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a woman working hard in her garden while thinking about her bed and how well she will sleep that night

When Working Hard Means Sleeping Hard – Sometimes

As we grow, some things stick with us and others fade slowly away. For instance, I can remember all my old childhood phone numbers and the color of my first bike. I distinctly remember the sound of my grandmother’s voice singing “Blessed Assurance,” the way my mother scrubbed the sink after the dishes were done, and the smell of the Comet she used to do it.

Over the years, I have carried with me many little things my parents and grandparents said, too – little pieces of advice and comments they made as I was growing up. One of those remarks hits hard especially hard when it comes to my insomnia.

Mom's advice: play hard, sleep hard

My mom babysat in our home from the time I was about 5 years old until I was a high school freshman. The parenting advice I gained from her throughout those years was invaluable and spanned everything from skinned knees to the importance of a regular routine.

She also had some advice on sleep as it applied to the children she kept. Time and time again, I heard her tell a mother or father at the end of the day, “She should sleep good tonight. She played hard all afternoon.” Her words carried a lot of weight when I became a mother. Funny enough, I have also found myself taking them to heart as a middle-aged adult suffering from insomnia.

Lately, I can feel my mother’s comment in my very soul. She said it often, so it had to be true, right? Moms just know these things. After all, I had seen it proven more than a few times with my own 2 children. Play hard – sleep hard. I’ve begun to subconsciously act on her advice when I feel a sleepless night looming before me.

Working hard for sleep

It may not always be “play,” but I sure as shooting know how to wear myself out in the hopes of being overcome with a productive exhaustion come bedtime. When I am in “play-hard, sleep-hard” mode, you can find me baking cookies at 9 PM, mopping the kitchen and bathroom at 10:30 PM all while swapping loads of laundry in and out of the washer and dryer. Most of the time, these activities follow a full day at school on my feet and another 2 hours after school teaching PE to kiddos in grades K-5.

The wear-myself-out strategy

The wear-myself-out strategy knows no season. Summer is a great time to play hard. The Tennessee heat alone is enough to drain the life out of a person and, if the stars are aligned, leave you dead on your feet come bedtime. During the late summer, I have been known to work all day only to come home and work in the yard until dark all the while praying it pays off in a deep slumber in a few hours.

It’s not unheard of for me to talk a long walk after mowing the grass and weed-eating around my flower beds and driveway. If it works, it’s worth it, isn’t it?

My results have been mixed

Where my mom’s tried-and-true strategy worked wonders for the little ones, I would be lying if I said it always works for me as an adult. Some nights, when I am pulling the riding mower into the shed as the sun slips below the horizon, I can already tell all my hours of working myself silly will soon prove to be in vain. Some nights are just like that.

Honestly, though, on a good day it all pays off, and I sleep like a baby. That reminds me of something else I often heard growing up: “You have to work hard if you really want something.”

Well, I really want to sleep, friends. For that I am willing to work – and play – hard.

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