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Getting the most sleep possible

Posted Mar 15 2013 8:56am

If only…

A recurrent problem cropped up again last night — or, shall we say, early this morning.

I got to bed a bit later than I wanted to, last night. I was working on a project till fairly late, and then I ate late… and watched a bit more t.v. than I intended or should have. Anyway, when I went to bed, I was bushed. Just wiped. And I had an early call for work this morning, so I was between a rock and a hard place. But I figured if I timed things right, I could get a little over 8 hours of sleep, which would be good. Better than 6, that’s for sure.

The thing is, with the weather changing, I woke up at 4 a.m. really hot. I can’t sleep when I’m hot, and I need to have heavy blankets on me, or I don’t sleep very well. So, as you can imagine, when spring arrives and it starts to get warmer overnight, I can heat up.

Which I did.

So, I made some adjustments, took off some layers, and tried to get back to sleep. I wasn’t terribly optimistic, because usually when I’m awake at 4 or 4:30, then I’m UP, and that’s that. I figured I’d be taking a nap later this afternoon, since I’m working from home today, so it wasn’t that bad. But still… I really didn’t want to get behind on my sleep, because that starts a vicious cycle that is so hard to get out of.

What to do… well, first I had to stop my head from spinning in all different directions. I’ve got a project going on that is really exciting for me, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it. I started thinking about it at 4:15 a.m., too, much to my dismay. It was the right thing to think about at the wrong time. I also got into a mental “loop” over job stuff. All these things were nothing that I could anything about at the moment… and thankfully I realized that it made a lot more sense to turn off my head and come back to everything when I was rested and fresh.

But how to get back to sleep?

Well, I stretched a little bit, which always helps. I also did some slow breathing. And I turned my focus to my body, rather than the stuff rattling ’round in my head. I relaxed… really relaxed, which I realized I was not doing, when my head was going a million miles a second. I could feel the tension slip away… and then I slipped back to sleep.

I woke up with my alarm, turned it off… and went right back to sleep. I woke up three minutes before my call was supposed to start, which was a little alarming (though it was good I woke up before the call instead of after)… and then after dialing in, I learned that the call was cancelled anyway, so I could just take my time having breakfast and getting into my day.

All good.

And by my calculations, I got about 8-1/2 hours of sleep. Not continuous, but cumulative. And that’s pretty good for having all but given up hope around 4:20 a.m.

So, when it comes to sleeping, it’s pretty clear that my head can be my worst enemy. When I am wiped out, especially, I can have real problems getting to sleep (going to bed at a decent hour) and staying that way. I am very sensitive to sound, when I am over-tired, too, so if I don’t have earplugs in and there’s a noise, I can wake up over the littlest thing, with my heart pounding and my head racing. Even if it’s just a little noise, it can set me off. And then when my head gets going, I can “loop” for hours, if I let it do its thing.

Unfortunately, getting my head to stop is easier said than done. The best thing to do is just ignore it, quite frankly. Get my attention on my body, somehow — progressive relaxation, breathing, stretching… anything to get out of my head. Once I can do that, my body can rest, and a lot of times I can get back to sleep.

Even if I can’t get back to sleep, at least I can let my body relax, and that counts for a lot.

But the time for thinking about sleep is over. Now it’s time to get on with my day.


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