Being Tired - A Practice

by Martin Stepek

It is almost impossible to be mindful when you're very tired. Similarly it's almost impossible to be patient, polite, considerate, content, appreciative or any other good quality when you are in that state. Signs on the motorway state "Don't Drive Tired" because we have learned that we can't concentrate or focus well when tired.

Yet according to a whole series of research in recent years most people don't get the quality of sleep we all need to be at our best, and as a result we are often tired without even noticing because it has become so normal for us to feel that way.

Mindfulness recognises that in order to live a full contented, kind-hearted and appreciate life we need to train our mind. There's a physical aspect to this preparation and self-maintenance work.

What we eat and drink affects us physically and mentally. So does what we do with our body. Sleep is a part of this and it interacts with other habits or activities we regularly do.

Thus we know from research that caffeine and alcohol in different ways diminish the quality of our sleep, yet the most common time for drinking alcohol is in the evening and at night, and many people have a last cup of coffee or tea in the evening.

Even during the day our eating and mental habits affect our energy levels. Fatty or sugary foods seem to give us spikes of highs or lows in terms of how energetic we feel.

And of course the length of time we sleep affects how tired or energetic we feel during the day. Most people like to squeeze as much out of the end of the day as possible, fitting in that last TV programme as if it would be a disaster if they missed it or had to delay watching it for a whole day. So we may sacrifice sleep and therefore quality of life in order to watch TV for longer.

All these things affect our sleep and energy levels and therefore how we experience life in each precious moment. They also affects how mindful we can be during the day. So quality sleep and rest are in my view absolute essentials if we are to live mindfully, develop the best qualities of ourselves, and gain the most from our lives.

We have all developed routines and habits. Have a look at yours today with a view to how energising, uplifting or tiring your daily habits are. Note them down then later ask yourself if it's worth sacrificing the quality of future moments for the enjoyment gained from some of these routine habits which affect your energy levels.


Martin Stepek is one of Scotland's foremost teachers in Mindfulness, a published author of three books in the field and a poet. He is co-founder of Ten for Zen a website which aims to bring mindfulness into the lives of individuals across the UK and beyond. To read more about his background visit his website. Martin is a supporter of Wee Seeds growth.  

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