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Let’s Get Some Sleep: Stopping Sleep Deprivation

Right on the heels of my crazy “Monday in the life” post, I want to talk about something serious. Sleep.

Often, my nights are late and my mornings are early. It’s fairly normal for me to go to sleep around 11:15-11:30 p.m. and get up at 4:55 a.m. That’s an average of a little over five hours of sleep per night. I’ve never been one to nap or need a lot of sleep and I am usually okay functioning on this schedule. I feel fairly energetic and alert throughout the course of the day.

But just because I can function on this amount of sleep doesn’t mean that I should.

Sleep

I sent a friend the text message above before I going home last week. I had reached the end of my rope. The only thing that got my feet on the floor every morning the week before I left was knowing that a break was coming. I went into the visit with three primary goals.

  1. Spend time with my parents.
  2. Focus on book work.
  3. Rest and get sleep.

10.22sunset

The sleep was revolutionary. I slept between 8-10 hours for five nights straight and I could not believe how much better I felt overall. Some of the noticeable effects of all that sleep included…

  • My skin cleared up
  • My digestion was better overall
  • I ran well and recovered well from my workouts
  • I slept better (no 3 a.m. wake ups which I have pretty much nightly in Charlotte)
  • I was able to better focus
  • My thinking felt clearer overall

Which got me wondering…I know sleep deprivation is bad for you but just how bad is it? Some of the effects of chronic sleep deprivation include:

  • Greater risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. And these are all things that can lead to a shorter life expectancy. (Source: Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School)
  • Increased occurrence of depression, anxiety, and mental distress that go away when a normal sleep schedule is resumed. (Source: Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School)
  • Impaired memory and cognitive ability, a harder time thinking clearly and remembering things. (Source: Web MD)
  • Greater instance of automobile and on the job injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.
  • Weight gain. Lack of sleep can increase your appetite. (Source: Healthline)
  • A weakened immune system resulting in more colds and sickness. (Source: Healthline)

10.22water

The CDC recommends that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and ever since I returned home from my trip I have tried to fall closer to that range. When you get up as early as I do it’s tough to get close to that 8 hour range but I am making improvements. I have been getting in bed earlier (minus Monday…you win some, you lose some) and getting closer to 6-7 hours on the weekdays and 7-8 on the weekends.

It’s a start and as I always tell my clients and students…something is better than nothing. I have set a goal for myself to give up 5:30 a.m. clients in the next year so that I can get a more reasonable amount of sleep on the weeknights on a regular basis. Waking up at 6 a.m. is just so much kinder than the 4 o’clock hour. It’s tough because 5:30 is my most demanded time slot and I’m on a waiting list 5 deep for that training time.

Talk to me about sleep. How much to you average a night? How does sleep deprivation impact you? 

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Carolyn October 22, 2014, 4:00 pm

    i use a great supplement called natural calm…can be bought on Amazon or whole foods. It cured my insomnia and I am so much more relaxed…bonus is it helps with sore muscles. Seriously check it out!!

    • 2
      Jen October 22, 2014, 5:04 pm

      thank you! i am going to look into this!

    • 3
      Nicki October 24, 2014, 1:34 pm

      Wow, this looks great! I’ve never heard of it and it’s already been placed in my cart 🙂 (I don’t have insomnia but I do get really bad DOMS from some workouts, and I do wake up 1-2x a night.) Thank you!

  • 4
    Shanna Small October 22, 2014, 4:04 pm

    I never wake up before the sun. The difference in how I feel is like night and day. I wake up naturally, with no clock, around 7:30AM. Anytime I wake up with a clock, i feel like I got hit by a mack truck and I run out of energy around 2PM. I never feel quite right and I would have to stay hyped up on caffeine just to make it through. This is why I don’t do morning Mysore. I have tried and I felt like crap which to me defeats the point of doing the yoga. If I wake up with the sun and practice later in the day, I feel fabulous. I sleep about 8 hours. I go to sleep around 11ish.

    • 5
      Jen October 22, 2014, 5:03 pm

      shanna…i so need to adopt your sleep philosophy. i hear you on the morning practice. it doesn’t really work for me either. i feel about a million times better when i practice/workout later in the day.

  • 6
    Cat October 22, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Did you ever think about giving up teaching late classes and making sure you get to bed on time so you could keep your 5:30 clients? From your day in the life of posts, it seems as if you work much later as well as getting up really early so maybe if it is the spot with the most demand, you should just cut your days shorter.

    I have to sleep 7-8 hours or I am a zombie.

    • 7
      Jen October 22, 2014, 4:57 pm

      hey cat – not really. i’m done most evenings by 7 or 7:30 and i only do that like 3 times per week. in general i am more of a night owl anyway so i’d like to be able to stay up a little later and sleep a little later! 🙂

  • 8
    Allyssa October 22, 2014, 4:41 pm

    I always try and make sleep a priority. A few nights ago though I was not able to sleep very well and I usually feel the side affects about a day or two after. I feel tired and less energetic, and more hungry oddly enough! I am glad that you are realizing that you function better with more sleep and making that a priority in your life!

  • 9
    Kacy October 22, 2014, 4:54 pm

    I get 7-9. I’m a sleeper– don’t mess with my sleep. I remember my mom saying that the hours before midnight are the most important. Most nights I’m in bed at 9, with lights out by 9:30 or 10.

    • 10
      Jen October 22, 2014, 4:58 pm

      omg! teach me your ways friend!

    • 11
      Amber October 23, 2014, 12:29 pm

      Me too! Lights out by 10-10:30 at the absolute latest for me, but usually more like 9:30 – 10. I think I’ve trained my body now so that I’m really tired by that time and just naturally want to go to bed.

  • 12
    Courtney October 22, 2014, 6:30 pm

    This post is exactly what I need to read this week! I also typically go to bed around 11pm (or later) and wake up at 5am everyday. I go running, then go to school by 6:30-7;00 to teach energetic 3rd graders all day and am usually at work until 6pm. I always tell my students how important it is to go to bed early and come to school well rested yet I don’t do the same! It’s my monthly goal for November to get at least seven hours of sleep a night!

  • 13
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors October 22, 2014, 6:43 pm

    Jen this post was just a gentle reminder to me that I do in fact need to make sleep a priority (just like eating well and exercise). I am stalled in my weight loss goals and I’m attributing it to my lack of sleep. And I can’t seem to remember details much anymore. I’m lucky if I get 4-5 hours a night. My new goal will be 6 hours and work up from there! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • 14
    Linda @ the Fitty October 22, 2014, 7:51 pm

    Sleep is so important to me nowadays, especially that I battle with fatigue and I’m physically active. I’m glad you opt for 8-10 hours of sleep. Most people say 7 ish is enough but I firmly believe it is not! You can function but you will not feel at your optimal. James Lebron gets 12 hours of sleep, I hear, and he’s gooood.

  • 15
    Lindsey October 22, 2014, 8:39 pm

    My 19 month old daughter JUST started sleeping through the night – meaning I just started sleeping through the night too. Yes!!! I no longer feel stressed, I’m much more productive, and am just happier overall!

  • 16
    Ally October 22, 2014, 8:48 pm

    Love this post! So true, sleep is so crucial to optimal health. Eight hours a night is my best, but more if I’m training for a race! One thing that is difficult for many people (and I’m totally guilty of) is watching something on your computer/tv/phone before bed (hello email, instagram, and hulu!), but I always sleep SO much better if I cut myself off earlier. Those light emitting devices can suppress melatonin and interrupt our sleep. From experience, spending even the last 30 minutes before bed without screen-free does wonders for my sleep…and some legs up the wall

  • 17
    Kristen October 22, 2014, 9:36 pm

    I love this post! I am a grandma when it comes to bed time. I am in bed by 8:30. I do get up by 5:30 to workout. I don’t know how you do 4:30!! I would need espresso too.

  • 18
    diana October 22, 2014, 9:46 pm

    sleep is definitely something i need to work on as well. it’s so difficult.

  • 19
    Amanda Bee October 22, 2014, 11:07 pm

    Sleep is so important! I used to think I functioned ok on 5-6 hours but NOPE. As soon as I started getting more, I realized how awful I felt without it. I just had no idea because I’d been sleep deprived for so long! I”m a 7hrs/night kinda girl. I do okay on 6 for a day, but not multiple days in a row. So speaking of, I should probably go to sleep! haha
    For what it’s worth, I used to think I was a night owl but have a pretty solid sleep schedule now. Things that really helped: reducing screen time at night, trying to go to bed and get up at consistent hours, avoiding alcohol (even a glass of wine close to bed, boo) within a few hours of bedtime, and avoiding caffeine after noon. If I stick to those and try to control my stress, I sleep like a baby.

  • 20
    Mary-Catherine October 23, 2014, 7:52 am

    Such a great post!!! I tell my clients all the time – let’s go back to the basics (sleeping, eating, exercising) and see if your feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger or reduce when that goes back to normal. 50% of the time, that’s all that is needed!

    I often encourage people to try rescue remedy for insomnia. It can be bought at Whole Foods and maybe even some grocery stores. It comes in gum, sprays, lip balm (my favorite), pearl like chewables, etc. It’s not addictive and can be used at any time during the day! It has calming agents in them that really help you relax and slow the mind down 🙂

  • 21
    Joy October 23, 2014, 7:54 am

    I try to make it a priority to always get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night. If I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep I can feel it all day. I am less focused, more cranky, and more prone to making mistakes (everything from dropping things to not remembering to do things).

    I have recently gotten into meditation and when I remember to do it before bedtime, I usually sleep well (although those middle of the night wake-ups where my mind endlessly runs through all my worries still happens…).

  • 22
    Amber October 23, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Do you have 5:30am clients every day? What if you just had 5:30am clients twice a week? I only get up in the morning to workout 2-3 times a week and on those nights I probably only get about 6.5 – 7 hours of sleep. But on the other weeknights when I workout at lunch or after work I get 7-8 hours and I ALWAYS try to get 8-9 hours on the weekends! Maybe just getting up for early clients once or twice a week would be easier.

    I completely agree with you that sleep is super important. This week is super busy for me at work and after a 10 hour day Tuesday and an 11 hour day yesterday I just collapsed into bed last night. Even after 8 hours of sleep I was still so so exhausted this morning. Funny how sleeping is SO incredibly important for our bodies!

  • 23
    Alisa October 23, 2014, 12:54 pm

    The timing of this post is perfect! I was just thinking today that even though I do a good job eating well and exercising, my sleep habits aren’t so good. I’ve gone through phases where I feel like I NEED 9 hours a night, and phases (like right now), where I don’t…but should be getting a little more than the 6 or so I’ve been averaging.

    Because I only have time to work out in the morning, I generally just drag myself out of bed at 5:30 and get to it (and I’m usually happy I did). But some days, like today, I have to remind myself it’s ok – even necessary – to sleep until 7. The problem for me is that I often have to trade sleep for working out, which isn’t ideal. But I think once in awhile, it’s good to do that.

    Besides staying out too late (I live in NYC, after all), I need to be better about leaving my phone outside my room – it’s just too much of a distraction.

  • 24
    Nicki October 24, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Late in commenting…sleep has always been a priority for me even if I don’t think/feel my body “needs” it. I’m not one of those people who can sleep 9-10+ hours in a stretch; it’s 8 hours on the dot and I’m awake – especially on weekends can I sleep more if I want! So I try to be in bed at 10:30pm, asleep by 11pm and up at 6:30am during the week.

    My boyfriend, on the other hand, seriously lacks sleep. It doesn’t seem to affect his workouts/work (he gets up at 4:30am to make a 5:30am WOD and normally isn’t asleep until 10:30pm or later) but it DOES affect his mood – especially in the evenings when he gets exhausted/cranky and sometimes takes that out on me, on the few times during the week we see each other. By 9pm on a Friday night, he is done from the lack of sleep during the week and will go to bed until 9am the next day – but obviously “making up” sleep isn’t a thing. I’m trying to get him to sleep more, even 15 minutes more, each night. It’s a process! Good luck to you and getting rid of 5:30am clients is a GREAT idea to invest in yourself more.

  • 25
    tara October 24, 2014, 5:01 pm

    i was the same. used to operate on 6ish and felt i was fine. until i started getting more. now i do much closer to 7 hrs. in bed around 1030 and asleep by 11. even though my goal is in by 10 asleep by 1030. Then i wake up at 6. the days i go to early yoga i try to go to bed closer to 10 and get up at 5. on the weekends i usually go to bed later and sleep in a little to getting up closer to 8. in general i found i am better when im not getting a few hours then making up for it on the weekends.
    i am also a night owl and get a second burst of energy at night sometimes even as late a 9 pm. i dont understand how people get in bed before 10 especially in the summer. i just cant do it from both an energy stand point and from a sheer…how do you get it all done standpoint ! most nights i dont get home much before 730 and have to eat, shower, work around the house, etc so there is just no time. I bet even if you just up to 6-7 hours of sleep vs. 5-6 you will see tons of impact in a few weeks. Good luck ! good sleep is sooo essential to health. at least it has been for me !

  • 26
    Tara | Treble in the Kitchen October 26, 2014, 8:20 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you on the sleep issue! I seriously feel, look, and act so much better with sleep 🙂

  • 27
    Nathan October 26, 2014, 11:59 pm

    I worked on getting 7.5+ hrs for 30 days (http://minneapolisrunning.com/30-day-sleep-challenge/) before my last marathon. The week before I got 8+ and I shaved 9 minutes off my PR! It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re well rested. Not only physically, but mentally as well. Thanks for the great reminder Jen!

    Have you ever tried a sleep app to monitor how much deep sleep you’re getting?

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