Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sleep Glorious Sleep - How to Get Enough

For most of my life I have been one of those lucky people who has no trouble falling and staying asleep.

Normally, I can drink coffee all evening and then put my head down on my pillow at night and go to sleep almost instantly.  Sometimes it drives The Captain a little crazy. I have not only fallen asleep in the middle of a story he is telling me, I have been known to fall asleep in the middle of something I am saying to him! 

I like to think I am such a good sleeper because my conscience is clear!

But, occasionally I have had a few sleepless nights.  To name a few:
  • When my Mother had a stroke and was hospitalized 500 miles away from where I lived
  • When I was having a conflict at work with my boss's colleague
  • When my hormones were acting up
  • When I drank ouzo and ate the coffee beans on the bottom of the shot glass - about 4 ouzos and 12 coffee beans
  • When I ate steak and lobster at midnight on New Year's Eve
  • When I experience cramping in my legs after long runs
  • The first couple of nights in our new apartment, our bedrooms was too light
  • When I have had a nap during the day
So what have I learned from this? 

Facing a stressful situation that is unresolved makes it difficult to go to sleep.  As hard as I try, it is impossible not to keep thinking about 'what ifs'.  I have learned to quit fighting it and just make peace with the fact that I am not going to be able to sleep until the situation changes.  And I have also come to realize that the 'great ideas' I come up with during the night don't always look so good in the light of day!

Eating too close to bedtime is not good. I toss and turn and am generally uncomfortable.  If alcohol is involved, I will be too hot to sleep and have to keep getting up to drink water.

If I don't stretch out and drink lots of water after I run, I experience leg cramps at night. Sometimes they are horrible and I have to wander around, or put Ben Gay Zero or Tiger Balm on the muscles. or even take a hot bath.  Other times I merely have to stand up - at least I can usually go right back to sleep after taking care of the cramp.

When we first rented our apartment, and were going there every day to paint and put things away, and arrange the furniture we were buying, we had never been there at night.  The first night we slept there, we discovered that there are outside lights on the building and our bedroom was lit up like daytime all night long!  The third day we were there we went out and purchased drapes that had blackout liners... the light problem disappeared immediately.

I am not a good napper. I wake up cranky and not refreshed at all... but I have occasionally caved to a nap after a great day's skiing or a long hike in the mountains... when I do that, I don't sleep well that night... ever.  I really should not nap.

When I don't sleep well, it really affects me during the next day.  I am usually cold, often hungrier than normal, and usually my cheery self is a bit cranky, too.  I try not to make important decisions then, because I am sure my judgment is impaired, and I also don't make myself work out too hard.   I would not want to do a long run on little sleep and I am always amazed when I read race recaps about how people have run half marathons and marathons on 4 or 5 hours of sleep, or even less.

Are you a good sleeper?   If not, here are a few things that might help yout:
  • kick the caffeine - The Captain has learned that he cannot tolerate even black tea after 5 p.m.
  • pass on the nightcap - sometimes people think that having a drink helps them nod off, but it can make your blood sugar drop and then you wake up and cannot go back to sleep
  • pull the shades - the darker the room, the better for sleep
  • try reading a book - sometimes reading can make you feel drowsy
  • don't workout or run at night - working out is an energy boost and it takes a while to slow down again - a bit of light stretching might be okay
  • skip the bedtime snack - a spike in blood sugar can keep you awake
  • go easy on fluids in the evening - trips to the bathroom may make it difficult to go back to sleep so get your hydrating done early
Do you get enough sleep?


  1. A subject very close to my heart! There are so many things that stop me sleeping well. Some of them I know and watch out for (e.g. No cheese or chocolate after 9pm). Some are harder (e.g. Stress about work). The best thing I can do is identify what is causing me not to sleep and talking steps to prepare to sleep: hit drink, bath, classical/jazz music, reading a familiar book, dimming lights, etc.

  2. Great post!!! I dont get enough sleep, even tho I know its very important. Its not because I have trouble falling asleep, but its because Im so 'busy'. This is on my resolution list EVERY YEAR!!!

  3. I, like you, am a WONDERFUL sleeper! I often WANT to watch TV in bed to relax, but fall asleep before the opening credits are over. This also makes my husband jealous as he tosses and turns some nights. I am also a good napper. I can nap anywhere! :) good tips for those not as fortunate as us!

  4. Most of the time I am a really good sleeper, unless I am dealing with a lot of stress in which my mind is always going a mile a minute, so I have a hard time falling asleep.
    But lately I have been sleeping really well!

  5. i didn't realize that about the 'nightcap'. great post elle! i try to make it a priority to get plenty of sleep, but you know how that goes!

  6. Like you, I have always had an easy time sleeping. More precisely, I (used to) fall asleep easily, sleep very lightly, but go right back to slumberland. That is until .... night sweats! Dang but menopause has radically changed my sleep ability to the point that other aspects of my life are affected. For one, I now take naps -- no prob! Unlike you, if I had one drop of caffeine past noon I'd be up all night. Heck, my two cats walk and sleep on me all night, so they let me know if my tossing and turning is not working for them. Lots of good tips on sleeping so thanks!

  7. I actually sleep pretty well. I fall asleep no problem, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. It is worse if I have wine. Then I wake up several times a night and sometimes can't get back to sleep:0 No fun!

  8. I have been doing everything wrong! I;m pinning this :) thanks Elle!

  9. I love that you took the time to focus on sleep. I really don't think I get enough but not because I "can't" sleep but because I try to squeeze so much into my life. But I usually go to sleep and sleep well as long as I am not worried about anything. Then forget it! As much as I try to let go and sleep, I toss and turn all night. So I need to go to bed happy and content with nothing unresolved.

    Have a beautiful restful day!

  10. I am not a good sleeper and have issues with insomnia and migraines. Although it's been reduced significantly since I changed jobs. Stress is a major trigger and I found it interesting that it was your first two bullets.

    I know this may sound a little nutty but if you can have one I'd also recommend a pet. They are a major stress reducer.

  11. I was always a great sleeper until menopause struck. Since I can only go 2 or 3 days with little sleep before starting to shake and get stomach sick I have chosen to take something.

    The only other time I get sleepless is when I'm excited about something happening the next day.

    I don't drink coffee after 4 pm.

  12. I fall asleep easily. I think it's all the working out I do. And if you put on a movie at night and I am too comfortable and pretty tired, it's lights out for this girl! I get 7-8 hours of sleep at night which is necessary for my muscles to recover.

  13. I can sleep pretty easily. I generally get 7-8 hours of sleep a night which I definitely need for recovery. Although, if I'm watching a movie at night and I am really comfortable, chances are I will fall asleep and miss the movie.

  14. Knock wood, I am a great sleeper and I feel like the 7 hrs I get is enough. The Caveman on the other hand is not. I totally agree about stress being tough for sleep. Excessive eating too...ugh.

  15. Elle, I follow most of your advice, and also add in taking melatonin in the early evening. I've found that since having kids (and starting peri-menopause) that my sleep is much more easily disrupted than it used to be. Always helps me settle into sleep (although it does nothing for those middle of the night sweats...)


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