The silver Chevy Tahoe starts tailgating me and proceeds to weave through traffic aggressively. On the narrow four-lane street, I get caught in the right lane between a rusty red dump truck on my left and a city bus in front of me, which will inevitably pull up to the green light and stop. But I’m humming a catchy pop song. Patiently, I wait behind the bus.
Welcome to my morning car commute. Why am I so content? I got a good night’s sleep. I am calm and resilient in the face of the day’s annoyances. I have the energy to concentrate at work and ride my bike afterward.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. When I have a bad night’s sleep, I get up late and rush out the door with my cereal box and milk carton in hand – for breakfast at my desk. On my commute, the drivers annoy me because I am late and they are in my way. I am grumpy because I haven’t eaten. At work, I feel overwhelmed by the tasks piled up on my desk. No chance of exercise after work. Even if my body could handle the physical stress, I am so mentally fatigued from rushing around and negative thoughts that I go home in a tired stupor.
Sleep has a greater effect on our mental health than we may realize. If you are feeling unmotivated to train… work… or socialize… look at your sleep patterns and see if there is room for improvement. Here are a few easy things to consider:
- Don’t try to squeeze too much in your day. Folding the laundry can wait. Go to sleep at your ideal bed time and you’ll be more efficient the next day.
- No TV or YouTube. Don’t watch cute cat videos in bed. You’ll never be able to turn them off!
- Stay away from large meals and chocolate close to bedtime. Don’t eat a sleeve of Oreos at 10 pm.
- Do not exercise heavily right before bed. After the weeknight training crit, I frequently toss and turn in bed for hours, the adrenalin from the race still coursing through my body.
A simple Google search will yield many more suggestions on proper “sleep hygiene”.
For those who have serious sleep disorders – do not give up! Seek advice until you find something that works. Beyond traditional medicine, consider anything and everything that might help: yoga breathing, talk therapy, consultation with a professional of Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine, for example. Some “wild” and unconventional therapies might work if you give it a try. You deserve your sleep – fight for it!
As for me, I need to follow my own advice. Just last week I got up late and ate breakfast at my work desk every day. But every day… and night … is new. Tonight, I’m turning off the cat videos, leaving my clean laundry in the basket, hiding my Oreos in the freezer, and going to bed.