Alexander Dumas describing D’artagnan in The Three Musketeers:
“After this, satisfied with the way in which he had conducted himself at Meung, without remorse for the past, confident in the present, and full of hope for the future, he retired to bed and slept the sleep of the brave.”
I hadn’t slept well in five years. I tried everything. I went to a bunch of doctors — they had no answer. Sleep exercises, cutting out alcohol/caffeine, exercising at all times of the day, over-the-counter sleep medicine, prescription sleep medicine, whatever.
Nothing worked. I was beginning to lose hope I’d ever sleep longer than 4–5 hours in a row. Finally, I stumbled upon the solution. After that, I began sleeping better than ever. Honestly. It takes someone who is literally unable to sleep to know how truly rapturous a good night’s sleep is. Funny enough, the solution had nothing to do with sleep, and everything to do with who I was during the day. Here’s what I mean.
Scammers Never Sleep Well.
In the World War II movie Inglorious Basterds, American Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt) gave a speech to his men about fighting nazis. “Every night they’re tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done,” he declared. This is an extreme example, but there’s an important lesson here:
If you do wrong during the day, your subconscious will torture you at night for the wrong you have done. There’s no escaping it.
Last week, my wife and I were this close to giving a scammer $4,000 dollars. Thank God we didn’t (and thank God for the bank teller who helped us realize we were about to get scammed!). Long story short, a scammer had copied an apartment listing and cut the price in half, attracting gullible would-be tenants like my wife and I with a ridiculously low price. This scammer had a sob story about his ailing father, how he didn’t use an official realtor, and how he needed us to send a special (nonrefundable) wire-transfer to pay for his ailing father’s medical bills.
But after my wife did some serious online digging, she burst through my office door. “It’s a scam! It’s a scam!!” she cried, with a mix of triumph and heartbreak. We caught the guy, but it made us so angry and sad that someone would do something like that to a young couple without a lot of money, caring for a newborn. What kind of scumbag would do that?
My wife has no sympathy for that man, and I totally get that. He tried to rob us, stealing from our innocent little family. I feel the same. I told him never to contact us again unless it was to give us his location so I could have the police go arrest him.
But I also felt something like…sorrow for the guy. He does wrong all day, lying, cheating, stealing from innocent people. I know he’s not sleeping well. I know his subconscious tortures him at night for the evil he does all day. If you aren’t proud of the things you do each day, you won’t sleep well.
Not Being Your True Self Will Destroy You
As best-selling author David Kadavy wrote, “When our true self doesn’t get a chance to follow its desires, it acts out in strange ways.”
Growing up, I had a severe addiction to pornography. I know how that sounds — wow, teenage boy secretly looks at porn? What else is new? But for me, it was far worse; my behavior was obsessive, compulsive, and out of control. It went well beyond the “normal” behavior.
From a very early age, I used lust and sexual fantasy as a crutch for just about everything. Any negative emotion I had — anger, loneliness, exhaustion, fear, jealousy, insecurity — I turned to porn. In the moment, it was an easy fix.
I didn’t realize that my true self was getting suffocated. I started having these weird dreams where a mean-looking version of me was bullying the real me, shoving a sock down my throat. It wasn’t pretty. I’d have sudden mood swings, getting really sad all of a sudden. Then really impatient, or angry, whatever.
At the time, I didn’t realize that my true self, the real version of me buried underneath all the porn, was crying out for help. He was angry, scared, and abused.
Looking back, I had very few real friendships. The truth was, I was an emotionally stunted little kid in a teenager’s body, and connecting with people was really hard. I was so used to lying, pretending, and numbing myself, that I didn’t even know who I really was.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I started going to therapy, even a 12-step program, and started getting my life back on track. I started doing the work to figure out my true self, and free him from the prison he’d been in for nearly 15 years.
It was hard work and took many years. But now, I finally feel like I know my real self. And I’ve found that the more I let my real self run the show, the better I feel. All those annoying clichés like “just be yourself” started to make sense in a weird way. Also, I started sleeping better.
If You Want To Be an Amazing Sleeper, Cut Out All Dishonesty, Cheating, and Lying From Your Life.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the titular Macbeth kills King Duncan in his sleep to gain control of the kingdom. But seconds after he murders Duncan, Macbeth thinks he hears a strange voice: “Sleep no more! Macbeth is murdering sleep.”
Lady Macbeth, his accomplice, just thinks he’s hearing things. “The voice kept crying, ‘Sleep no more!’ to everyone in the house,” Macbeth protests. “‘Macbeth has murdered sleep, and therefore Macbeth will sleep no more.”
It’s a terrifying prospect; Macbeth realizes his punishment for murder is never having a good night’s sleep again. His subconscious will torture him for the evil he did for the rest of his life.
Although I’ve never murdered any 11th century kings in their sleep, I have done scummy things. I’ve lied, cheated, and taken advantage of situations so I could win. I’ve selfishly took what others needed so I could get “more.” But I’ve cut out all those behaviors, and I sleep so much better now. Honestly, it scares me to think of lying and cheating, because I know how horrible it feels knowing I’ve done wrong.
I know how horrible it feels to not sleep well. If you want to be an amazing sleeper, you have to be right with the world and your fellows. As James Allen once wrote:
“A man’s wishes and prayers are only gratified when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.”
It’s hard to feel good about yourself if you spend your days taking advantage of others. But if you serve others, selflessly love them, and try to help people as best you can, you can rest assured knowing you’ll sleep much better and feel much more peace in your life.
I learned in therapy that even “stealing glances” at attractive people takes away a small something from them. In a way, I was stealing from attractive girls all my life, using them — even the image of them across the room — to selfishly serve my own desires. It was wrong, and I didn’t realize how it was affecting the rest of my life.
After five years of horrible sleep, it wasn’t sleeping pills that finally helped me. It wasn’t condescending doctors that kept suggesting I just needed to drink less coffee; it wasn’t exercise, changing my diet, or any of the countless sleep strategies I tried.
It was just deciding to be a better person, and cutting out as much dishonesty and selfishness from my life as possible.
The results have been incredible. Although my wife and I have a five-month old and aren’t sleeping that great right now (heh), before we had our kid I was sleeping really well. No more waking up once an hour, six times a night for months. I regularly slept six to eight hours in a row, which I can’t overstate how incredible that felt for me.
If you struggle with sleep, by all means, do the same research I did. Cutting out excess caffeine will probably help. So will exercise. Perhaps sleeping pills would really help you.
But there’s no denying that being a better person during the day and focusing on helping people — especially if you have a history of not really doing that — will help you sleep much better.
As my friend Tim Denning once said, “Not being you will destroy you.”
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