What to do when you have not had enough sleep?

My previous post touches on how to get into good sleep habits.  It is important to think about what ‘your normal’ is.  As much as a Doctor, nurse, Psychologist can generalise and prescribe what is ‘best’ for most people, not everyone follows things exactly.

The 8-10 hour sleep stat for an adult may never have been you and may never be you.  That’s ok.  If you only ever get 7 hours of sleep a night and you feel rested, then that’s ok.  However, if you know that if you normally get 7 hours of sleep a day because that’s what you’ve always done and never feel rested, maybe it’s time to change?

Prioritise sleep.

If you never feel rested on waking, you need to have a look at how you prioritise sleep.  A lot of people talk about being tired, it’s an adult right of passage.  It’s a conversation starter.  ‘I’m tired’ encourages people to feel an emotion for you, about you, with you.  Such a simple phrase can open up a world of cans.  Why then, do you not sleep enough?

The first challenge is to work out what YOUR best sleep time is?  If you were given no reason to get up and you went to bed clear headed, tired, no booze, not exhausted, just a good day – how many hours would you sleep for?  23:00-08:00? 22:00- 10:00?  Everyone is different.  At different ages this will be different.  I used to be able to sleep until 13:00 (after a night out).  But now I couldn’t even if I tried.

So the first thing is to work that out and then try to create this many hours of sleep.

‘I have too much to do’

Yes, don’t we all.  However, it may be that you need to organise your week more realistically.  If you are alway chasing your tail, never have enough clean pants and always feel like your up until the last minute, sleep will never come first.

I’ve obviously learned this the hard way and spent many years frantically trying to sort myself out before leaving the house with a foggy head.

What have I found most useful to be able to prioritise sleep?

  1. Laundry happens at the weekend
  2. Food prep for the next day – normally I make too much dinner so I don’t have to do anything twice.
  3. Gym bag – I line up my ‘wet’ bag, ‘dry’ bag, clothes and SHOES before I go to bed if I can.
  4. NEVER do work/studying in the room that I sleep.

Hacks to manage without sleep –

  • Eat good food.  Do NOT load up on sugar.  Wake up, drink water first, eat some fruit and grab a coffee after you have hydrated at least a little.
  • Snacking on high protein foods is often more filling and does not leave you with a sugar crash.
  • Water, water, water.  Don’t just drink coffee all day.  You need to hydrate. Not dehydrate.
  • Take the day slowly.  If you live 100 miles an hour.  Give yourself a few minutes before each ‘thing’ to take a minute and check in with how you are feeling.
  • Try mindfulness while on your journey to or home from work.
  • If people are expecting your ‘normal’ functioning, it’s ok to explain at work or to your friends that your struggling, BUT, you have to in the same breath try and work out how you will manage better next time.  Saying your tired and can’t function – but you can’t do your job, doesn’t really fly.  If you hear yourself saying ‘I’m Tired’ a lot, prioritise your sleep for a day or two.  Get back into a rhythm.
  • Exercise.  This doesn’t mean BEAST mode, but it does mean that although your body will want to rest completely.  If you have to get through a work day without face planting your desk, going for brief walks for 10-15 minutes throughout the day to pick up your energy levels.  I find that going for a run actually helps me when I’m really tired, but not everyone is going to find that.
  • If you have to ‘cover up’ your tiredness, if it is because you have difficult life events and are maybe not sleeping due to mental health struggles, you should be able to tell your work, someone close to you that you need to talk and may need some help figuring out all of the above!
  • Asking for help to find better sleep routines and ways to manage your week is something a friend can help you do without you having to disclose too much if you don’t want to.  An outsider can help see things more clearly than you, especially if you are tired!

Nothing seems to work –

If your sleep is so disrupted and disjointed that you are unable to get yourself back on track, your Doctor can help you with medication for a short period of time.  Some herbal remedies can be great, particularly in line with sleep hygiene.

If your sleep has gone off track so much that you just have no idea, seeing a GP, they can prescribe different medications, some with almost no side effects and some over the counter medications to help you get sleep back on track.

Sleep medication may be a great short term tool, but it may also be wise to speak to your GP if there are things you need to talk about with a qualified counsellor, therapist, psychologist, psychotherapist.

There is no harm is asking for help.