One of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with, and occasionally still deal with, in my adult life is getting quality sleep. I’m going to be honest, I haven’t quite cracked the code for why sleep has been such an issue for me, but after talking to some doctors, I’ve learned that our generation in general struggles with sleep. Below is a bit of my journey through my sleep struggles, the strategies I’ve tried and how they’ve turned out to me. I don’t agree with everything I’ve done but I think it’s important to share my experiences for you to better understand and maybe see things from a different perspective. Enjoy!
This whole sleep thing kind of started out when I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (a story for another day). I ended up getting all sorts of weird tests, one of which was an adrenal test. We discovered my adrenals are completely backwards. It made complete sense to me. I was in college at the time and found myself sleeping in between classes and staying up all night doing homework. And it honestly felt more natural to me.
When I first told my psychiatrist about my sleep issues, he prescribed me Trazodone to get me to sleep at night and Adderall to wake me up in the morning. This seemed like a pretty good combination in college, but this was during a time where I didn’t do a lot of research into my own health. I took what the doctor said and thought it was good enough.
When I graduated college in 2015, I continued this drug combo and began to experience anxiety on Adderall. I tried Vyvanse for a bit, had the same issue, and wanted to stop altogether. Naturally, I couldn’t wake myself up in the morning because the Trazodone made me so groggy. So I moved to caffeine.
I love coffee. I’m drinking coffee as I write this. But in college and the year following graduation I was abusing caffeine. I drank coffee and energy drinks because they woke me up and I figured it was better than Adderall. After a few months of drinking caffeine excessively to wake me up, the anxiety came back. I decided to cut back, but it wasn’t taking the grogginess away from my sleeping pills (I hadn’t quit this). I was taking literal nibbles out of my Trazodone pills because my body couldn’t handle it but I was so desperate for sleep. I finally gave up on the Trazodone and luckily, the gym entered my life around the same time.
Today I drink coffee or tea and stay away from energy drinks because they aren’t as healthy. I limit myself to one (sometimes bigger) cup in the morning. The earliest I will drink coffee is 30 minutes after waking up so that my body can wake up on it’s own. I try not to drink caffeine after 2pm so my body can fall asleep more easily at night. I know it seems like a lot, and it didn’t just happen overnight. It’s what works for me now.
At the end of 2015, I started going to the gym (I didn’t get the post-grad weight gain memo) and realized I was sleeping more soundly because of it. It was actually great! The motivator for going to the gym was to improve my quality of sleep. But once I ditched the Trazodone, I noticed that I couldn’t sleep unless I went to the gym. This started to create in turn a negative association with the gym. If I didn’t want to workout that day, or I was sore, I didn’t feel like I could take a rest day because I was so paranoid about not being able to sleep that night.
I’ve recently talked to my doctor about this because I don’t think it makes sense that I HAVE to workout everyday in order to sleep soundly. This is when I found out that a lot of people my age struggle with sleep as well.
Having the Tough Conversations
Sleep has such a huge impact on all of our lives. I notice a huge difference in my attitude and mood when I get little to no sleep. I commute an hour to work everyday, and getting to the office by 8:30 was rough if I didn’t sleep the night prior.
It was a tough decision, but I ended up opening up to my boss (also my mother so it was a bit easier) about it all. I am lucky enough to have a job that doesn’t require a strict schedule, so I asked to change my schedule to start at 9:30 instead.
Having those tough conversations with important people in your life is scary. I felt so vulnerable and to be honest, I was worried about being judged by my coworkers. But it’s turned out to be a great situation for me. My attitude at work is better and I can get through more work.
I’m just going to say it, meditation is hard and sometimes it feels like the biggest bitch in the world. Like I have to chill out and calm down for 15 minutes? It’s sometimes seems impossible in our current society. But I will say this. The days that I meditate, it shows. I feel light, calm, airy, and centered. I can handle a lot more.
I didn’t start meditation until January of 2018, but let me tell you this has been a life changer. I first started with 5 minutes every night. Now I can meditate for about 15 minutes.
Calming your mind right before bed helps you ‘turn off’ in a way. There are so many sleep meditations out there, you just need to find what works for you. I’m currently using the app 10% Happier.
The last thing I want to talk about are evening rituals. I don’t think there is a set routine that everyone should follow, but I do believe there everyone should follow their version of a perfect evening ritual whatever that may be.
Taking time and calming your mind and body at the end of the day becomes a natural indicator that your body is about to rest. Does anyone naturally get more tired when you take your contacts out and put on your glasses? It’s because you’ve conditioned your body to know when it’s time to sleep.
Rituals work the same way. Some things that I do: incense, meditation, soft music and candles. Maybe I’ll create a post about my current evening ritual.
If you’ve made it this far, Thank you for reading! I hope this helped, gave you insight, or maybe just a different view on things. Do you have any other sleep tips? Because your girl could use some (lol). Sweet dreams!