Getting enough sleep has been a long term issue for me, not because of insomnia, but because of my perfection-productivity personality complex. After years of pushing myself through medical school on sleep fumes with two little kids, my body can no longer tolerate sleep deprivation.
It’s been hard to remedy the situation because I am stuck in a vicious sleep deprivation cycle (or I just love my bad habits too much). I drink coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. I brain crash habitually by 6:30pm, if not earlier. This is when I enter the anti-productivity zone. My brain and body are too tired to function until I get my second wind around 9pm. Then, I’ll get so excited that I actually feel alive, that I’ll get to all the tasks I put aside from 6:30 – 9pm. Before I know it, it’ll be 11pm, and I’ll feel more energized than I’ve felt all day. The productivity queen in me will want to finish all the tasks I abandoned earlier, which will put me to bed around midnight or later. The next day, the girls will wake me up by 6:30am, and the cycle repeats.
I’m desperate to forever break out of this unhealthy sleep deficient lifestyle. I crave a life that blesses me with quality sleep. This won’t happen on it’s own. I have to make it happen. I have to intentionally make a new way, an escape, out of the old sleep deprived life and into the new sleep sufficient life.
Statistics tell me that you’re not getting enough sleep either, so here’s the escape, for you and for me.
1. GET IN BED, on time, every day, at the same time.
Your body really does work like a clock, and it runs by a rhythm. Do your best to get in bed at the same time every single day. No more of these 11pm, 11:30pm, and midnight bed times when your kids wake up at 6am everyday.
2. Get off the coffee crutch.
Coffee is the jet fuel for the sleep deprivation ferris wheel. It numbs out your awareness of how tired you really are, and leads you to falsely believe that you can get away with little sleep. If you don’t drink it, you’ll realize how tired your body really is.
3. Drink green tea.
Green tea has enough caffeine for a mini pick-me-up, but without a 4:00 pm coffee crash. It’s loaded with antioxidants, so it will also fight any inflammation in your body that’s contributing to your fatigue. Besides, sleep deprivation is pro-inflammatory.
4. Drink more water.
Sleep deprivation leads to dehydration because you forget to drink water, and dehydration makes you tired. It’s a double whammy. Drinking all the water you need may take the edge off your sleepiness in a way that helps you do what you need to do so that you can get in bed when you need to get in bed.
5. Stop eating the foods that make you feel like crap.
Sleep deprivation confuses your hunger cravings, which can lead you to eat foods that make you feel even more tired. When you’re sleep deprived is when you need to be eating the best. You need to eat the food that will optimize the little energy you do have from living on so little sleep.
6. Stop eating before bed.
Insufficient sleep results in a decrease in the hormone that makes you feel satiated from food (the hormone is leptin). This not only leads to overeating but eating at inappropriate times. Eating before bed can keep you awake longer than you intend to be, thus propelling the sleep deprivation cycle. Either you’re eating instead of sleeping, or you’re not able to fall asleep right away because you’re getting acid reflux from laying down too soon after eating.
7. Take energy supporting supplements.
B complex vitamins and adrenal supporting herbs can throw you a rescue rope. They shouldn’t be used as a substitute for sleep, but they can get you through the sleep deprivation like nothing else. Sometimes you need this kind of energy to get your life back on track so that you can actually sleep. Don’t be your own doctor. See a licensed naturopathic doctor who can prescribe the best supplements for your situation.
It sounds so counterintuitive, but exercise is the best antidote for fatigue. Exercise will also improve your quality of sleep.
9. Complete essential tasks before luxuries.
Ask yourself, “What do I need to do today so that I can get in bed early?”. Do those things before you spend your time on non-essentials. Finish what’s required of you, when it’s required of you, and then if there’s leftover time, you can indulge (but not if it’s going to keep you up late).
10. Don’t sit in front of a screen when you only have enough energy to lift one finger to click.
I have a friend that struggles with chronic fatigue, and she told me a little secret. When she opens her laptop, she stands. Because she’s so tired, if she sat down, she wouldn’t be able to get up. If you need to check something on your computer briefly, stand to do it, and then be on your merry way. And by all means, do not turn on the tv when you have energy this low! Get in bed.
11. Create a social media bedtime.
Many people lay in bed with their phones, scrolling their Facebook or Instagram feeds right before (and after) they turn out the light. Then, they’re complaining about how tired they are the next day. If you’re so tired, then you should not be on social media when you should be sleeping. Using social media immediately before bed is especially a bad idea because the type of light emitted from the cell phone can negatively affect your melatonin secretion (melatonin is a sleep hormone).
12. Let Go.
Fifteen minutes before your bed time, it’s time to stop your day and get ready for bed. Let go of the unfinished tasks you weren’t able to complete in time and bless them for tomorrow.
Are you currently stuck on the sleep deprivation ferris wheel? How can you get the sleep you really need?