[MT.179] When your sleep is scarce
Welcome to Matt’s Mix Tape: A steady beats approach to midlife fitness, writing, and mindset.
Can we be honest with each other?
It’s Sunday evening. I’m struggling to write. Work has been intense for several weeks. And I’m in one of those cycles, due to factors outside my control, where my sleep can be interrupted for several hours at a time.
My brain is kinda oatmeal-ish at the moment.
So what do you do when you’re busy, have to stay dialed in, and losing sleep? Here’s what I do:
Stay off the sauce
January’s a great month to dry out anyway. When you’re stressed and tired, alcohol works against you in many ways. First, it elevates heart rate. A recent study found just one drink elevates heart rate by five beats per minute for six hours. Two or more increased heart rate more and for longer—up to 24 hours.
Second, alcohol wrecks sleep quality:
That’s because alcohol disrupts what’s known as your sleep architecture, the normal phases of deeper and lighter sleep we go through every night. A night of drinking can “fragment,” or interrupt, these patterns, experts say, and you may wake up several times as you ricochet through the usual stages of sleep.
That’s not just binge drinking, either. Even one drink affects your sleep.
Don’t skip workouts
One-hundred percent of the time when I think I’m too tired to work out, I feel so much better after pushing through. Exercise—both running and strength training—puts extra fuel in my tank in the short run, and helps with physical stamina to battle fatigue in the longer run.
That doesn’t mean you have to full out when you’re run down. Take a walk. But find a way to move.
I have absolutely zero links to studies showing this matters. But getting enough water cannot hurt, right?
Make it up later
You can recover some lost sleep:
Dr. Smith says that if you lose only five hours of sleep throughout the week, you can probably recover most of the five hours over the weekend. However, you may not recover all of the lost sleep if you lose over 20 hours.
Hang in there, catch up when you can.
Pay attention to cravings
I don’t know about you, but when I’m fatigued all I want is sugar and carbs. But I also know those cravings are coming, and being aware helps me manage them (notice I did not say “eliminate.”)
Which leads me to the cope portion of our discussion. I also do things experts would say not to. Because it’s pure cope.
From two cups a day to three. It helps tremendously later in the day. The key is to know yourself and when you have to stop so you can get to sleep. Some people can drink caffeine right up to bedtime. Some have to stop before noon. 3pm seems to be my line of demarcation.
Screens at night
Many studies say screens are bad at night, preventing sleep and disrupting quality. I don’t care. I might be reading a Kindle book or scrolling Twitter, but personally I don’t worry about screen time before bed.
Find your tools, give yourself grace
Yes, working without enough rest requires smart strategies. And some cope. Pay attention to what you’re feeling, what you’re craving, and how your habits shift. Stick with the good ones.
And give yourself some grace and some space to bounce back.
What are your tools for managing fatigue? Educate me in the comments.
Thank you for reading.
Let’s keep the steady beats going right through 2023.
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