For my final week of my sleep challenge, I’m reading Arianna Huffington’s recently released book, The Sleep Revolution. The first half is basically all about why sleep is important, and then the second half is about how you actually go about getting enough sleep. I’m only halfway through so far (so have only done the “why it matters” part), but the book has already made a huge impression on me. Whether that’s for the better or not, though, remains to be seen.
This week was only a two-day work week for me, since I’m on vacation in South Carolina today through Saturday. That meant a lot of work crammed into a very short time, and after checking my work email today, I feel like I really missed a lot not being there! :( Last night, though, I postponed all the evening meetings I had in favor of hopefully getting to bed early and getting my vacation off to the right start.
At the hotel where I typically stay in Dallas, there are two bars on the ground floor, and so many of my coworkers hang out there that I often stop by and see who’s around before I head up to my room. (So, it’s basically like a college dorm lounge.) But last night, I very intentionally avoided the bars and went straight to the elevator bank. I did stop by the lounge to get a cup of green tea, and ran into a colleague having a glass of wine there, but I politely excused myself. Sleep was my top priority before vacation!
But unfortunately, you know what they say about the best laid plans. I got into bed to read around 8pm, but soon after I got into bed, my phone started ringing off the hook. No emergencies, thank goodness, but family wanting to check in on plans for our vacation, and friends wanting to catch up. And unfortunately, two of the calls came after I had already turned out the light and drifted off to sleep. Result? Crazy insomnia.
At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal – I read a book for a while, sticking to my promise not to be on social media when I should be sleeping. But my book wasn’t tiring me out, and after a few hours had gone by, I started stressing about all the things I had read in Sleep Revolution. Ironic, huh, that a book on the importance of sleep would cause me to lose sleep!
Stats kept floating through my mind around how important sleep is. Did you know that getting less sleep than you need increases build up of beta-amyloid, which in turn is linked to Alzheimer’s disease? Or as NPR sums it up, a lack of deep sleep can set the stage for Alzheimer’s. That’s particularly scary to me, since my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s and my grandfather from dementia.
But the one concept that kept sticking in my brain was how severe sleep deprivation could be as harmful as being drunk – aka, don’t drive if you haven’t slept enough. The Sleep Revolution had pages and pages of data on how impaired your driving is if you aren’t fully rested… enough to make me a little nervous passing trucks on the road when I know that their drivers are almost always sleep deprived. I have definitely found myself nodding off in the car before, and so even before reading Huffington’s book and fully understanding what a lack of sleep does to your brain, I try to be very careful to go home before I get to that level of exhaustion. But here it was 11pm, and I had to be up at 4:30am for my flight – not good with a 90 minute drive ahead of me once I landed!
So last night, the later the clock got, the more I stressed, and the less able I was to get to sleep. A vicious, self-fulfilling cycle – insomnia is the absolute worst! By the time I finally was able to fall asleep around 3am, I was down to less than two hours of sleep before I had to get up – not exactly the state I wanted to be in prior to walking into the minefield of a family vacation. I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept that little since I was in college and pulling all nighters, and this morning’s trip to the airport was pretty brutal. Walking through the terminal to my gate, I was literally bumping into people because I was unable to walk a straight line. Drunk from lack of sleep? Yup, totally a thing.
Fortunately, by 12pm when I got into Charleston, the stupor had evaporated, and I didn’t have any issues driving. And after I got to the beach house my family had rented for the week, I crashed hard on the couch. I didn’t make it to the actual beach at all today, but that two hours napping on the couch was the best thing ever. And now I’m going to bed at 10pm at my brother’s house, with no alarm set and no real plan for tomorrow. Let the vacation begin!
One thing that is in the plans, though? Finishing Sleep Revolution at some point over the next few days (hopefully while lying on the beach getting some sun). I want all the tips I can get on avoiding this miserable insomnia from ruining things in the future!