Sleeping My Way To the Top

Yesterday, a friend posted a video of a TED talk where Arianna Huffington argues that her new secret to success is…getting more sleep.

I think she’s onto something.

Her words reminded me of a conversation with a colleague I used to work with.  For years, I’d been awed by this woman’s ability to juggle: husband, kids, work, ministry, travel, friends, beautiful home, entertaining…she did it all. Her schedule made me feel like I must be lacking some sort of accomplishment gene, because I was only doing about half of what she was and I was at full capacity.

Then one day she mentioned that she’d pulled an all-nighter the night before.  Not because of a sick child or a deadline.  She was just getting things done.  Another colleague asked how often this happened, and she said that this wasn’t all that unusual…and that most nights she only got 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  Yes, she was tired, she said. But this was what had to happen to keep her life running.  I think she was a bit surprised that we weren’t all doing the same thing.  And she seemed unaware that sleep is something we need, and that not getting it has long-term consequences.

My awe faded pretty quickly after that.  I need sleep, and when I don’t get enough it’s not pretty.  I’m grateful for my parents, who value sleep so highly that years ago, when Dad’s early mornings clashed with Mom’s night-owl tendencies, they set up a system of napping that has endured since I was 7 or 8 years old. (To this day, no one who knows my parents would call or stop by between 11am-2pm, because one or both of them will be asleep.) What I learned from this is that sleep matters… it’s one of the “big rocks” I have to put in the jar first if I want my life to work.

Of course, there are seasons where getting enough sleep isn’t possible (if you have a new baby, for example, or are wrestling with an illness or studying for the bar exam).  But in most seasons, I have choices that make sleep possible or preclude it. These aren’t easy choices–it’s tough to say no to things, or to inconvenience others because my schedule is different; it’s hard to trust that everything will get done. But if God designed me to need sleep, then presumably He’s using that time for His purposes, just as much as He uses my “productive hours” during the day.

This video reminds me that I want to push back against the temptation to use exhaustion as a badge of honor, or evidence of how IMPORTANT and BUSY my life is. I want to stand up to the lie that working round the clock is God’s path to success.  I want to trust Him in this, expecting that His plan is better than mine.

Whatever “the top” is in my life, I’m grateful for this reminder that “sleeping around” is a key part of God’s plan to get me there.

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