Aside from a little bit of sleep paralysis (when your mind wakes up but your body can’t move), and a dash of hereditary sleep walking, I’ve never been one to have sleep issues. As in, I’ve always been able to go to sleep, stay asleep, and rise-and-shine a happy camper. And then I got pregnant with my son (now 2.5 years old), Fox. The sleep issues started with having to pee upwards of 8x a night in my earlier trimesters. Then as I became closer to full term, I would wake up wondering if the baby was okay—when you’re pregnant you’re supposed to feel the baby move at least 10 times in an hour—so in the night when he was still, I would push on my belly a bit until I would feel the baby move. (Little did I know, my new mom anxiety was probably setting us up for sleep issues moving forward by regularly waking my fetus up to feel him move.)
Once Fox was born we were up every 45-90 minutes for a whole year. These days we’re down to waking just once or twice a night, but even when he miraculously sleeps a full night or when I send him to stay with my parents for a sleepover, I’ll still get hit with insomnia (which feels unfair beyond words). I was reading Ariana Huffington’s book Thrive around a year ago and when I got to the chapter on prioritizing sleep I couldn’t help but cry. “Who would willingly forgo sleep for something like their job? WTF?” I wanted to yell at the pages and tell Ms. Huffington “I WOULD prioritize sleep if I COULD.”
But here’s the deal. I’m a boss. I have work to do and I have a life to live. While some of my sleep issues are out of my control, there is still a lot I can do to combat the sleep deprivation and prioritize my health accordingly. So, if you know all the tricks and tips (turn off electronics, no TV in the bedroom, lavender oil, etc.) but you’re still not sleeping well, here are five ways I’ve tried to stay healthy in spite of being chronically tired:
1. If you’re not sleeping well at least eat well
Sleep is fuel – so if you’re not getting at least eight hours a night in, you need to tank up with nutritious, life-giving food. Cut anything process and fried out of your diet, opt for more greens, and stay super hydrated. I like to eat more paleo style (no grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no sugar) and focus on getting in quality protein and veggies when I’m especially sleep deprived.
2. Relax on your workouts and focus on recovery
Working out is a non-negotiable for me. It keeps me sane and I simply love pushing my body to its boundaries. But stress is stress – and working out is a big stressor on your body. Opt for gentler workouts like yoga, barre, or even rock climbing. Check your ego and lift a little less heavy next time. When you don’t sleep, you’re not giving your body a chance to properly recover from hard workouts so be sure to give your muscles and nervous system a fighting chance by prioritizing recovery. Take epsom salt baths, hit up the sauna (followed by a long cold shower), get a massage, try foam rolling. Your body will thank you. P.S. Please don’t force yourself to wake up at 5AM if you’re already sleep-deprived!
3. Eliminate unnecessary decision-making
All day long I’m having to make decisions like a boss. But ask me what’s for dinner and I’ll turn into a neurotic mess. That’s what decision-fatigue looks like for me. So I eliminate all need for unnecessary brain power by wearing the same thing every day, planning out my meals in advance, and having reliable habits, routines, and systems for getting work and life done.
4. Try yoga nidra
When you hear the word “yoga” you might think of the postures and movements you go through on a mat in a yoga studio. But yoga nidra, which means “yogic sleep,” is totally different from yoga with poses or asanas. It’s more like a deep relaxation technique where you “go within” but remain fully conscious (okay, sometimes I do fall asleep doing this). This is great to do in the afternoon in leu of a cat nap, and a yogi friend of mine once told me that 20 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent to a full hour of night time sleep. You can try guided yoga nidra meditations on YouTube or even Spotify.
5. Stop freaking out about not sleeping
Over stressing about not sleeping isn’t going to get you any more sleep, and in some cases it may keep you awake! This is the most challenging step for me, and I even required a little bit of medical help (a combination of medicine + therapy) to release a little bit of anxiety, and resentment, around not sleeping. Journaling is a great way to discharge some of the thoughts that are pinging around in your head at night – try freaking out on paper and then just let. it. go.
Be sure to check out sleep expert Christine Hansen on this week’s episode of Being Boss. A lot of our listeners have even said “I wasn’t sure this episode was for me, but I’m so glad I listened to it!” There’s always something to learn.
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