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Last night was the first night in a couple of months that I actually got a good night’s sleep, and WOW, what a difference it makes in my perspective.
The last couple of months of transition have been tough for me in many respects. Although I’ve made a lot of really positive changes this year, I’ve struggled lately with unusually pronounced mood swings throughout the day, going from feelings of contentment and happiness to strong feelings of self-doubt and worry. On one day I am ready to conquer the world, and the next I’m feeling as though I’ve been run over by it.
I know for me that this has a lot to do with my sleep patterns. As I’ve been losing weight, one benefit is my snoring is much less pronounced, which usually improves the quality of my sleep. However, lately my mind has been overly full, which means that even when I’m somewhat asleep the wheels are still turning. My sleep is generally of the restless kind, where I’ll spend much of the night tossing and turning until I find an hour here and there where I fall off into a dream state. That is generally just about the time when the kids wake up.
The Growing Pains of Working at Home
To make matters more complicated, I’ve really struggled with finding a work at home schedule that agrees with my family schedule. When I was working for my previous employer, I worked at home, but I respected the expectation of availability during core work hours. So regardless of my personal schedule, I was committed to working each day at a minimum from 9AM to 6PM. But with this new self-driven schedule, I tend to be a little too flexible with my time, and I wind up trying to make up for it by burning the sleep candle at both ends. This usually means working during the hours when the kids are asleep. I work into the wee hours of the morning either at the computer or making lists of things I need to do on notepads that are scattered all over the house, try to sleep for a few hours, and then turn around and try to get up at 6AM to start working again before the kids rise. This works for a few days, but ultimately builds a sleep debt that I can’t pay back.
The worst part of this plan is it makes me less productive during the day, which leads to frustration, which in turn manifests itself outwardly to those around me.
Which is a long way of saying, “I get Grumpy.”
I think one thing I need to do is to build a little more structure into my routine. I have read more blog entries than I can count by successful full time bloggers who say that getting up early and writing before you do almost anything else is the key to keeping the momentum. The problem is, I’m finding that if you are robbing from your sleep to do it, you’ll rapidly burn out.
I also think I’m spending too much time thinking about the long term, and need to focus more on the immediate tasks at hand. One of the challenges of working on your own is you have to balance both views constantly, keeping an eye toward the long range plans while making sure that the daily tasks also get done.
For example, as I write this, I’m thinking (literally) about the conceptual notion of exercise over the long haul. But shouldn’t I be thinking about exercising – TODAY?
Diet+Exercise+Sleep+Diet+Exercise+Sleep ad infinitum
Sad to say, the consequences of a cyclical lack of sleep are nowhere more evident than in my diet and exercise routines. What I realized this morning after having slept solidly is that exercise is really a direct reflection of how I am doing emotionally. When I’m struggling emotionally, I don’t exercise. When I’m doing well emotionally, exercise is not only easy, it is a reward to which I look forward. When I’m down, food becomes the reward, and exercise is out the window. When I’m up, I exercise.
Somehow I don’t think I’m the only one caught in this cycle.
It’s no big secret that food, sleep, and exercise are all interrelated. I know for example that if I exercise more, I will likely sleep better. If I sleep better, I’m better equipped emotionally to make good food choices. If I make better food choices, I sleep better, and am more motivated to exercise because I’m making progress. No matter which way I look at it, these three fundamental elements are completely intertwined.
The trick is getting them to fire together. In my estimation, sleep is the key to all of the other elements being in balance. When I lack sleep, I lack the drive that motivates me to do the other things. I wish I could say that exhausting myself physically is the key to good sleep, but for me, it’s never worked that way. I have to find a sense of balance in my mind, in combination with physical tiredness, to accomplish really solid sleep.
And maybe most importantly, I need to exercise. TODAY.
Having slept well last night, I already feel better. I feel more motivated to write, for example. From a writing perspective I’ve struggled recently with trying to find things that really get me going. Writing has become more work than pleasure lately, which is not my normal feeling.
On the weight loss track, I’m not gaining weight, which is a win in my mind, but I’m not really losing much right now either. I’m closing in on my lowest weight slowly – I’m within 3 lbs of that mark, which is great, but I want more than that. Simply NOT Gaining, is not enough. I want to lose another 25 lbs this year. But in order to do that, I know that I need to adjust my sleep habits. I’m not getting ahead by cheating sleep. I’m only making myself less productive during the day, which exacerbates the head game.
So here is what I need to do today:
- Walk/Run 3 miles, in preparation for my immediate goal this weekend: The Virtual 5K at Iowa Avenue
- 100 crunches
- Restart the push-up challenge at week 3
- Go to bed before 11PM
- Be conscious of portion size at lunch and dinner, in particular
This is not a lot for most folks. And really, it’s not a lot for me either. But if I can get this done today, it confirms to me that sleep is one of fundamental keys to accomplishing my goals. And if I can actually make myself go to bed at 10:30 tonight, and I sleep well, tomorrow should be interesting too.
Do you struggle with sleep? What do you do to quiet your mind?