To contribute to World Sleep Day a few days back, I’d like to share one habit to cultivate on sleep to have a better life.
I will not bore you with another research, nor mentioning successful people who are pro sleep, nor making another attempt to convince you the importance of sleep. It’s obvious you need it. It’s a natural process, and when you go against nature, you go against life.
If until now you still think sleep is for the weak. Read this, this, and this. Or go to google and find thousands of articles that you don’t actually need because you know you need sleep. Don’t waste your time.
One last thing before going to the core message. While drafting the article, this made me laugh. This dead piece of metal called laptop has a “Sleep” button to continue its life. It’s that important.
Use sleep as a reminder of our mortality
Ancient religions provide significant information about the historical and cultural views of sleep. Their view is unique, they resemble sleep with death.
One of the verses in the Quran states:
“It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) to Him will be your return. Then He will inform you of that which you used to do” [verse 6.60]
Homer called sleep “death’s little brother”, Buddha described sleep as “the small death”.
What is wrong with them? You may argue, however, I do found similarities between the two. Both are natural and mysterious, both are outside our control, both make us lose body consciousness. I can’t tell you the truth, as I never experience death. According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus:
“Those who are awake have a single and common world, but in sleep each person turns away from this and enters their own world.”
Whatever beliefs you have, we can cultivate a habit based on these ancient religions to practice humility, appreciation, self-examination, self-mastery, priority in life, and other virtues.
Many great people have been finding ways to remind themselves of their mortality. They knew it would energize them and provide them with a sense of urgency and priority as Ryan Holiday puts it in his great article. They wear memento mori rings, cufflinks, even tattoos to become present and aware that their lives are momentary.
Just like what memento mori does, the ancient religions taught us the same thing. Why don’t we approach sleep as a small death? When we believe it like that, every night we practice humility. We know we might not be awake in the morning, thus, each night we practice gratefulness. We end our day with a prayer. We close our day by saying thank you for life. We don’t take life for granted.
And if we’re lucky to have another day, awaken from the small death, we practice appreciation. We start our day by being grateful, by again saying thank you for life.
Isn’t that a good habit to start and end your day?
Every night, remind yourself with something like this:
“Allah, it is with Your Name that I live and it is with Your Name that I die.” and upon waking up, say “Praise is due to Allah, who gave us life after our death (sleep) and to You is the resurrection.”
To copy Ryan again, it’s not morbid to think about death constantly. It’s stupid not to. Spending a few minutes every day on our mortality is not sad. It creates real perspective and urgency. The existence of death need not be depressing. Because it’s actually invigorating.
Do it tonight and for the rest of your life.