Is Sleep Self-Care?

Wow – so many of you reached out to me after last week’s post about deep feelings around Simone Biles. Thank you so much. I am slowly working on peeling the layers of the onion when it comes to writing about vulnerable topics, especially when they might be controversial.

Today’s peeling is less controversial, but still on the personal side.

I am 47 years old and only recently started staying up until 9:00 pm.

Source: Photo by Lux Graves on Unsplash

Sleep is a foundational component for me to live a life I don’t need to escape. I wonder if it might be for you too. We have talked in previous posts about the changes to your body when you are sleep deprived. In the past I have given you tips to making adjustments to your SusPro components to improve sleep.

Have you done it yet?

Why Not?

What is keeping you from getting the sleep you need? Be honest.

Is it the expectation that fun only happens after midnight?

Mindless numbing out to TV shows is more appealing than boring going to bed early?

Do you tell yourself post kids’ bedtime routine is the only grown up time or alone time you have?

Now I want to suggest you throw these reasons up against this framework to see if they stick. Byron Katie has a set of 4 questions that can help us truly inquire into our motives, thoughts and feelings.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know this is true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

Let’s look at an example related to sleep. If you ask yourself what is keeping you from getting the sleep you need, you may come back with an answer along these lines: After the kids go to bed is the only time I have for myself.

Is it true? Is it really true that this is the only “free time” you have? Have you tried moving things around your weekend schedule to make time to be alone? If you look at your workday are there pockets of time that could be dedicated to what you want to do?

Can you absolutely know this is true? Have you tried to do a time study to see where your time goes? It may feel like you don’t have any time for yourself, but once you see it objectively in a time tracker, you may find out this is not actually true.

How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? What if it is true that this is the only free time you have for yourself? Notice what happens in your body when you realize that you spend 18 hours every day serving everyone else and leaving only crumbs for yourself? Do you feel sad? Anxious?

Who would you be without that thought? Katie coaches us to, “Take a moment to reflect, observe, and experience the situation again, this time without the thought. Who or what you would be without the thought?” In this example, what would you be if you were not a person who only had time for self-care by cutting into sleep/recovery time?

Why Not!

Let’s step away from the buzzword use of self-care for a second. Being rested is simply the right thing to do for your mental and physical health. You don’t have to frame it in a certain way to get what you need. I love what Marc Randolph had to say about this in his book about his founding of Netflix, That Will Never Work.

“But when I needed a morning off, to mountain bike and clear my head, I took it. Nowadays they call that ‘self-care.’ Back then, we just called it common sense. If we were going to try to fundamentally change an entire industry, we needed to have our wits about us,” Marc Randolph, Netflix founder.

What do you have to lose by at least trying to get more sleep? I am not saying you have have an 8 year old’s bed time like I do, but you will be surprised what 30-90 more minutes of sleep can do. Even lying in bed reading, doing deep breathing exercises, or meditating can help. Perhaps increasing your rest leading up to sleep can be a gateway of sorts to improving your sleep habits.

“Nowadays they call that ‘self-care.’ Back then, we just called it common sense.” Mark Randolph, Netflix Founder

Your Turn

What is one small adjustment you can make to improve your sleep habits? Maybe you want to consider why you stay up late even though you drag through half the morning. It might be starting to track your time to consider why you think you don’t have more time for yourself. Maybe adjustments to your environmental surroundings to give yourself a better chance at a good night’s sleep is the right next step.

Whatever it might be for you, let me know how it goes and what it brings up for you!

By |2021-08-16T20:05:11-04:00August 17th, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

Spring clean your body

This seems like a really dumb time to talk about how to spring clean your body. As I sit here writing this in Feb 2021, we are only 5 days out from one ice storm and in the middle of another. We are wedged tightly in the middle of winter.

Crepe myrtle branches covered in ice.

But it won’t always be like this. Spring will come – I promise. And with it comes droves of headlines about getting “Beach Body Ready” and “Spring Clean Your Body!”

While you can reduce the amount of these messages that come at you (the Media Lesson in the Environmental Surroundings Course can help you with this), you won’t get rid of them all. You cannot control how the messages come at you, but you can control how you accept them and incorporate them into your life.

Let me show you how.

Identify What Isn’t Working

Being bombarded with message to “Spring Clean Your Body!” gives off a vibe that what you have needs an overhaul. I would like to suggest that maybe throwing out everything about the person you are is not a Sustainably Productive way to change your habits or think about your Health and Fitness. By identifying what isn’t working you can start to make small, gradual changes that help you create a life you don’t want to escape.

Identify what isn’t working: Maybe you are exhausted all day. That dragging fatigue leaves you less motivated to exercise or cook healthy meals. Which leads to poor food choices, which leads to poor sleep… leaving you exhausted the next day. Vicious cycle.

The root of what isn’t working in this scenario is sleep – the foundation of all healthy habits. If you ever find yourself unsure where to start, I recommend addressing sleep habits first.

Step 1: Identify what isn’t working. Answer: Sleep

Once you identify what isn’t working you can move on to make adjustments.

Make an Adjustment

An adjustment can come in many forms, but I want to offer 2 different buckets that adjustments might fall into.

  • Something you do.

Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults, but if you are sitting at a solid 5 hours nightly, lying in bed for 9 hours is not a Sustainably Productive adjustment to make. Start small. Make the action step something that is productive for you – it has to work for you, not just be something the experts tell you that you SHOULD. I also encourage you to make it sustainable – it has to be something you can keep doing. It is ok it you don’t get to the “should.” Just make it something you can repeat.

Here is an example. If you got 5 hours of sleep last night, go to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight. That’s it. Even if you lay awake for that 15 minutes. Then do it again tomorrow night. And the night after.

There is another type of adjustment you can make besides an action step.

  • Something you think about what you do.

A mind shift, reconsideration, or full on paradigm shift. Stop thinking about sleep as being the last thing in your day. This is just leaving you in a cold sweaty pool of panic, “HOW CAN THE DAY BE OVER, MY LIST IS NOT DONE!” No one sleeps well in a sweaty pool of panic. What if you shifted your thinking about sleep to be the start of the new day? Instead of sleep being a futile exercise in restoring the damage a stressful day caused, you start to think about it as building up reserves for the next day?

Step 2: Make an adjustment.

Evaluate Progress

After a few days – a week at most – check in with yourself to see how this adjustment is serving you. This is a simple 3-step process.

  1. Put it on the calendar. It may seem dumb to have a 5 minute appointment to ask yourself if thinking about sleep differently is helping you avoid a cold sweaty pool of panic. But life gets busy and time flies by. I know so many moms that kept a calendar of the baby’s poop schedule. I daresay your sleep habits are as important as poop.
  2. Answer the check in questions. Download the worksheet to answer the questions to decide if an adjustment is working for you.
  3. Make adjustments. If what you did worked, do a little more of it – back up your bedtime 15 more minutes for next week. If your adjustment did not work, ask why. Maybe you forgot to consider sleep as the start of the day and monkey mind kept you up again. Perhaps a reminder on your phone would help. At 9:00 pm (or whenever you want to start your evening routine), a reminder pops up: Today is over, you did your best. It is time to start tomorrow with the sleep I am about to have. Maybe you have the mindset, but it is so hot in your room you cannot sleep. Now your adjustment becomes action, not mindset. Adjust the temp by 1 degree every few nights until you find what works.

Step 3: Evaluate your progress.

Repeat As Needed

This process is a never ending loop. Today’s “Spring Clean Your Body” challenge might be sleep, but if you keep applying the Sustainable Productivity process and tools to it you eventually will create sleep habits that work for you. At that point you will ask the question, “What isn’t working,” and another answer will come up.

If you are getting another answer besides sleep today, let me know what it is. Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

By |2021-02-21T09:09:41-05:00March 2nd, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

Sleep Deprivation is Making You Overweight

Exercise and nutrition are not the only factors that contribute to weight loss – your sleep deprivation is making you overweight.

Are you filled with self-hate because you have gained weight since starting to work night shift?

Do you rely on will power to keep you from high calorie, high fat, salty foods when you are sleep deprived?

The first step to a healthy, Sustainably Productive life is to get the sleep your body needs. Let’s take a trip back to Biochemistry class to look at why. But no quizzes, exams or lab experiments this time, I promise!

Basic Biochemistry

There are a couple hormones that contribute to feelings of hunger: Ghrelin and Leptin.

Ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger, while Leptin decreases hunger. I imagine Ghrelin looking like Stripe, the Gremlin. I also know my hunger can do some damage to a bag of kettle chips just like Stripe did damage to his world in Gremlins.

Tell me you don’t feel like this when your stomach is growling. Photo source: https://images.app.goo.gl/zxnFvyNbmb5DxzgT9

When you are sleep deprived, your body releases Ghrelin which leads to increased hunger. This seems to be primarily related to acute (short term) sleep loss.

Here is how this could look.

Short Term Sleep Deprivation

Let’s say you are a teacher nearing the end of the semester. You have piles of ungraded projects that need to be completed, then grades calculated and turned in by a non-negotiable deadline. Because of a looming final exam and end of term project, your students have lots of questions. They come to you in person and your after school/office hours time runs longer than usual.

Those that don’t see you in person send emails that you need to answer. There is no getting ahead so only after the last exam is taken and project turned in can you begin to grade. Long days turn into late nights until the work is done.

To keep you going through the pile of projects and exams you may get up early and stay up late for a few days until grades are turned in. This is short term sleep deprivation. Your body releases Ghrelin.

These are the times when a handful of M&M’s won’t do. Gone is the bag.

You seem hungrier than usual so you may eat more often and more.

This increased hunger leads to more snacking, which leads to weight gain. That short term sleep deprivation is making you overweight.

It is not lack of willpower – it is hormones your body releases thinking it is doing right by you. Something similar happens with long term sleep deprivation.

Long Term Sleep Deprivation

When you are sleep deprived, your body inhibits leptin which leads to increased appetite and storage of body fat. Data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that sleep deprivation is a greater contributor to obesity that hormone imbalance causing high leptin levels, and that sleep deprivation is directly linked to increased BMI. This seems to be primarily related to chronic sleep loss – continued sleep deprivation over time.

Shift work is an example of a situation where this would play out. Working overnight and sleeping during the day is counter to your natural sleep patterns and causes leptin to be suppressed, which leads to storage of body fat.

This long term sleep deprivation is making you overweight.

The reason for our bodies doing this goes all the way back to prehistoric times. In the Sustainable You Course you can learn about why your body thinks using Ghrelin and Leptin trying to be good to you as well as what to do to reduce this impact.

In the meantime, I invite you to give yourself a break. A healthy weight is not just about exercise and calorie intake. Take a good look at your sleep habits to see if there are changes you can make life more Sustainably Productive.

By |2020-12-07T07:48:12-05:00December 8th, 2020|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

How naps are saving me during COVID-19

Naps are definitely one of the things that is saving my sanity (and marriage, if I am honest) during COVID-19 Stay at Home Order. When I feel my mood, productivity, and general mojo slide, I will set the timer and get a little shut eye.

But real talk? Naps are not a new thing for me.

When I was little my ability to sleep anywhere at anytime was a family joke. I regularly fell asleep before we left the block. Once I fell asleep standing up on the front passenger floorboard of the car, hands on the dash (this was before the time of mandatory seatbelts, of course). On a family vacation I slept my way across the Canadian border, unconscious to the border agent looking into our car and everything. When I started driving I did not know how to get anywhere because I was never awake on car trips.

Let's begin by taking a smallish nap or two. AA Milne

My mom always told me, “You’re going to sleep your life away!” like it was a bad thing. Turns out, Young Susan was onto something. According to the Sleep Foundation, 85% of mammals take naps. Many of these mammals are super stars:

  • Winston Churchill
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Napoleon
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • Susan Sanders*

*OK, the Sleep Foundation did not have me on the list, but I am a rock star mammal napper.

under bed covers
Me in my natural super star mammal napping habitat.

The benefits of napping are well documented. I have talked about naps here, and there have been more scientific looks into it as well. Not only does it make me feel less stabby, but NASA says military pilots and astronauts who napped for 40-minute improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.

If you like more aggressive benefits, Sleep.org says napping can “zap stress.” There are lots of hormonal explanations of this that we won’t get into here. I just love the idea of a nagging stress ball being lasered away by Mister Sandman while I am burrito’d under the covers.

There are some naysayers among you. These people fall into one of 2 camps.

  1. FOMOs. Those who are afraid they will miss out on things if they nap. My sister falls into this category. Our mom always lamented the toddler days because Sister was always popping up from naps to find out what everyone else was doing. The weird thing is that she does not seem to be able to nap or need naps. I am not sure what to say about this – doesn’t seem possible.
  2. Nap Deniers. Those who say it isn’t possible to be refreshed in short amounts of time or sleep that night if you conk out for a couple hours in the afternoon. These people are fearful rookie nappers that should be ignored. Knox McCoy recently dissed naps in his book All Things Reconsidered. Side note – I might be overblowing his comments about naps because this was also the part of the book where he said LeBron was better than Michael Jordan so I was a little salty at the time.
Spiderman likes to nap
Source: ifunny.com

I will let those non-nappers have their moment, because I know napping is a coping mechanism for me. Like all coping mechanisms, sometimes I can abuse it. Napping to avoid cleaning the bathrooms, for example. But when used for good, a wee nap helps make any day more sustainably productive.

As a matter of fact, I think I will go do a little napping research right now! What about you? Are you team nap?

By |2020-05-04T14:19:50-04:00May 7th, 2020|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

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