In response to Arianna's sleep challenge to women, my brain went instantly to Hamlet Act III, scene i. The next line after "to sleep--perchance to dream" is "ay, there's the rub." Sleep is necessary for dreaming, beloved. And dreaming is one of the things humanity does best. I'm not talking about those process-the-detritus-of-everyday-life dreams. I'm talking about those dreams that change the course of a life.
The other night I asked myself a question before I went to sleep: What is the truth about my pride? I'd realized that a certain kind of pride was stopping me from taking action in a certain area of my life. I woke up with an answer that has changed everything. I now know what to do and am working on doing it.
I am a person who needs good sleep. I know this. It's been proven time and again. Without at least eight or, better, nine hours of sleep, I am less than I can be. I can go a night or two with less sleep, but it tells in my work: my writing and my counseling. Because my counseling is based upon intuition, if my body is struggling to stay awake, my intuition is less acute.
Later in the singularly most famous soliloquy, Hamlet says, "Must give us pause." That's what sleep is: a pause. A pause in the relentless overload of people, things, commitments, overbooking, information. A pause. A pause that is, without question, a necessity.
How do we let that pause happen? There's a simple solution, one that few of us use. I learned to use it the hard way. Here it is, a proven formula for sleep: Say no. That's it. Just say no. No, I'm not going to a concert at 10 PM. No, I can't be in two places at once. No, that won't work for me. No, no thanks.
No, as they say, is a full sentence. No is what lets me guard my time for the things I truly care about. My God, my self, my family, my work. No is a lovely, gentle, secret weapon that can make room for you to get enough sleep every night.
It's easier if you're conscious of what allows you to get into bed with ease. One thing I know to do is turn off the television at least an hour before I get into bed. The jump-cuts in the commercials alone leave me agitated. I also know, being a woman of a certain age, not to drink a lot of liquid before I go to bed. Small, little things that contribute to sleep.
Hamlet refers to "the undiscover'd country" later in the speech. Dreamland is an undiscovered country for all of us, a country well worth the investment of time and care that protecting our sleep cultivates. In sleep, the subconscious mind has the opportunity to bring what we need to consciousness, but only if we sleep well.
Say no, beloved, and sleep when you need to sleep. It's a mark of sovereignty.