I had quite a busy week. In addition to my normal parenting, home, training, and work responsibilities, I took care of my three nieces and nephew— ages three through nine years. They are wonderful kids and we truly had an absolute blast. It was definitely worth working through a couple weekends and losing a few hours of sleep.
The kids left Thursday evening and then on Friday I had another extremely early workout before taking both of my boys to get their wisdom teeth removed. On the way home I attempted to use my credit card at Smoothie King, and after it was declined I realized the number was likely stolen. Thankfully I had cash and so we drove away with giant, overly priced smoothies for the recent oral surgery patients. While they spilled all over their numb mouths, seatbelts, and clothes, I juggled calling Jamie to figure out the credit card, helping the them clean up, and trying to drive.
And I had a realization— I am f*cking tired.
Before you think I am whining, that is not the case. I am thankful that I am bone tired from my own personal choices to have fun with the kids while still working and training. But it did make me reflect on the vital importance of sleep.
We all know some people who claim to “only need 5-6 hours of sleep.” But, I am guessing that most of you who read this blog regularly physically challenge your bodies, in addition to living lives that are full of other physical, mental, and emotional demands. So, you likely need more sleep.
Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk. Sleep is important.
I know exactly how lack of sleep (less than eight hours) affects my ability to function. I suggest that you honestly assess what this number is for you.
For me, one night of around six hours of sleep often gives way to more intentional focus the next day, which can lead to better performance in my training or racing, and in my work. I try to remember this if I am anxiously approaching a night when I know that I won’t get a full eight hours.
When I string together two+ nights I start to feel the negative affects: slight headache, low creativity, irritability, and inability to hit workout targets. This is also when I experience my least favorite side effect of being “bone tired”— cognitive decline and slow reaction time. Although I can still function as a human, I feel like I lack focus and wit and am also a bit unsteady or unsafe. Like I sound like a moron at meetings and/or I shouldn’t be driving… and especially not driving while talking on the phone and wiping tropical smoothie off my adult son’s poor, numb face.
Thankfully, being outside helps. And so my training is often the best part of my day when I am exhausted. But, I know that I need to get back into my early to bed, early to rise routine in order to benefit my body and my brain.
As I consider how to get (mostly) back in my sleep groove, I thought I would share a few things that work for me, with the hope that they might help you if you are struggling with some summer fun fatigue too.
- I gave up caring about what family, friends, or the world thinks about early bedtimes. If I want to get in bed at 7:45pm to be sleeping by 8pm, I do. Unless we have an evening activity, nothing exciting is happening in my house after that time anyway. I listen to my body and follow the sleep rhythm that works best for me. I have never been a late night girl— even in college. My brain and body are more alert at 5am than 9pm, and so I honor that. (And when my kids were little I put them to bed earlier!)
- I try to stay close to the same sleep schedule all week, with exceptions of random late nights for special occasions. I love to have fun, but if I can tell that the night is winding down then I head home. And if I suspect that the party will go late, I do my best to plan a solid day of rest for the next day.
- I pretty religiously practice good sleep hygiene. I put my phone away at least 30 minutes before bed and read rather than watch TV. If friends text me past 8pm they know they’ll likely get a 5am response. This has made a true difference in my ability to stay asleep.
- I say “no” sometimes to be able to ensure that I get sleep. I don’t view this as a “sacrifice,” but more as an investment in my physical and mental health. One exception is that I always say “yes” to my adult aged “kids” when they want to talk to me at night. Although it is rare since they know I am kind of a puddle after 9pm, if they need to chat, I am there for them. And it is always worth it.
I get that some of these may not work for you. But if notice that you feel more alert and refreshed after better sleep, then I suggest you try making some changes to regularly get more of it. And if you wonder how you’ll feel, give it a try for a couple weeks. You may find that the 8pm bedtime is not so much a funny joke, but something glorious. Or maybe that is just me. 😉
I will “sleep when I am dead,” but I also want to sleep now to make sure each day I feel fully alive.