Sleep-deprivation survival guide

By   0 Comments

I love my sleep. My bed is one of my favorite places. I sink into its comforting arms every night with a deep sigh of relief and so much gratitude. When I wake in the morning after a good night’s sleep – especially when I wake before I have to – I often just lounge there for a few minutes, relishing the sheer deliciousness of what it feels like to be held in space in such comfort and luxury.

And then I had a baby.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love sleep any less. I probably love it more. I now obsess about it. Long for it. Fantasize about it. Get secretly seethingly annoyed when childless friends of mine complain, “I’m just so tiiiired.” Yeah right. You have no idea.

(Guilty as charged: I was one of those ignorant mildly tired childless folks who complained a lot about being SO busy and SO tired. All I can say is be careful what you speak out loud. It might just come true!)

I don’t need to tell you how important sleep is to our overall health and wellbeing, but I’m going to highlight a few key points anyways:

  • We only heal when we sleep. Our bodies do their most critical housekeeping and repair work when we’re asleep.
  • Some of our body’s most important hormones – not least of which are those that regulate appetite and satiation – are produced in our sleep. In fact, long-term lack of sleep can be a big factor in weight that stubbornly won’t budge.
  • Studies have shown that sleep-deprived drivers are as incapacitated as drunk drivers.
  • Sleep deprivation kills our sex drive, makes us more depressed, speeds up the aging process and generally dumbs us down – impairing attention span, memory, reasoning, and just about every other important cognitive process.

And this is far from a complete list.

When we were deep in the thick of newborn sleepless nights, my husband looked at me lovingly and said “please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re kind of stupid right now.” We laughed, assuming she’d be sleeping through the night any day now.

That was two years ago. Just the other day, he said “You know, I really miss the old you. You used to be so sharp.” I love him for his honesty, and you know what? He’s right. My mind used to be one of my biggest assets and now in my chronic state of sleep-deprivation, I have to write down every single thing or I’ll forget it. I used to pride myself on keeping my word, and now half the time I can’t remember it. (If I ever promised you anything and didn’t deliver, please don’t hesitate to remind me…)

Enough whining already, Margaret! To my point:

This morning, after another sleep-deprived night, I pulled myself out of bed and started in on my daily rituals of surviving a busy day. And as I did so, I realized I am certainly not the only one in this boat, and you may be interested in some of my key strategies for surviving these sleepy days as naturally and healthfully as possible.

Sleep Deprived PT

1. Take a cold shower

I learned this trick from Tony Robbins – it’s part of his morning ritual of what he calls “priming.” I’ve adapted it for the sleepy mama as follows: take your normal shower (ideally before kiddiboos wake so you can have a moment to yourself) and at the end of it turn the water to ice cold for as long as you can stand it. I count to 10 for each body part. It’s brutal, but it sure does wake you up!

2. Stay away from the caffeine

This one is counter-intuitive but so important. Caffeine is short-lived and in the long term works against you, making you even more tired. Skip it altogether. Yes, you may feel more tired in the short run, but you’re saving your poor tired adrenals from another bashing and ultimately you’re building up your body, not tearing it down. If you’re a big coffee or tea drinker, slowly wean yourself off of it by either reducing the amount you consume daily, or adding in some high quality decaf (water processed only for you coffee drinkers). Over a couple of weeks you can be weaned off it completely and avoid most of the withdrawal headaches.

3. Drink lots of water

Water energizes. For real. One of my first steps when I feel particularly tired is to drink more water, adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt (insta-electrolytes) and a squeeze of lemon. It will help, I promise.

4. Get outside

Fresh air is a wonderful energizer. You might skip that hard run or big workout if you’re particularly fried – why deplete yourself even more? – but a nice walk or a light jog can be very energizing. And let’s not forget how good fresh air feels. The best time to do this is the morning, but anytime will work. In a pinch, bring the kids along with you – the air will do all of you good.

5. Dab some peppermint oil on your wrists

I learned this trick from a friend and use it whenever I need a boost. Peppermint essential oil is by far the busiest oil in our house, so it’s a good investment regardless. I use it for any kind of ache or pain, as a toothpaste alternative, and for a quick energy hit.

Vibrant Blue Oils also has the oils Energize, which you can apply on the temples, over the heart or over your liver (on the right ribs above the breast) or, if you’re feeling really foggy-headed, a dab of Brain Boost on the back of the neck, your temples or the bottom of your big toe will do the trick. 

6. Avoid starchy, sugary, carby indulgences

Once again, these are quick fixes that will kick you in the butt. All starches and sugars convert too quickly to sugar in your blood, causing a spike in insulin and a subsequent crash in blood sugar. You’ll have a quick high followed by a big old energy crash that’s harder than ever to pull out of. Avoid it. Have some lighter meals that have good protein and a bit of fat in them.

(If you need help with this, check out our 14-day Sugar Control Detox. It’s the best natural energy booster I know.)

If you’re really hurting, have a spoonful or two of coconut butter (here’s my favorite brand). The fats in coconut are metabolized differently in your body than other fats: they’re converted quickly to energy and not stored as fat. You get an energy boost much like a quick sugar hit, without the sugar high and crash. It’s the best of all worlds.

7. Drink some freshly-pressed green juice

A big hit of phyto-nutrients will give you a good boost. Here’s my recipe for the perfect green juice. Or frequent your local juice bar and just make sure your juice is following the 4:1 green veggie to starchy veggie/fruit ratio so you don’t cause a blood sugar roller coaster.

8. A little make-up goes a long way

On my most tired days, I make every effort to take that extra 5 minutes to put on a little cover up, blush and some mascara. Because lord knows it’s bad enough to be exhausted, but to be told you LOOK exhausted could push you over the edge. I’ve been at my absolute most fatigued, but had a little makeup on and run into friends who tell me I look great. (Maybe they’re just saying that – I don’t care – it makes me feel like I can survive just a little bit longer!)

9. Don’t be a hero. Nap.

You’re overtired. Now’s not the time to finish that holiday project, to clean out the closet, or do anything more than the absolute necessary. Go to bed! It may feel like you’re resting, collapsed on the couch in front of the boob tube, but I promise a few hours extra sleep will do you more good than the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Last weekend I went to bed at 8pm every night – pretty much immediately after my daughter fell asleep. Did she wake up in the night? Sure. But those extra couple of hours made such a difference and I felt like a whole new woman the next day.

What are your favorite strategies for surviving your most sleep-deprived days?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.