"Get your eight hours of sleep” is the clichéd advice you get when you’re looking tired and the eye bags are obvious. But our relationship with sleep is complicated.
For many, getting eight hours of sleep is not as simple as turning off the lights and then counting sheep, the old-fashioned way. Work-from-home set-ups, incessant mobile notifications, and the reminder of bills have disrupted our sleep.
And in the last few years, we’ve been bombarded with solutions for sleep deprivation—from 5 a.m. clubs, memory foam mattresses, sleep timers, Ayurveda medicine, and aromatherapy oils.
Does our sleep have to be so complicated? As a nocturnal person, I’ve tried waking up at 5 a.m. every day, listening to a nature playlist, and using sleep apps in the hope that I become a morning person. But finally, I’ve just learned to embrace that, maybe, I just prefer sleeping a lot later than 10 p.m.
One’s relationship with sleep is deeply personal. It was just World Sleep Day last Friday, March 25. It is okay not to feel pressured to sleep as everyone else does.
So here are three tips that you won’t get from experts but from someone who’s a self-confessed night owl.
1. Listen to ASMR content or soothing words.
ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a growing trend on the Internet, especially on podcasts and YouTube. The audio consists of such sensory experiences as hearing crunchy fried chicken, makeup brushes touching skin, or tapping fingers on notebooks accompanied by a whispering voice. It’s pretty much a “brain massage.”
Inka Magnaye, a recognized ASMR and voice actress in the Philippines, found that ASMR videos helped her through her panic attacks and even a tough breakup.
She shared: “The sound of them talking about stuff, just whispering it or even letting me know that things are going to be okay, or that I’m safe, those are the things that have helped me.”
Inspired by these videos, she started going live on Facebook during the pandemic to her 3,000 followers. She read bedtime stories and fables while grinding eggshells with a mortar and pestle. At the start, she was happy with 15 to 20 people watching. But, she said, “Mostly moms with their kids watched my live feed just before bedtime.”
When a fan told her she had “sleep power,” she got the idea of helping people sleep through the podcast, Sleeping Pill with Inka. In this Spotify exclusive under Cut Print Podcast Network, Inka reads poetry, stories, does meditation and breathing exercises.
She will also start recording episodes just for children.
I asked her what she learned after recording over 100 episodes. She replied, “People need to let go.” She continued, “I want to put it out there that I am not trained at all. It’s just that I’ve realized that there’s some psychology to hearing the words, ‘It’s okay to relax. Give yourself permission to let go.’ That’s why I often say in my episodes that you don’t have to think about your obligations or your responsibilities; you can leave them for tomorrow.”
* * *
2. Schedule your sleep.
Inka added, “You know, resting makes people feel guilty. We live in a society where productivity is the highest accolade, right? That’s the thing that we need to strive for. Being productive is great. But you can be most productive when you rest.”
Mike Unson—a writer, translator, and standup comedian—is someone who’s learned to schedule his rest. During his college days, he was an insomniac and even admitted to listening to Sleeping Pill with Inka. He said, “I prefer falling asleep to people’s voices.”
He is one of those people that understands that he will never be part of the 5 a.m. club. Instead, he schedules his sleep from the wee hours of the morning to 3 p.m. However, he insists that he still gets enough hours of sleep.
I asked him when he realized that a nocturnal sleeping schedule suited him: “It was when I started performing regularly at night. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can never sleep right away after a show. I can’t.” He continued, “When you’re a performer and keep those kinds of hours, you still have extra energy left, and you’d rather do other stuff. I also like that most people are asleep.”
He shared that the older generation has a different perspective on sleep. “Sabi nila& ‘Iba yung tulog sa gabi.’ So, if that were the case, it seems that anyone who works the night shift is doomed.”
Mike has tried all sorts of solutions such as tea, medicine, and sleep timers. However, he finds that trouble with sleep is mostly psychological. And in some way, you have to ignore what is bogus and see what works for you.
3. Read from the perspective of an insomniac. Or keep a dream diary.
There are several books on the science of sleep. Bill Gates recommended Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. And there is also Dreamland: Adventures in The Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall.
But, if you want to understand the trouble of sleeping, read from an insomniac’s perspective. Bill Hayes—an American non-fiction writer, and photographer—is someone who’s lived a life of insomnia.
Sleep Demons: An Insomniac’s Memoir weaves his story and science. He combines sleep research, psychology, medicine, mythology, aging, and mental health. He even begins the book with a common question at their family’s breakfast table: “How’d you sleep?”
You can also read Insomniac City, Hayes’ love letter to his partner, Oliver Sacks, the late, great neurologist and writer. There is something soothing in reading how an insomniac deals with grief.
Another tip to improve your relationship with sleep is keeping a dream diary. Graham Greene, an English novelist, published the book, A World of My Own: A Dream Diary. So why not try and keep one? Write what you dreamt of the minute you wake up. They can be treasured stories or unresolved issues that keep you awake.
I know that these three tips are unconventional. They don’t prescribe that you be in bed by 10 p.m. or monitor your sleep statistics with a smartwatch. Instead, it’s about going to bed when ready and with no worries. It’s about finding beauty in your style of sleeping. At some point, you can stop counting sheep and make your own bedtime.