As we are finishing up the holiday of Hanukkah, there is a lot of discussion about going beyond one’s nature. But when it comes to our own sleep personality, how much are we supposed to embrace or try to change our natural tendencies?
Sleep personality? You might not have ever heard of the term. But allow me to explain. Every one of us has different personality traits and sleep is no different. Some people are naturally morning people. Some are night owls. Some people thrive on getting 5 – 6 hours a night, while others need 8 – 9 just to be functional. Some people’s schedules allow them to nap throughout the day while others focus on getting all of their sleep at night.
In the perfect world, we could all embrace our own unique sleeping patterns, but then reality hits. Work, family, and lifestyle often makes our sleep schedule rigid and limited, forcing us to sleep and be awake when we’d rather not. But at what point does this become a problem? Should I strive to embrace my natural sleep personality or try to change it to fit into the world around me?
For example, a client called me from Miami recently with the following situation. He feels naturally he is a night person. If it were up to him, he would go to bed around 1 AM and sleep until 8. But his reality is not compatible with this goal. His daughters go to a magnet school across town, and in order to get them there on time and get himself to work, he needs to be up at 5:30 AM every weekday.
So instead of going to bed around 1 AM, he tries to be asleep around 10 PM, and he usually falls asleep quickly. But he’s up soon after that. He tosses and turns a lot for the rest of the night. He usually goes back into a deep sleep early in the morning, just in time for his alarm to go off and launch his day. Sweet sleep stolen from under his pillow!
“Is there any hope for me?” he said. “Or will I just have to suffer like this until my kids finish up school?”
I want to give you the following three rules about sleep personalities that I told this fellow as well.
- We can only embrace when it continues to function.
Just like sleep personalities, we have characteristics that make up our nature and nurture. Some of us are naturally calm, others easily excitable. Some people are extroverts and love the spotlight while others prefer quiet and privacy. And as a general rule, I encourage people to embrace their own personalities in every way. Trying to be someone we are not can feel disingenuous and lead to frustration and failure.
But that is only when the system continues to function. If we are so chilled out, that we can’t make it to work in the morning, Houston, you’ve got a problem. If you have the luxury of getting a new job that fits your lifestyle, then great. But if not, then it’s time for a change.
And on the flip side, your type A personality might come in handy in the courtroom or on the Wall Street floor, but when you find your anger and aggression coming out with friends and family, you know there is an issue that needs to be worked on.
2) You have the ability to change more than you can imagine.
When it comes to change, many people are stuck not in their nature, but in their limiting beliefs. “I can never wake up on time” they tell themselves. “I’m naturally a lazy person” or “I was just born hotheaded.” When you start changing the messages in your own head, the body soon follows. And sleep personalities are no different.
By changing our inner narrative, I’ve seen people make rapid transformations when it comes to sleep and many other things. It’s not always instant, but you should never feel your life is behind a brick wall.
3) Nobody needs to be struggling with sleep.
Sleep is one of the most essential ingredients in our physical and mental health. It gives us strength, clarity, balance, and immunity. It allows us to be loving spouses and parents, caring friends, and successful professionals. And by-and-large, it’s free. I don’t believe that one has to have a fancy pillow and mattress to get a good night’s sleep.
And therefore, I told this fellow in Miami, no, you don’t need to struggle with sleep. Yes, you might always be naturally a night person, and on the weekends and on vacation, you can enjoy those morning zzz’s, but your sleep schedule should be flexible and it sounds like something is going on.
When it comes to sleep, your body wants and knows exactly what to do, and if it’s not sleeping right, then something is getting in the way.
Perhaps this Hanukkah is the perfect time to rise above your nature and embrace a sleep pattern that gives you the strength to be the authentic you.