I used to be really proud of how little sleep I needed to function. I would brag about feeling bright-eyed and full of energy on 4 hours of sleep. It was one of my secrets to productivity— that I could power through the fatigue until I couldn’t recognize I was tired. That was until my body revolted, my adrenals crashed, and along with it, my productivity and willpower.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Everything I had been doing to keep all my balls in the air didn’t work anymore. No amount of caffeine could kick the drowsiness, I was always feeling nauseated, my skin looked dull and I felt about a decade older than I had just a few months earlier. While a poor diet and lack of exercise had a lot to do with the funk I was in, I had no idea the biggest factor in my body’s breakdown was down time… the time needed to rebuild, restore, and work through conflicts and issues I was processing subconsciously.
I talked to my doctor and chiropractor about how I was feeling and both of them evaluated my diet and sleep patterns. Here I was looking for some kind of terrible illness to blame and they simply said, sleep. You need more of it. So, I listened and took it as seriously as any medical diagnosis because that’s how terrible I was feeling. I’m happy to tell you I’m three months into my new sleep routine and it’s incredible how quickly I began to feel like myself again.
Lesson One: You have a “check engine” light and lack of sleep can break it. Not only was my lack of sleep directly affecting my ability to focus, I found my mood swings were more volatile, I was hungry all the time, and just felt agitated most days. I blamed my period, the need for a different anxiety medication, stress, anything BUT the fact I wasn’t getting more than 5 hours of sleep a night.
Lesson Two: “Sleep debt” is a real. You need to give yourself some grace during the recovery period. It’s OK to sleep in on the weekends, to listen to your body when it says “I need more.” Studies show that one good night of sleep after an “all-nighter” can make you feel like you’ve caught up, but the more often you’re staying up all night the more long-term issues you’ll see. According to WebMD, as your sleep debt increases, performance on reaction timing tests worsen at a faster rate for each additional hour spent awake— even though reaction times were within normal limits after waking up. I knew that if I could sleep when my kids slept, and sleep well, then I could bounce back after dealing with a small stretch of one child’s sleep regression instead of having it push me deeper into sleep debt. Which brings me to the most important thing I learned…
Lesson Three: Even adults need “bedtime.” We’re built for rituals and rhythms, unfortunately modern life is anything but predictable. Gone are the days where I would “catch up”on work when I should have been sleeping. I still have to fight the urge to ignore my bedtime and indulge my workaholic tendencies. Unsurprisingly, the more regimented I became in forming health-focused habits, my ability to manage my time and projects increased. I was starting to do more in less time because I didn’t have to spend a ton of energy powering through my to-do list on fumes. I could identify which work could wait until tomorrow or later in the week and focus on what timely work needed to be done in that moment. The ability to compartmentalize everything on my plate was so much easier once my brain had enough time to rest and recover.
If you’re ready to start recovering from prolonged sleep deprivation, here are a couple short and fast tips that helped me learn to love my bed again and look forward to shutting off at the end of the day.
1. Remove ALL screens and electronic devices. Find an alarm clock you can use instead of your phone and stick with the “no phones in the bedroom” rule for a month. It helps if you do this with your partner, too. Some of these habits are harder to break with your sharing your space with a fellow screen addict.
2. Get a mattress and bedding that fit your needs. Once we brought a Sleep Number bed into our house, both Joe and I started sleeping better because we were able to customize our settings to our exact preferences. I thought I was a firm mattress person until I found out my body is better aligned and more restful on a softer mattress. I also have my settings scheduled to turn on my foot warmer a half hour before bedtime so it is extra cozy and inviting when I sign off for the night.
Purchase: Sleep Number c2 360 Smart Bed, $999
3. Try black out shades or a sleep mask. You’d be surprised how much deeper you sleep when ambient light isn’t flowing in. I would always find myself more restless during a full moon for this reason.
Purchase: Royce Leather Eye Mask – $40, Black Out Shades by Barn and Willow
4. Use a sound machine!!! When my mind is racing I make sure to turn on soothing sounds. I personally prefer the sound of a distant summer thunderstorm. I recommend using a multi-use device like an Echo Dot for both your sound machine and alarm clock because there are no screens, you can access your phone without actually using your phone, and simple voice commands allow you to stay zen instead of getting distracted by Instagram or email when signing off for the night. If you need to check the time in the middle of the night, keep an analog clock next to your bed.
Purchase: Echo Dot- $30, BALDR Alarm Clock – $30
5. Try meditations designed for restful sleep. Generally meditation is best practiced at peak awake times during the day but it can be helpful for those of us who have a hard time shutting our brains down. I use Headspace for all my meditation practices and they have some great resources for getting ready for sleep, lucid dreaming, and falling back to sleep. I keep a notebook and a pen next to my bed to get any thoughts or to-do items out of my head and on paper so I don’t have to worry about remembering them in the morning.
Purchase: Big Idea Book- $16, Russel & Hazel Brass Pen– $35
6. Make your routine something to look forward to. I used to fall into bed with a face full of make up. Now I’ve started a beauty routine that feels like a mini spa session and helps me look forward to a bit of pampering while I wind down. When we treat ourselves well we treat others better, too. And who knows what a small change like that can snowball into. Try soaking in bath with sea salt, slather on a lip treatment, mist your bed with lavender, or apply an eye mask while you read.
Purchase: Floris London Lavender & Mint Room Spray – $40, Verso Revitalizing Eye Mask – $60, Way of Will Himalayan Bath Salt – $12, Aveda Feed My Lips Nourish-Mint, $24
Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Sleep Number. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.
While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for the development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored.
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dog. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.