being. Everyone has different rhythms and needs, but I suspect we all know what it feels like to not have enough. I am a subject matter expert on poor sleep, as it has been a struggle for countless years. I’d tried all the things–chamomile tea, no screen time before bed, maintained a schedule, melatonin, cool room, dark room, ambient music, relaxing baths, reading, lavender candles, yes, even occasional Ambien. And we all know wine helps us get to sleep, so there was always that. Yet sleep remained an elusive, mythical unicorn on most nights.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I tried on sobriety my first Dryuary. I was vaguely aware that alcohol plays a role in sleep hygiene, but here’s what started to crystallize for me: alcohol has so much to do with insomnia, and I wasn’t alone! For the first time, I recognized the 3:00 a.m. anxiety wake-up call, the nonstop slurping of bedside water in the wee hours, and the night sweats for what they were–alcohol-induced countermeasures to all the things I was doing to achieve sleep. I was forced to confront the exhaustion and snappishness I felt throughout the day at work and with my family. Gym days were awful or non-existent when I wasn’t rested. Listening to others, it was like a light bulb (or was it a night light?) went off in my head about the sleep and alcohol connection. I had just exactly NO IDEA how good sleep can be alcohol-free until I grabbed the reins and hopped on.
Spoiler alert–this was a bumpy unicorn ride. I had difficulty saddling up and sleeping the first two weeks. Dreams were absolutely insane–but I know now that for the first time in forever, I was experiencing REM sleep, which is the most restorative. There were nights of anxiety, but at least it wasn’t due to the booze. I cried some during this time because I thought it would be magically easier due to my having captured the unicorn. Bit by bit, over the month I developed more energy and more focus. I felt better in my body, absolutely refreshed, and I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. For sleep and my soul, sobriety was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had no idea what I was missing until I found it, finally. It wasn’t about all the things that I was doing, it was about the one thing that I needed to leave out.
I still do all the things and also meditation, but there’s a very important item now missing from my routine, and good sleep remains one of my top 3 reasons to abstain or moderate. I still have tough nights sometimes due to life. I am now the nerd who goes home early or stays home to drink tea and put on fuzzy pajamas, and I’m totally ok with that. Because it’s not just about getting a decent night’s rest. It’s about the rainbow of restorative health benefits that come with it, the well of my soul that peaceful slumber refills every night, and the positive energy I bring with me each morning to the world, courtesy of a good night’s sleep. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, but darned if it isn’t close! If you’re struggling with sleep right about now, keep going and stay the course. Finding your unicorn isn’t easy, but once you do, it is worth it.
Sleep well and pleasant dreams,

Post Submitted By: Christy Dee, Moderation Management Member
Suggested NA Drink Alternative: Chill The F* Out Oat Nog with Goodmylk Co.