My war on sleep and why I’m losing

photo credit: peasap via photopin cc

I’m writing an article about the health benefits of sleep for work, and I’m probably the worst person to do it.

Or maybe I have it backwards. Maybe I am the best to do it because of how flippantly I have treated sleep and how I need a kick in the pants to take it seriously.

The past year has been rough in terms of sleep. I have written about my lack of sleep many times. And yet, despite being aware of how little sleep I get and how much I actually need, I still seem to be trying to wage my own war on sleep — taking on new projects, signing up for extra activities, volunteering to help even when I know time is tight.

Last fall I felt miserable. I remember crying in my parents’ kitchen about how tired I was. I remember driving home from their house in the evenings and being terrified that I would fall asleep at the wheel.

I think that’s when I got serious about sleep.

I actually began taking a hard look at how turning my nose up at sleep was hurting me. I felt awful, the weight was creeping back on, and my family didn’t want to hang out with me.

I’m better now. Way better. I had a chance to rest over the holidays, and I have made sleep more of a priority for this challenge. I don’t work as late as I used to. My productivity sucks when I’m so tired I can’t think. It’s better or me to sleep and think clearly than not and.. Well.. Be a scatterbrained idiot.

I guess I’m curious if I can keep up the better sleep habit for the long haul. Habits are best changed by creating new ones. Hopefully the terrible memories of last fall compared to how rested I now feel will help.

I’m literally too tired to continue my battle against sleep. I’m ready to give up and let sleep win.

‘One day I will sleep’

Did you know it’s National Sleep Awareness Week?

I happen to be one of the millions of Americans who don’t get enough sleep. Believe me, it’s not something to be proud of.

“I don’t put my sleep on my food log, because I’m afraid you’ll get jealous.”

That’s what my friend Beth told me one recent morning before Crossfit. I’m Beth’s accountability partner as she works toward some fitness, health and professional goals. She sends me and Zach her food & workout logs every week for feedback and encouragement to stay on track.

I don’t sleep enough. When I went in for my checkup last month, my doctor was pleased with everything I was doing… except my sleep. I average about 6 hours a night. If I get 8 hours (which is very rare), it feels luxurious.

It’s just a matter of priorities. Family comes first, then work, then working out. Everything else is extra. One day I will sleep, and I’m sure when that day comes my strength and consistency will improve dramatically.

But it’s not just a matter of feeling tired. Sleep affects just about every aspect of your health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is linked to how much we eat, whether we exercise, and how we function on a daily basis. And when I did research at work last month on heart disease and stroke, good sleep health was an important part of preventing disease.

I’m fortunate to not have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Amount of sleep is my problem, but sleep disorders are really common, too. Andy was diagnosed several years ago with sleep apnea, and he uses a C-Pap machine every night. It made a huge difference in how he functions during the day.

I was perusing the Sleep Foundation’s site, and I came across some really great tips for how to sleep better:

  1. Establish a regular bed and wake time
  2. Avoid nicotine altogether and avoid caffeine close to bedtime
  3. Avoid alcohol
  4. Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least 3 hours before bedtime)
  5. Establish a consistent relaxing “wind-down” bedtime routine
  6. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable
  7. Discuss the appropriate way to take any sleep aid with a healthcare professional

Personally, I wouldn’t take any sleep aids — but it was among the tips.

I highly recommend reading Mark Sisson’s Definitive Guide to Sleep. Now, go to sleep!

My priorities

It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since I tightened up my nutrition and set new goals for myself.  While body fat isn’t really one of those goals, I decided it would be good to see where I am.

I should have done this at the start, but whatever.

Zach found the form with my body measurements from 2 years ago.  What an amazing change over the past 2 years! I have shrunk!

It was fascinating to see how I have dropped so many inches all over. Literally, EVERYWHERE is smaller.

And no surprise — body fat is down, too. I’m now at just over 20% body fat, which is down a couple of percentage points from when I did the I AM Challenge this year.

My favorite thing that Zach said was that I was looking “veiny.” That made me laugh. 🙂 No really — he gave me credit for working hard, said I was looking good, and told me to keep doing what I’m doing.

I expressed my frustration at what I perceive is a lack of strength and gains, and in his own way he reassured me that things will change. He told me to just lift heavy stuff – just focus on that (which is what I’ve been trying to do). And then, he told me when I come down to the other gym and start doing the Oly class I’ll get strong — I won’t be able to help it, because that’s what they do.

I think I’m figuring out what I want and what I need to do to get there. Part of that has been setting priorities.

One of those priorities is sleep. Sleep has been haywire (“Cindy, that’s bad girl,” Beth has said when she looks at my log). But last night, I specifically went to bed early and got nearly 8 hours. I’ve got to do that more often than not, but it’s a start.

My love-hate relationship with sleep

I can tell I haven’t had enough sleep.  I’m hungry!

Plus, I totally flaked on a workout last night and I didn’t feel all that strong at the gym this morning.

Push Press

Results: 45-55-60-65-75-80

To be fair, I did get one rep at 80# — it was the second rep I scratched on.  Would I have been successful with more sleep?  Good question.

3 rounds
50 situps
50 lunges

Time: 10:45

I can do situps and lunges all day long, so to speak.  Andy thought I should have been able to knock this WOD out in under 8 minutes.  I know I should have done it in under 10.  On round 3, I could tell I had paced myself too much.  I should have thrown myself into it, leaving nothing to spare.

Damn, sleep.

I wish it weren’t so important to health, because it’s one of the last hurdles I’ve been facing.  It’s endlessly frustrating to be tired, but also to have so much that I want to fit in during a day that I simply can’t.  Yes, I can choose not to fill my schedule so much.  But I don’t WANT to.  I want to do everything I set my mind to!  Can’t I have it all?  The stubborn part of me says “YES.”

It’s with that stubbornness that I battle daily.

Damn sleep.

Food fanatic and ‘Elizabeth’

I have been RAVENOUS the past few days.  Simply hungry!  But more on that later.  First….

In one year, I will do the following workout with at least 85# on the bar or more and scaling the ring dips with the smallest band if at all.

Squat Cleans (M 135# / W 95#)
Ring Dips

Time: 9:27 @ 65# (one foot on ground for scaled dips)

The last time I did this WOD was August.  I was 8 months pregnant.  I did hang power cleans with the 45# bar and scaled ring dips.

This time, the weight was challenging, but it was not my max for squat clean — I could tell.  My quads burned and it was hard to not to stop after every 2 by the last round.  There was a 10min cutoff, and I was hoping to finish — but if I had used a band on the dips, I probably wouldn’t have.

I raced home to make breakfast.  Like I said… ravenous.

But even though I felt hungry, I diverged from my usual path of eating a small protein-fat snack within 30 min.  Why the change?  This article on cholesterol and fasting.  (There’s a mention near the end.)  It also just seemed silly to snack a mere 30 minutes before breakfast.  Besides, I planned a big breakfast this morning to take advantage of the intense workout.  I made a breakfast hash of pork, chard, onion and mushrooms (spiced up with tumeric, coriander and cumin), scrambled eggs, and pan-fried sweet potatoes with cinnamon.  It was gooooooooood!

I’ve been thinking about why I’m so hungry, and it could be lack of sleep.  I’ve only been averaging 6 1/2-7 hours a night.  People need 8 or 9 hours.  Last night I got 5 1/2.  I know I can function, but I just get worn down.  Really, I could get more sleep.  I need more sleep.  It should be a priority.

I’ll work on that.

Unstoppable me

I have to make an effort to not pile the activities on during my days.  It’s something I’ve gotten much better at doing as my son has grown older, but it’s still a work in progress.  I just have a lot of interests, a lot of people I want to see and a lot of things I want to do.

It’s hard to choose, and it’s even harder to slow down unless I’m forced to.

Now that I’m able to be out and about, I WANT to be, baby or no.  I hate being reclusive, and I want to be there for my son, too!

Today, when I took him to his school’s fall festival (after a morning hair appointment, trip to the Farmer’s Market and violin lesson), a friend from the school commented that I’m unstoppable, since I’m out and about with kids in tow just 4 weeks after birth.

Unstoppable?  I never thought of myself like that.  I guess that’s true.  I’ve had people also call me driven and ambitious.  Personally, I’m just restless.  That’s all.  I can’t stand sitting still.

Well, I sat still long enough yesterday to eat some ice cream during a rare quiet moment at home.  Of course, afterward, I insisted on working out.  But Mads has been restless too lately, and has needed my attention, so it had to be short and inside.  So here’s what we cooked up.

4 rounds
15 DB thrusters (15#)
15 sit ups
15 lunges

Time: 12:12

Afterward, Andy and I traded off trying to lull the baby to sleep.

Andy soothes Madeline

MadelineSleep.  It’s so important.  Thankfully I’m getting 5-6 hours of interrupted sleep each night.  It won’t be forever, but I’m definitely not operating at peak performance.  Haha!

If you’re able to sleep, get some!  And be thankful that you can!