Sleep. It does a body good.
But what happens when you don’t get enough? I am not a medical expert, but I can clearly note the differences in my body and cognitive ability when I have not been getting enough rest.
I have struggled with insomnia on and off throughout my life. In recent years, I have developed a strategy that works well, for the most part.
I generally go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. I go to bed at 11 PM and wake up at 7 AM. After several weeks, the behavior became so natural that I no longer needed to set an alarm in order to wake up at 7.
In recent weeks, however, I seem to have fallen back in to my old ways of either struggling to fall asleep initially, or waking in the middle of the night and tossing and turning until my alarm goes off the next morning.
I never seem to have a problem waking up.
But there have been days where I have actually woken up completely exhausted.
When I don’t get enough sleep, I can usually get along fine until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I can run in the mornings and get myself through the first half of my day at work. But by three, my focus is waning; I’m hungry, thirsty, my body temperature alternates drastically between hot and cold, and I just want to crawl back in to bed and watch a marathon of mindless television like old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress on Netflix and zone out. Often I’ll drag myself through the rest of the work day and when I come home, I’ll do just that.
Insufficient sleep affects my mood, my ability to focus, my hydration levels, appetite and digestive function…among many other things. Perhaps worst of all, insufficient sleep affects my ability to sleep — either because obsessing over how little sleep I’ve gotten makes it harder for me to relax and get rest, or because my patterns are thrown off (I want to go to sleep at 6 PM, but force myself to stay up and then getting to bed at 11 PM becomes more difficult).
Most of the time, I take the “routine” approach of forcing myself back on to my usual sleep schedule. I can typically get myself back on schedule within a few nights of forced scheduling. But sometimes, even when I do that, I still feel as though I am behind on sleep.
Sometimes I just need to let myself catch up. This usually happens in one of two ways: either I will allow myself a day to sleep in (if I am able), or I’ll take a nap (usually a one hour cat nap before a Sunday afternoon 10+ mile run).
This extra sleep is restorative.
It is just enough to make me feel that I have caught up on necessary rest, without throwing off my traditional sleep cycle.
Today was a day off from running, so I allowed myself to sleep in until 9:30. Having woken in the middle of the night and tossed and turned for a few hours, I really did need the extra sleep. When I finally woke up, I felt rested.
Now I feel ready to face the day ahead.