“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”—Herophilus
Now is that time of the year when we are making new year commitments and resolutions.
And in the HIV community, activists are encouraged to work nonstop, endless meetings start early and end late at night, we work nonstop.
A day has only 24 hours, and as people living with HIV, we sacrifice our sleep to accommodate everything. I often hear people taking pride in how late they can work and how little sleep they get in order to get things done.
In the early days of the epidemic, we did not have the luxury of sleeping. We had to have things done. In our communities, people were dying nearly every day, and even when antiretroviral therapy became available, it kept people alive but with many harsh and long-term side effects.
In our conferences, meetings, and our lives in general, we had to live in a constant state of emergency.
Today we are in a different era. Treatment works, we are living a longer and healthier life. So now let’s think about having a quality of life. We did not survive those early days to live a stressful life. For 2020, let us slow down and think through our New Year’s resolutions and focus on what is important. And one of the most important things for us to live healthy lives, but which we don’t discuss as much as we need to, is sleep.
What if the infectious disease doctor starts asking people living with HIV how many hours they sleep per night, among other routine questions they ask?
What if as activists we form teams and compete to have the highest sleeping hours by adding each team members’ slept hours in a week? That way, HIV activists will develop a culture of supporting one another to take care of ourselves, and to get support to overcome obstacles preventing them from getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep can be a root to so many health problems, including mood disorders, mental illnesses, depression, weight gain, lack of motivation, lack of energy, and a compromised immune system.
So before blaming all of your health problems on living with HIV and medication side effects, what if you just try making sleep a priority for the first 90 days of 2020? If it doesn’t work for the first few days in a row, do not panic. Just resume and keep on trying.
What if I tell you to stop and start a whole new activism style where you put self-love and self-care first? Sleep is the biggest self-care practice undermined by our activist lifestyle.
Do you feel guilty as a person living with HIV for not getting enough sleep? Do you want to put “sleep” in your 2020 resolutions? Here’s how.
Tell yourself a different story. As human beings, we tend to conform to the stories we tell ourselves. If you tell yourself, “I am a night owl,” or “These pills prevent me from sleeping,” or ”I can’t go to bed early,” tell yourself a different story. Maybe it will help you start behaving in a way that conforms to your new story.
Develop rituals to help you finish your work day. Many of us, including myself, do not have a clear transition from work to wind-down—we work work work all the way to bed, and we wonder why our minds are restless. From now on, develop rituals reminding you that the work day is over. This can be something like having your office lights programmed to shut down at 6 p.m., setting an alarm, resisting the urge to overcommit, and resisting work meetings that go beyond 6 p.m. Other rituals can including taking time to have dinner, preparing a bath, meditation, or soothing music. Some people turn off the television and read a book an hour before bed.
- Limit screen time and all kinds of negativity. Staying on your cell phone or computer will certainly keep you up. If you have a tendency to get into heated debates on social media, take the apps off of your phone, or turn off the notifications so you don’t look at your phone every few seconds. Also, keep your phone out of your bedroom, or at least far away from your bed at night.
At the end of the day, we only have one life. It is up to us to decide to overcome obstacles preventing us from having a good night of sleep and embrace the benefit of a healthy life full of rest.
Make 2020 your year—but you must commit to New Year’s resolutions that include getting enough sleep.
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”—Benjamin Franklin