I went to Alaska a few years ago to observe a film crew in action as they captured riveting footage of bears and wolves. On my last night there, we were filming a mama bear and her cubs while they fished for salmon. But before they could catch their dinner, a wolf appeared and it was abundantly clear—even to rookie me—that the wolf was hoping for dinner, too, and baby bears were on his menu.
I could almost hear the dramatic score in my head as the scene unfolded before my eyes. It was a bit of a chess match—the wolf would make a move and mama bear would chase him off. But far too soon, in my opinion, she decided to go back to fishing, leaving her cubs on the shore to literally fend for themselves. The wolf saw his opportunity and approached the cubs—my heart could hardly stand it. But—much to my delight—those two cubs chased the big bad wolf off themselves.
As I prepared myself to endure another round or six, I watched the wolf circle around behind us, lie down, yawn (my what big teeth he had) and take a nap. A few minutes later, those cubs settled in for their own naps and mama bear joined them. I was incredulous. “They’re sleeping?” I asked the film’s director, a cool Brit who’d filmed wildlife all over the world for a few decades. “Of course they are,” he responded. “Life out here isn’t easy and they need to rest whenever they have the chance.”
I was reminded of this conversation this week when several weeks of short nights and long days officially caught up with me. I’m not exactly protecting my cubs from hungry wolves, but there’s plenty of stress in my life. Instead of making sleep a priority—as experts have advised on talk shows and mattress commercials for years—it seems sleep comes last (literally and figuratively) for a lot of us. I’ve worked in the corporate world for a long time, hearing high-paid executives brag about how little sleep they need as if it’s a precursor to success. I’ve listened to fellow moms talk about how they’ve gotten used to missing out on sleep—that it’s just the way it is. I naively believed that I could handle several weeks of late nights working without any consequences.
We all point to tomorrow when it comes to tackling a big project (or transformation). “I’ll start tomorrow morning,” we say. But we really should be starting tonight. We should be planning for and committing to a proper bedtime, a comforting environment sans electronics or cable news, and whatever help we need to ensure enough sleep. I know people who would scoff at my suggestion: ”Nice thought, but it’s never going to happen,” they’d say. Why? Because there’s too much to do. I wonder if given enough sleep, we’d find tasks easier, if we’d be better able to organize our thoughts and prioritize our responsibilities.
I figure if a hungry wolf can do it while his dinner snoozes nearby, I can certainly give it a try. And in the whole list of things to do, surely sleeping more is an easy sell—one we’d all welcome with open arms and a cushy pillow.