Word up Wednesday: Sleep / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

In my quest for optimal health, I often go hard with my focus on drinking more water, eating more fruits and veggies, and exercise. I'm all in with those things (or all out...I'm still working on balance). In my quest, sleep often gets overlooked. I'll work out hard, try to eat all the right things and still keep, in the words of Marsha Ambrosias, late nights and early mornings. For the record, I've always been a 8-9 hour sleeper. My parents had a strict bedtime for me from elementary school all the way through high school. Even in college, I would put my work away, go to sleep and wake early to finish work rather than pull all nighters. There was that one time in graduate school at Howard University where I pulled an all nighter. In my studio apartment I had a never ending pot of coffee, my computer and a mission before me. The paper turned out well, but let's just say I needed three full days to recover. After that, I returned to good sleep habits (for the most part) through my early career as an art educator and my time in Seminary. When hubby and I first got married, I tried to keep his sleep habits (ahem, newlyweds) to my detriment. I settled back into good sleep habits until I was pregnant with our first daughter over six years ago. Her newborn days sent me into a tailspin and I've been all over the map with my sleep habits.

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Recently, with the flu taking over our home, I became reacquainted with the power of good, solid sleep. Last week, our now nap averse kindergartener napped daily. I could see her change, her healing, each time she woke up. On Saturday, our three going on thirty year old shouted for joy when I told her they didn't have to take naps and then proceeded to fall asleep sitting up on the couch (in a gold sparkly tutu, talk about beauty sleep). As I type this blog, my daughters who usually wake at 6:45am are still asleep and I've decided not to wake them since I'm not in a great rush this morning. I've always known how powerful sleep is, but I am forgetful at times and sleep has not been my priority. Until now.

Sleep is restorative.

Sleep is healing.

Sleep is calming and promotes peace.

Sleep invites creativity.

I am on day three of good sleep. For three days I have turned my phone off and placed it across my bedroom an hour before sleep time. I have made a cup of herbal tea and rested in bed reading an actual book until it was time to turn in for the night. I've spent far less time getting comfortable and quieting my thoughts once turned in, because my mind was inundated with news, Pinterest recipes, and the latest sale at Carters. Each morning when it was time to wake, I woke up naturally, refreshed and ready to go. I have been able to have quiet prayer and journaling time before the rest of my family awakes, full of revelation and hopes. And honestly, I've been in a far better mood, less irritated at work (yes, chaplains get irritated especially with politics) and less snappy with my children. I remember this woman. I like this woman. No, I love this woman. I am poised to be my best and highest self when I am rested, true rest that comes from solid sleep and not fake rest (I'll post more on that later. Shauna Neiquist turned my world upside down with her writing on fake rest).

How are your sleep habits? I invite you to think about what you can do to get better sleep and gracefully implement those practices.