Sometimes I say the same things over and over and that can get really boring. But just like that song that is “your ultimate favorite”, there’s another record out there we repeat over and over again and it remains just as sweet as the day (night) before… sleep.
No doubts about it, I’m a huge fan. I’ve gone through times in my life where a good night sleep has been really elusive. From those times I can make two direct connections.
First is the fact that the status of my life and relationships and work impact my sleep. Without fail. In tough times when I’m stressed or have too much going on or dealing with a large life problem, I can’t sleep. I’m afflicted with insomnia. I wake up at all hours and my brain is firing on all cylinders. It’s trying to find a way out. It’s trying to solve the problem.
You only have to rewind right here on this very blog to earlier this year to read the evidence. I was a complete mess and inside the darkest place. That darkness was terrifying and I didn’t want to close my eyes for the monsters waiting at 2AM.
I was dealing with the end of a five year relationship that I could not let go of and on top of that a job that was killing me. Every day a new crisis and I felt responsible for all of it. The not sleeping well bled into the day and resulted in exhaustion and the inability to function. I was “on” when I had to be and very much “off” the rest of the time.
This meant my home life suffered, my children suffered, and I personally suffered. Which leads directly to the second connection and that is that lack of sleep causes mental distress.
If you don’t get enough, you start to go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. Sadness, anxiety, memory loss, mental focus, and lack of enthusiasm for life are all intensified by sleep deprivation. What’s worse is that all of this leads right back to the first problem.
This is an ugly viscous cycle that can be a downward spiral into oblivion. You’re stressed and can’t sleep and the lack of sleep makes the stress worse. If you don’t break the cycle how can you ever recover? And what if it’s something worse like depression. That spiral can lead to thoughts of suicide. That’s when the brain has exhausted all other solutions and come to the conclusion that it’s the only way out.
Thankfully I did not fall far enough to get to that place, but I was not so far from it that I could not see it. I could see how someone might end up in that place. I could recognize my own dark thoughts about not wanting to try and navigate my life as it was any longer and for a moment had a glimpse of what that would be like. It was terrifying.
I drank so much one night that I ended up drunk and naked in my shower with the water pouring down on me as I cried aloud that “I just can’t do it anymore” and that “I don’t want to have to do it anymore”. Most of the rest of that night was a blur, and thankfully I had a friend close by that took care of me.
Even in my despair I recognized sleep as a key factor for finding my way back. Again rewind to blog post after blog post where I wrote about sleep. So many times, in fact, that I created a category for it so anyone who wanted to follow just that part of my journey could tune into all things sleep related. So far just this year, I’ve written about sleep 46 times, 47 if you count this one (gotta love statistics).
I went through trials of taking sleep aid meds, trying to regulate my sleep by going to bed at the same time every night, and watching the results on my FitBit to see my progress. Each week I was becoming increasingly more aware that it would be a combination of stress reduction and better choices. If you are following along, this culminated in me deciding to quit my job and take some time off of work. It was the best decision of my life.
Every day I’m awake and every night I sleep I get farther and farther away from that terrible state I was in. I’m pleased to report that I’m sleeping well almost every night now and have been free of medications and suppliments for months. I’m not yet getting a full solid 8 hours a night, but I am able to sleep through the night and I think it is now down to just choosing to go to bed at 10 every night. My average night sleep is hovering right around 7 hours, which is worlds better than where I was.
Thankfully the cycle works in the other direction too. The less stress you have, the better sleep you get, and the more relaxed and stress free your days are. I’m not yet to the point of going back to work, but I know that when I do, I will be able to take on whatever challenges are before me. I’m actually getting excited at some of the possibilities that are out there. I’m attributing a huge amount of my bounce back to getting this sleep thing under control.
The bottom line is, whatever is going on in life, sleep is a concern and needs to be a priority. In the constant balancing act between self and work and relationships and family, there should be no compromise when it comes to sleep.
That being stated, I’m just one person and by no means an expert so don’t take my word for it. Here’s a really great article that goes into a deeper dive about sleep and it’s importance in your overall health. Just one more click down the rabbit hole and you’ll be a believer too.
From this article it’s clear that sleep deprivation can lead to all sorts of issues and has a huge impact on your physical health as well. It’s just one more supporting set of facts that confirm that my quitting my job may actually add years back to my life.😃
No need to bookmark any of this though, because like sleep, this is one record that will always be on repeat and I am sure if one waits long enough, it WILL “play” it again.
No Longer Sleepless in Omaha,