Recently I have really been struggling to sleep and I have noticed how much this affects me in all aspects of my life. My skin is spotty and pale, my IBS is worse and I feel sluggish. I feel grumpier and irritable and my outlook is more negative. And the thing that I notice most of all is that I wake up and feel terrible before I’ve even opened my eyes. My first thought when my alarm clock goes off is ‘when am I going to go to sleep again?’.
I don’t like this version of me. I remember talking to a colleague years ago, just after I’d graduated and was first really dealing with working full-time and managing sleeping enough. I said to him that the thing I was finding most difficult was figuring out how to be tired AND still happy. It’s just so difficult. Your body is under stress, your brain has not fully detoxed (as you sleep your brain ‘cleans’ itself of toxins- https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep) and you are less energetic. It feels like an uphill battle.
So, I decided that despite being physiologically under stress, I could at least work on my psychological outlook. And by changing my psychological outlook I could probably improve my sleep, so win-win! I have been working on ways to feel better in the morning despite having had a bad night’s sleep and here are some of my pearls of wisdom. Please do share any things that work for you with me! I’d love to hear your ideas.
First of all, a word of advice from the wise Thich Naht Hahn from the book Miracle of Mindfulness (see ‘Book Club’ post). The first thing you should do when you wake up in the morning, before you move, is smile. Smiling activates positive emotions and doing it as the very first thing you do in the day, can’t be a bad thing. It’s actually very difficult to remember to do this so write yourself a post it note and put it on your alarm clock or on your wall next to your bed.
Bed yoga is a great way to wake up feeling refresh- just roll about, stretch do what feels good. You can find YouTube videos of good bed yoga routines- try one of these, or just do anything that feels good to loosen up that stiff body.
I am terribly guilty of telling myself ‘GOD! I’m so tired. It’s going to be a horrible day’. Often it isn’t, I feel fine later in the day but of course starting the day with these thoughts sets me up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, next I say a positive affirmation. Something as simple as ‘I feel fine’ or ‘I’m not tired’. Even if I don’t believe it, it is the first step towards feeling it. if you are familiar with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), I often do this too. Whether you’re a believer in it’s effectiveness or not, I find it helps me to set a good intention for the day and that’s helpful either way.
AVOID CAFFEINE (FOR AN HOUR OR SO ANYWAY)
I never let my first drink of the day be caffeinated as I have noticed that doing this sets me up for a subsequent crash later in the morning. By delaying my morning coffee for just an hour or so it perks me up rather than sometimes making me feel more sluggish. I start the day instead with a glass of filtered water and a herbal tea or hot water and lemon and ginger. No sugar, no caffeine, just something hydrating and gentle. When I do drink my coffee, it’s always a bulletproof coffee (blended with butter and coconut oil) or if I’m not at home I take coconut oil with me and stir it in.
I always do ten to twenty minutes of yoga before work. I am no yoga obsessive but this is just enough to be able to fit it in and see improvements without feeling that I have to dedicate lots of my time. I just get up a little earlier and now it is so habitual I don’t notice that I’m getting up earlier- it’s just the time I get up.
To start with I just followed a ten minute YouTube video- there’s so many resources on the web so you don’t have any excuse. Doing this incorporates some meditation and exercise into my morning. I often finish it with some exercises with my stability ball or bodyweight exercises. Nothing too energetic as my body is already under adrenal stress through lack of sleep but it’s just enough to wake my tired muscles.
Before I leave the house I listen to music that I know makes me happy. I dance while I’m putting on my make up, sing along and play it as loud as I can get away with.
Then, on my way to work I put on a podcast or listen to a TED talk. One which inspires me or has a positive message. I recommend the Daily Boost (https://motivationtomove.com/podcasts/daily-boost-podcast/) or Happier (http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/).
GET SOME NATURE
Finally, I try and get some nature on my way to work. I am lucky enough to have a lovely woodland walk on my way to work but on the days I get the bus I at least try and take note of the trees and flowers and birds on the streets that I walk down. Simply taking notice of the beauty around you helps you to take yourself out of your thoughts and remind yourself of the positive things in life. I always make sure I do this before plugging in my podcast. I try and listen and take deep breaths for a few minutes before closing myself off to the world with my earphones.
A note on IBS and sleep: many IBS sufferers will be familiar with the link between a bad night’s sleep and a bad day’s IBS. What I have found is that if I wake with IBS I should avoid having breakfast altogether as this just contributes to the problem. I regularly intermittent fast anyway but if the lack of energy from sleep loss means that skipping breakfast feels like a terrible idea, I recommend eating a protein breakfast and avoid any carbs or sugar which contribute to energy slumps and cravings later in the morning. I will often have a boiled egg, crushed with a fork and mixed with olive oil and grey salt, and drink bone broth, kombucha or a green smoothie.