Do you feel guilty when you sleep peacefully?

I know I used to.

I turned 30 this year, and I have never felt this healthy in my life.

While many factors led to this improvement, one key element missing for many years was Sleep.

I was raised in a household that believed in the concept “early to bed and early to rise.”

My parents were terrific in maintaining this discipline in us. Every day we got up between 4–6 am, went for a fresh morning walk, had a cup of tea, and read the morning newspaper. Our mornings were peaceful.

But when I started high school, things started becoming more “serious,” especially in terms of education/career. That’s when my sleep cycle started to fumble.

I usually went to bed at 10 pm and got up at 2:30–3 am to study for my tests. It worsened in college when we pulled all-nighters right before our exams. Late-night ramen and multiple cups of coffee didn’t help. Nobody told us that “it wasn’t normal.”

Societal and peer pressure to succeed only made things worse.

It is at this stage that I showed early signs of anxiety and stress. After college, my first corporate job was pretty chilled out for the most parts, but I used to stay awake, stressed, and confused. Why? Because all my friends were worried and confused. It felt off that I wasn’t “losing my sleep” over work and further education. Even when things were wonderful, I constantly stressed about the next things I had to accomplish, which worsened my health.

When I moved to the US around five years back to get my Master degree, my health went for a complete toss. I slept for around 3–4 hours and that, matched with the horrible fast-food diet, became a recipe for disaster.

Movies, podcasts, goal-oriented books, people… all pointed out that it was “normal” to lose sleep. That’s what a motivated, highly-driven individual did.

If you were sleeping for 8+ hours, you weren’t taking your future seriously.

We have “normalized” some of the worst habits.

The more we talk to friends, family, and peers, we reaffirm to ourselves that it’s ok to eat out (processed food), it’s ok to sleep 3–4 hours at night, it’s ok to over-work, it’s ok to be constantly stressed, it’s ok to chug cups of coffee throughout the day with no consciousness whatsoever of how it affects our body, it’s ok to “not have time” to exercise, walk or meditate.

And worst of all, we make people feel guilty when they sleep well, try living a healthy and balanced life, or do anything good for the body. I cannot count the number of times I have heard sarcastic comments about my healthy living.

None of this is ok, and none of this is normal.

Things have slowly started to shift for me.

I left my recent corporate job around eight months back and decided to take care of my health. I made sure that I ate healthy food, took proper time to meditate, exercise, eliminated harmful chemicals from my household (usually present in cleaners, laundry detergents, dish soap, etc.), and started sleeping for 8+ hours. During weekends, my partner and I made sure that we got some afternoon naps whenever it was possible.

While there were times where guilt loomed, we pushed it away and just took care of our bodies. We often got up after afternoon naps and said to each other, “Gosh! I feel guilty that we aren’t stressed”.

The more we hear about how the world is changing due to climate change, Covid-19, natural calamities, and so much more, the more critical it is to prioritize our lives.

What’s more important? Where should our focus be? Where should our money go? Where should our time go? What should we unlearn? These are important questions.

We cannot keep following the herd. We have to think differently and be different to bring about positive changes in both our and other’s lives. The world needs our best self right now.

And as silly as it sounds, it all starts with some good sleep.

Sleep has magical superpowers. It increases your immunity, keeps your stress under control, and helps you make intelligent, informed decisions.

So, stop feeling guilty and take that nap that you have wanted for so long.

Rest, rejuvenate and Sleep.

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