The Beupstry

There are plenty of places online to be down. This isn't one of them.

Go The F*** To Sleep!

on January 4, 2015

Last Thursday night at about 8pm, I realized that I was zonked. Not sure who whacked me with the sleepy stick, but I was out. I went to bed at 9pm and didn’t wake up until 10am the next day! I felt GREAT on Friday. That is, until about 11pm or so when I realized that I must have used up all my sleep for the week and was probably not getting to sleep anytime soon.

And I didn’t. I kept hoping that I would fall asleep EVENTUALLY so I stayed in bed, tossing & turning (which I’m sure was delightful for the person sleeping next to me). I had a miserable night, and an equally miserable Saturday. I felt really low and hopeless and generally blah. If you had asked me yesterday whether I felt like I could achieve ANY of my goals for this year, or any goals for the rest of my life, my gut response would have been “I cannot imagine how that would be possible.”




I had to explicitly remind myself that I didn’t feel that way because of any external change in circumstance, but just because I hadn’t gotten the sleep I need. It was tough, but it did help me through the day and today (after a pretty good night’s sleep) I’m back to being hopeful and working on the things I want to do with my life.

Think about that – my real-world circumstances were not materially different on Friday than they were on Saturday* – the thing that had changed so much was me and my perception of my world. And THAT was purely driven by lack of sleep.

One of my goals for this year is to take much better care of my physical self (I’ve got goals around mental/emotional self too, but I’m actually pretty happy with the progress I’ve been making there – I’ll be writing about that as well). It took me a lot of years to realize that my emotional well-being and state of mind was so tightly coupled to how well rested I was, but I get it now. Some people figure that out by taking a journaling/quantified-self approach, others just wake up one morning and realize it. I’ve never been much of a self-measurer, so my approach was to work on being mindful of how I felt & to look for alternate explanations that didn’t boil down to “everything sucks”. If you aren’t a metrics geek, you can end up despairing of ever making any changes in your life because the “MG”s around you tell you that you can’t change what you don’t measure. That’s not true. You may not change as quickly, and it may be harder to see changes but don’t you believe that you can’t change your perspective without a fitbit or a kanban board! Start paying attention & you’ll see.

There are plenty of online resources and tips on how to sleep better, but I want to share one I came up with on my own. When my head is cold, I fall (and stay) asleep much better. I have a couple of gel ice packs that I keep in the freezer and if I am having trouble falling asleep I get one & lay it across the top of my head. It really works!** Obviously, as you move around they don’t maintain perfect contact with your head, so I thought about building a cap that I could slip them into to hold them in place. It turns out that kind of cap already exists and is used for preventing hair loss during chemotherapy, so I could just buy one if I wanted to. But I don’t think I want to, because during the night, the gel absorbs heat from my head and ends up being a warm cap instead of a cold one. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I swap the current gel pack with the other one from the freezer. Boom. Back to sleep.

*OK, Friday was sunny and Saturday was grey and drizzly and while that definitely does play into my mood, it’s even wetter, colder, and grosser out there today and yet my perspective is up.

**This works most of the time but in past I have gotten so worried about not being able to fall asleep or not getting enough sleep that I stress myself out – making sleep impossible. I am fully supportive of using medical means to address that type of negative loop. I use over the counter Nytol to help me fall asleep when I need to and if I hit a long patch of sleep-associated anxiety I will go to the doctor to get sleeping pills. EVERYTHING in life is harder when you’re not getting the sleep you need. Do what you need to do for you.


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