by Ben Parry, Bexhill, Australia

For a while now I’ve been waking up in the ‘middle of the night’ at around 2am. I do go to sleep fairly early, but that is still only five hours sleep, so waking up then is just something I’ve been writing off as an annoyance, and I’d just go back to sleep for another few hours. Why would I wake up at 2am if I’m going to be wrecked at work by midday? I need my 7-8 hours sleep or I won’t be able to function. In fact, some days I know that even with 7-8 hours sleep I still hardly get through the day, so waking up even earlier is the last thing I would want to do.

Well, I was getting pretty annoyed that it kept happening, so one morning I decided I would teach myself a lesson and just not go back to bed. That way, I figured, I would be so exhausted by the evening that I would drag myself to bed and would probably get ten hours of solid sleep the next night. So I stayed up, but what to do with myself? I live in a house with other people so I couldn’t do anything noisy. Plus, I felt like I should only do something gentle, like I didn’t have the energy to get started running in a frenzy preparing for the day or anything strenuous like that – so I didn’t.  I did a bit of meditation, some reading; I even went for a fairly long walk because it turns out that three hours is a lot of time that early in the morning.

When it came time to get ready for work, I still felt this quiet steadiness. It is difficult to describe exactly; it wasn’t a tiredness, just a feeling that if I did anything physically hard on myself, it could really affect me and it wouldn’t feel good. I definitely didn’t need to reach for the sugar or anything to get myself ready to get into the day, because I had been really careful with myself that morning and it felt like all that extra time had been allowing me to prepare already for the rest of the day.

Well, I was at work, and I was still feeling like I really had to be careful and gentle with how I was going about my day: it wasn’t about making sure I didn’t run out of energy to get through the day anymore  or avoiding the pain of being too hard with myself. Now I was beginning to notice that I actually was more comfortable with the ‘steadiness’ I was feeling and I didn’t want to upset that feeling – it was becoming like a surety I could rely on throughout the day.

Normally through my day there would be the morning period where after waking up I would still feel sleepy, and it would be a chore to drag myself around to get ready for work. For the morning at work I would be fine… for a few hours at least, before I began to feel the tiredness kicking in – it would come like waves in peaks and troughs. Then by the afternoon on some days I would almost be falling asleep at my desk.

In the steadiness I was feeling, I didn’t see the same variations in my energy level throughout the day; it was just always the same steady feeling. So long as I remained being careful with how I was doing things, it didn’t seem to change, but I was still getting as much done at work as normal… maybe even more because I didn’t start to slow down in the afternoon. I got home that night and did everything else I normally do – walk the dogs, make dinner, shower and then by 8pm I was feeling in my body that I couldn’t go on any longer doing things. I was tired and a little sore, but it definitely wasn’t the exhaustion I was expecting. It was more a rewarding tiredness that meant laying down in bed felt really beautiful. I was sure I would get a full night’s sleep. Then I woke up again at 2am, only five hours later.

As I kept on with the same routine over the next few days, it began to feel more and more natural. For so long I had always believed that ‘you need eight hours of sleep a day’ like I’d always been told, but I really felt more consistent when I just got up when I woke up, rather than trying to hit that magic number. The ‘steadiness’ that I felt became more and more familiar and more and more beautiful, because it was always there with me.

I began to realise that the way I was feeling normally when I would go back to bed was already my body under stress and a general feeling of anxiety about the day. I would be forcing myself to jump out of bed, rush to the shower, get dressed, shove breakfast down my throat without pausing and prepare for the rest of the day in only a short amount of time, and that pressure was the feeling I would wake up to: that was the feeling I would be comparing the rest of my day to. I only had that stress as a reference point for how I was feeling so I was trying to get back to that feeling, with sugar, caffeine and working under tight deadlines, because that was the way I thought I was supposed to feel.

The only reason I’m writing this is because I wanted to share the possibility that what we’re told by everyone while we’re growing up, what we all hear the doctors, scientists, nutritionists etc. saying we need to do to stay healthy and well (which is always changing so fast it’s hard to keep up with the latest research and findings), may not always be right for us. Just because something is generally accepted by the majority, doesn’t mean there isn’t something else better than the current way. Why shouldn’t we be open to really feeling what our choices are doing to us rather than just accepting what we’re told? Of course, there is a greater responsibility, because we can’t just pick and choose what we WANT to be right for us ‘(I love bacon, so the Atkins diet is going to be true for me!!)’; we actually have to rely on our own feeling of what a choice is doing to us… and who can know us better than ourselves when we are truly honest?

It is only this that I have ever seen presented at the Universal Medicine courses and presentations that I’ve been to: Serge and Universal Medicine have never told anyone what to do. It has always been understood that it is my responsibility to make my own choices based on the way these choices affect my life and my body. Serge presents what he has found to be true for him in his experience, and then it has only ever been up to me to try it (or not if I don’t feel to), to see for myself if it might be true for me as well. Whenever I’ve put to the test what has been presented for myself, it’s always made me feel better in my body than what I have felt trying to follow the ever-changing rules that are always being presented in the media from the latest studies and research. When the world is in the state of illness and turmoil that is prevalent, wouldn’t it make sense to be open to finding the answers through a different way of life?

224 thoughts on “Sleep

  1. This is a really inspiring sharing Ben. For years I have been struggling with my sleeping rhythm. I know there is a rhythm that would wake me up without an alarm all by itself. I have known for a very long time that it is wise to get yourself to bed before 9pm, and in my case I feel it has to be sooner, but I have never truly taking responsibility about that knowing saying there are ‘things to be done’ in the evening. It is very simply my head running the show, because my body doesn’t say that: after 8pm is just say’s “enough” – nothing to do anymore, let go to bed. Your sharing shows how sleeping and going to bed in a natural rhythm goes in practice. Thanks for inspiration Ben!

  2. Then the only thing that then remains is to do the experiment and see what you are presenting, works for me as well. If I would solve the riddle of waking all by self after 5 hours of sleep, then I could take care of myself in a much deeper way and get more things done, and be of service to the world.

  3. Very true. It is up to ourselves to feel what is true and not others who tell us so. I had many beliefs about how my sleeping time must be and how long. This I learned as part of my education. Now I listen to my body and sometimes I can be surprised with how little hours I can feel great next day. This is when there is truth in all the movements I make, the quality in which I live and then sometimes to be in service asks us to go beyond the normal limits we put ourselves on and we will be fine. But this is something different than not listening to our body and just go on many times with a lot of coffee or sugar to keep us moving.

  4. Perfect read for me this morning. I got up earlier than usual this morning when my body naturally awoke, and have been going about my morning for nearly 3 hours now, and I am actually feeling sleepy and I was wondering why. Thanks to your sharing I am starting to track back and look at how I spent those 3 hours, and also my sleep, the night before, the day before… and really, there is no winning formula I can rigidly go back to, it is through connection that the body reveals what it needs and I cannot impose my ideals and expect it to just function.

  5. If I don’t sleep well I now look back at the previous day to see what was going on in it that led to a restless night sleep. What did I get involved in, what energies did I allow into my body, was I checking out during the day. I now see sleep as a science something to work on continuously because I have come to understand that actually it is how we are with ourselves and others during the day that sets the marker for how we sleep at night. And this makes sense to me because if I have been feeling anxious or am using nervous energy to get me through the day my body doesn’t suddenly switch that off when it’s time to go to bed, that energy is still running in my body and so of course it will affect how I sleep.

  6. I used to think it was good when I felt that buzz inside of rushing and having a drive to get everything done… but then I was supported to see that I was exhausted and using my nervous system and anxiousness to even get the most simplest of jobs done during the day. Same with sleep, believing that if I got 8 or 9 hours how I was living the day before would be reset and I would have all this energy and feel refreshed…. but time and time again it was not the case. How I am in my day affects how I sleep and then how I wake and then how my next day is. I’ve felt that lovely gentle, not wanting to push or drive feeling waking up early in the morning and how that quality continues throughout the day.

    1. So true Aimee, I thought it was normal too! I genuinely had NO idea that there was any other way and actually used to think there was something wrong with me when I didn’t feel it so used to eat and drink things to get that buzz back! I would say this is still, years later, a work in progress as I continue to discover what I thought was still in my body is not still at all. Such an extraordinary series of discovery.

      1. Ah yes, and if I didn’t have that driving feeling I would think I was lazy or bored. We have so been sold a lie. It is constantly promoted that having drive and being passionate is the way to go through life… it can be called initiative or a ‘go-getter’ but is this healthy or loving? For me, the difference between drive and feeling an impulse from the body is worlds apart… one depleting the body and one allowing it to be.

      2. It takes a real dedication to ourselves and an openness to experience a new level of love that helps us to feel the difference doesn’t it? It can feel so unfamiliar that the stillness, the lack of drive, nervous tension and stress can feel like we are empty and unwell!! instead it is the other way round. yikes

  7. It makes perfect sense indeed Ben to follow the lead of our own body’s intelligence, to honour how it feels and what it needs and that may be different on different days and so we cannot adhere strictly to any ideal dogma. If we do we are likely to override the messages from our body and that never ends well, whether it is regarding sleep or eating, exercise, how we work or any expression whatsoever.

  8. Ultimately our bodies know so much more about us than any medical journal or scientific life-pointers, and I love how you point out that listening to what is right for our bodies is not about what we want, that’s super important as often what we want or what we think is right is a very different interpretation to what the body firmly says is the truth.

  9. Now I’m listening to my body when it wakes up early I know that sleep is finished is time to get up like you say, I don’t do anything strenuous I work quietly at my computer for a few hours, get up make a cup of Tea drink some warm water to re hydrate and slowly get my self ready for work. This is my routine now and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes my body sleeps in and that fine too I’m content just allowing my body to tell me when it’s time for bed and when its time to wake up it is very loud about this.

  10. Ben, I am so delighted that you decided to “teach yourself a lesson” and what a great lesson it was. I know that by sharing your experience many others may choose to have a long look at their beliefs around sleep, specifically how much we need. I sleep a whole lot less now than I used to, but I must admit that for some time I hung on doggedly to the belief that I needed 8 hours a night, but I have proved to myself that I actually don’t. It just proves that if we stay stuck in old patterns and beliefs we may be missing out on another possibility that may change our lives.

  11. Ben this is great that you are exposing the many false perceptions that abounds around the subject of sleep. Our sleep pattern is unique to each and every one of us, and there is no such thing as one size fits all. It is up to us individually to work with and discover our sleep rhythm which best supports our body and our way of life.

  12. Thank you Ben, what I have learned through Universal medicine and from experimenting with my own body is how much we all have to learn about what is good for our health. I have found that too much sleep means I am sleepy and tired through the day and it sets me up in a cycle of wanting more and more sleep. If I begin my day when I naturally wake in the early hours of the morning then I feel more vital, refreshed, and often have much more energy through the day – even though I have had much less sleep.

  13. Yes it would make perfect sense and we have to look deeper at what we are doing because the trajectory for health is out of control. This is very much about our bodies and our responsibility. I love your blog, it is inspiring for the simplicity of listening to what is right for us individually not joining a ‘must do this’ campaign.

  14. I have discovered that it is not about how much sleep I have that prepares me for the next day, but the quality I am in with myself during the day which allows me a quality of sleep. However the moment I compromise my quality during the day so too is my sleep also compromised and no matter then if I sleep 8 or 10 hours during the night my sleep isn’t enough to regenerate my body.

    1. Totally agree Sally. And for me, if I am able I will take a ten minute rest in the afternoon, or at lunch time to recoup and regenerate.

  15. I have been waking up exhausted, it was shared with me by a practitioner that I was living ‘on alert’ and not surrendered in my body. I was living in the anticipation of waiting for something to happen. Recently I used a sleep app which tracks your sleep patterns- it showed that I only go into a deep sleep for about 20 mins during the night and my night is full of ups and downs- dropping then nearly coming back to an awake state. This makes sense- it is not about the length of sleep but the quality of your sleep- and this is impacted on by how you are in your body each day- do you live ‘on alert’ like you are in the fire tower on call waiting to go fight a fire or do you live surrendered?

  16. Thank you Ben for sharing your experience, I remember years ago I would count the hours of sleep I had and if I did not get the right number of hours I would tell myself I am going to feel tired, I decided one day to not count the hours of sleep and just go through my day without setting myself up for tiredness, and the difference was amazing. By our thoughts we can set ourselves up to feel a certain way, that need not be so.

  17. I love the description of how your body felt on the first day of getting up at 2am and then how in subsequent days you became more familiar with the feeling and so could surrender to it more and more. It’s practical, real sharings like this that I find really supportive. Thank you.

  18. “we actually have to rely on our own feeling of what a choice is doing to us… and who can know us better than ourselves when we are truly honest?” This is the way we should live, being honest about our choices. Our brain can convince us of anything but our body has an honesty that, should we choose to listen to it, has a wisdom we cannot deny.

  19. I have noticed that if I wake up early naturally often this thought kicks in of ‘you can’t get up now you have not had enough sleep’ even though I feel wide awake and not tired. If I believe this thought and stay in bed I often have a restless doze with sometimes not so pleasant dreams and then get up later feeling more tired than when I first woke up! So I have started listening more to my body and trusting that it knows how much sleep I need in a night.

  20. The last point you make about research and media is very pertinent Ben. I notice a lot that for many people, they have been disempowered in their health choices by the research, which says this and then that. I get disheartened when I hear people say, we need more research on this, as I know that we all actually have enough knowing of what is right for us, and that we don’t need to be listening to research when we have our own natural instrument, our body, which tells us more than we could possibly imagine, if only we would trust it.

  21. I meet a huge amount of people and talking to them it is very noticeable how many of them say they have problems going to sleep and then waking up. I asked one person what their routine was and basically they were stimulating themselves before going to bed and then it was hard for them to still their mind. They had tried sleeping pills but didn’t like the groggy feeling they had when taking them. We discussed many ways to wind down, what foods and liquids to avoid, what was happening in their day etc. Then I had a realisation that they were quite content with their lack of sleep because it gave them something to talk about, something to recognise them and gain some sympathy. I feel it is very sad when we do something like this to gain attention when we are really crying out for someone to really connect to us and love us just as we are. I feel certain that if we were truly understood and loved for who we really are, not for what we can achieve most of our illness and disease would vanish over night because when we feel that deep connection with and to others it is the most deeply satisfying feeling to have and surpasses all others.

  22. It is easy to get whiplash with the constantly changing research that proves this or that. Thanks to Universal Medicine I am an avid believer and living proof of the wisdom of our own bodies to determine what is true for it or not… and not the latest fad or finding that thinks it can paint us all with the same brush…. and as a result I have never been healthier.

  23. Super interesting Ben. I’ve done a similar experiment when I’ve woken up much much earlier than I believed I should have. And much to my surprise, like you, I have often felt completely fine throughout the rest of the day. it’s true that I’m physically quite tired at the end, and sometimes a bit more so than normal, but my productivity throughout the day hasn’t been affected in the ways I expected it to because of the supposed missed hours of sleep.

  24. ” Just because something is generally accepted by the majority, doesn’t mean there isn’t something else better than the current way.” Yes, well said – I have learnt so much from my body, I am way ahead of the research and have finally learned to not apologise for it. I feel what I feel and that is just as valid as a double blind quantitative research study.

  25. I observe recently that I am also needing less sleep and wake earlier, so I start my day with some gentle exercises in bed to gently allow my body to slowly waken up after a very deep but delicious rest which feels truly supportive for my body and a foundation for my day.

    1. That sounds such a lovely way to start the day, reading your comment I can feel how my sleep is not deep and rejuvenating in the way it could be because of the quality of my movements throughout the day. Something for me to look at as it would feel so different if I slept deeply.

  26. While we wait for the miracle cure of life, we are making ourselves very sick indeed. There is no magic pill in lieu of our own self-care and that of listening to our own body. There is so much information out there on what’s good for us. In my experience not everything is ‘good’ for everyone, just the same as not all medication suits everyone with the same issues. So how do we know? The common sense of the body is how. It is always honest and will never lead us astray, unlike someone who may have a vested interest along the way.

  27. It’s amazing what beliefs and patterns we have been told are healthy for us but without first feeling our bodies and what they feel is supportive first. Connecting to our bodies, own inner compass and wisdom, enables us to evaluate what truly works for us in terms of sleep, nourishment and exercise to be vital, clear and joyful for life. Connecting and cherishing that innate inner compass is what will keep us heading in the right direction.

  28. What if our choices the day before actually affect us more than the length and quality of our sleep? So our choices actually determine the quality that we sleep in and how we feel when we wake up the next morning?

  29. It is interesting how ingrained is the belief that we need 8 hours sleep every night without ever stopping to ask where this ‘rule’ came from. When we become aware of the full cycle of 24 hours in each day then it makes sense that how we live during our waking hours affects the quality and thus the length of sleep our body needs.

  30. Yes, it’s so interesting! I have periods of being up at 4, sometimes 3am and sometimes 6. What I notice is that when I go back to sleep after waking up really early, I end up waking up a lot more tired and I nearly always have dreams in that hour or two before the 2nd wake up. The times I get up the first time, when my body says it’s time, I know now with enough experience that early rise doesn’t mean I’ll be tired later. I go about my day as normal and often find that at the end of the day I don’t feel any different. It’s quite fascinating. I used to panic about being tired, but these days I’m more tired when I sleep more rather than when I sleep less.

  31. Well written with deep care and respect. I love your findings, investigation and outcome. Proof is in the results. I proved this the other day too. It was the most amazing day I have ever had. I had a solid steadiness throughout my WHOLE day. Things flowed smoothly and my feelings if anything were more confirming of me without any doubt.

  32. Thank you Ben for sharing this, as recently I have had an internal tussle between the accepted norm for sleep and what my body is telling me. It’s interesting how I resist listening to my body as I have a belief that I’m struggling to let go of (needing 8 hours sleep) because I hold a fear that I’m going to spend my day exhausted (a feeling which I really don’t enjoy). These last new days I’ve been curious to explore what it is that impacts my sleep so much and bring more quality to how I am during the day so that when I prepare myself for sleep I’m not racing around trying to get everything done before I lie down to rest.

  33. After reading your blog and another blog on sleep, I decided to make a few adjustments to the way I take myself to bed. Ordinarily I rush around trying to get everything done before I go to bed which means I inevitably go to bed much later than planned and then feeling exhausted I dig out my ipod to distract myself from what I don’t want to feel. Last night, I left a couple of chores for the morning and took myself to bed earlier than usual and although I found it hard to sleep I still woke up much earlier and feeling more vibrant than usual. I’m now wondering what else can change?

    1. Thank you Fiona, you have hit on a key point, that we often don’t want to feel so we fill up our day with busyness and even avoid connection to ourselves as we lay in bed and begin to allow our body to head towards sleep.

  34. Thanks for the inspiration Ben. Living with vitality always comes back to listening to the body and what it wants.

  35. So great to link how we are during the day with how we sleep as so often we don’t connect the two.

  36. When we rush through our days and go literally skidding in to bed at night how can we possibly think we will get a regenerative sleep that will prepare our bodies with any quality or steadiness for the next day.

  37. ‘Just because something is generally accepted by the majority, doesn’t mean there isn’t something else better than the current way.’ True, my body is the one to rely on in every way. Regarding to sleep I have to say I struggle a bit with how I come out of my bed, there is definitely something to look at my day and night rhythm as I don’t feel vital when I wake up. Thank you Ben for the inspiration.

  38. Thank you Ben, when I originally came to Universal Medicine and began to make changes to my lifestyle based on what was naturally being shown to me by my body, I initially could feel hesitation because of the rigid rules I was following based on “health advice”. My body was showing me its way but because I had given my power to what was considered healthy it took time for me to let go of the “right” way to do things and surrender to my body’s way to do things. It’s interesting that there is a concept that a healthy body means to do all the “right” things we are told, but not to listen to ones own body!

  39. This blog makes so much sense, especially at the moment as I am playing with getting up early and resisting going back to sleep, because I find that I feel less lively for having slept in longer than my initial waking up time – it’s as though sleeping in is exhausting me, and often I find that my lower back will ache if I sleep too long.

  40. Great article and it’s true, a lot of what is considered healthy, normal or good for us is actually not looking truly at what we need at any given point. The 8 hours sleep is a great one for me because it still sits as a belief and I feel robbed, not tired if I don’t get it. It’s like something playing a game with you, I may not get the sleep at any given point but it creates an anxiety and registers a credit for sleep in me that will need to be balanced out at some point. There are different stages within the week and month where I will need more and less steep but it all depends on how I am truly feeling and this is what needs to be honoured more. After all who is the expert of me? Me or someone who has done a study on a bunch of other people?

  41. It’s interesting in society how the majority of us don’t want to be ripped off by our mechanic or buying a house etc and we will research and test drive every thing in order not to be hoodwinked or taken for a ride, yet… when it comes to our bodies, something that we know inside out more than anyone else, we go along with the latest fad or diet or healthy options without first feeling if it is right for us.

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