It’s day 5 of my stay in the US. I feel like I should be over the jet lag by now, but sadly I’m not.
If there was ever an argument for being fully present where you are right now, I think getting over jet lag quickly really does partly depend on immersing yourself in where you are and not what’s happening back at home.
That’s the downside of travelling alone, without my family. While it’s great to have time to myself, to think, plan, rest, I still keep looking at my time converter to see what time it is in Melbourne, to know what everyone is up to there and plan phone calls.
This unfortunately keeps me anchored in Melbourne where the clock tells me it’s 8pm, I’m only partly acknowledging that it’s 3am here in Colorado and if I want to get up in time to have breakfast, I really should be asleep. But after I turn everything off, I still toss and turn for another hour because it’s not anywhere near my normal bed time at home.
In desperate need of more sleep
I remember as a child feeling like I was missing out on something when I had to go to bed and my parents stayed up. Now as an adult with my own child (who funnily wants to stay up because he thinks he’s missing out), I want to get to bed early. It just never seems to work out that way.
I can’t point my finger at one thing that’s the cause of this dysfunctional sleep – it’s 20+ years of life circumstances that have morphed into bad habits and perhaps a feeling of not deserving to go to sleep early – that it’s lazy, that I’m an adult and I have to stay up to do “stuff”.
Is sleep just for the weak?
I see too many people on Facebook bragging about their late nights and early mornings, hectic schedules that make them look like they’re the most successful people in the world and not enough messages showing the result of this hectic way of life, or how to do it at a slower pace.
The underlying message is that sleep is for the weak. Bon Jovi even sang about this in his song “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” in 1992
The sad thing is, after spending my late teens and early/mid twenties working in hospitality, with it’s requisite late nights (when I was working at the InterContinental Hotel, I’d regularly finish at 3am on weekends), then sleepless nights with two babies in my 30’s, late nights meeting website delivery deadlines, I’m now in the horrible habit of regularly going to bed after midnight.
Thankfully I don’t have a job to go to in the mornings, I run my business from home with flexible hours so I can sleep a little later, but it’s never as refreshing as I would like it to be. And I know that the most restorative, refreshing sleep comes before midnight.
All of these years of inadequate, inefficient sleep has behaved as an enormous stressor on my body, and my body is well and truly showing me I need to change, NOW.
How many times do you need to be told something to finally believe it?
Some people only need to hear something once and as long as it’s sufficiently compelling and aligns with their beliefs, they take action.
Clearly, I’m not one of these people – you could call me a multi-time convincer. I can hear something over and over and on a conscious level I know I need to change, but there is something deeper that sabotages my efforts.
On a conscious level I know that:
- Sleep before midnight is more restorative and healing than sleep after midnight,
- The body perceives lack of sleep as a major stressor
- Too much stress causes the body to hold onto excess weight
- The body holds onto excess weight (energy) because it perceives this as a life threatening situation
- Poor sleep habits result in a disruption of the delicate hormone balance in the body (weight gain, grumpy, low libido, reduced ability to cope with minor stressors, blurry vision, depression and who knows what else.)
- The body won’t let go of the excess weight until the stress dissipates
- Good quality sleep helps the body to dissolve the stress
It all seems pretty obvious and straightforward, so why aren’t I just going to bed earlier?
Whatever belief I have about going to bed early, it’s unlikely to change from a purely logical level. I mean really, I’ve desperately wanted to get rid of the excess fat on my body for over 20 years now (20 years ago it there was considerably less to let go of, now it’s overwhelmingly more). I want to feel normal again.
I’ve tried mindset, food and exercise:
- I studied Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and every partner exercise we did, I focused on releasing whatever it was that was holding on to my weight,
- I’ve done the Paleo and Low carb thing multiple times over the last 15 years but the small changes quickly fell away when I couldn’t sustain that way of eating,
- I had a personal trainer that I saw religiously twice a week for 3 years (his other clients got results, I got stronger muscles, but the fat stayed).
Through all of this the weight stayed, or increased.
Something is changing now
Over the last 12 months I’ve been religiously reading and listening to the writings of Dr Ray Peat. Through reading his work and listening to his podcast interviews, I’ve had an eye opening slap in the face that so many of the things I’ve been doing over the past 20 years, that I thought would help, actually made things worse for my body and specifically worsened my thyroid health which impacts every area of my body.
The exercise that would be ok for someone, my body perceived to be a stressor, so I stopped everything a year ago, but now I think I’m ready to at least start walking 30 minutes a day again.
The way I was eating and the supplements I was taking (ahem, fish oil), was harmful for my thyroid, so again, my body perceived it as a stressor. I stopped the fish oil, got rid of the nuts and seeds in my pantry, reduced the amount of muscle meat I was eating and have added back orange juice, milk, fruit (although after so many years of indoctrination that those things were “bad” for me in a low carb lifestyle, I still have a way to go before my eating is where I’d like it to be).
So now, the final major life change remaining is my mindset around sleep (and the actual sleep itself).
You’d think though, that knowing all of the above would be motivation enough to get me to bed earlier, knowing it would help reduce the stress in my body and allow my body to let go of it’s protection.
I’ve tried bribing myself with all sorts of things, but I know that’s not the answer (i.e. it hasn’t worked in the past).
And as I sit here writing this, thinking about what going to bed early means to me, the tears well up as the truth bubbles up to the surface. In my mind I’m listing off all the things I can think of that might be the cause of this dysfunctional sleep habit and the one thing that touches a nerve is that it’s been a very long time since I’ve truly shown myself the love I deserve. I need to stop punishing myself and start caring for myself because no-one else can do for me what I need to do for me.
This is so much deeper than just bad sleep habits. When I started writing this journal entry, I honestly didn’t know this is where I would end up.
What I really need now is some deep, deep self forgiveness and love.
And more sleep. Maybe I needed to be so tired, to bypass my logical, restrained thought processes to actually see the truth.