When you’re feeling exhausted after a sleepless night, do you power through the next day? When you’ve got nothing left in the tank, do you push on and keep going? And how does that leave you feeling?
It’s a fact that, at times, your sleep will not be as good as you need. Changes in routine, like holidays, new job, kids starting school, new relationships, or general stressful times, will all impact the quality and quantity of your sleep. Even if you have a healthy sleep regimen, working to re-establish it after an interruption can be challenging. And in the meantime, boy are you tired!
If you’re anything like me, (in the olden days of my legal career at least), I just used to get another coffee, grit my teeth, and carry on. I told myself not to be weak, to get up and get going, as if there were a drill sergeant shouting at me in my head. Looking back, I was really horrible to myself, and not only did I feel tired and desperate, I also then felt guilty, believing I was being self-indulgent and that if I had a stronger mind, I could do the mind over matter thing (very 1990’s!).
How toxic that mindset was – it led to burnout after burnout, my self-esteem and confidence was in the toilet, my imposter syndrome on red alert. And not surprisingly, it did nothing to actually help me get better sleep! If this resonates with you, then please know you’re not alone.
So what’s the answer?
Well, one of the ways forward is to look at your mindset and listen to what you say to yourself. If it’s anything like the above, chances are that your expectations of yourself are not realistic or achievable. It’s entirely possible to change your mindset – indeed, I speak from experience. My mindset now is very different and involves listening to myself and my body, accepting what she is telling me, and working with that. It means re prioritising what’s necessary and focusing just on that. If that is still too much, then I’ll even ask for help (completely alien to me in those olden days). And sometimes, I surprise myself with how much I get done, even with fatigue! It’s a very different way of being than it used to be but one that is far more healthy and, dare I say it, productive.
Working on your mindset takes time, and often you’ll need support from a therapist or coach to help you get there (I did too!). Meanwhile, coping with fatigue is still necessary. How you do it will be unique to you. To be most effective, you’ll need more than just chamomile tea or lavender on your pillow (although those things might help as part of your overall sleep strategy).
Here’s 3 different things to look at:
Firstly, listen and be aware of how you speak to yourself and what your expectations are when you’re tired (your mindset). If you berate yourself for not achieving everything you expect of yourself, that will likely compound your sleep problem, particularly if you worry about “all the things” at 3am. Ask yourself, would you speak to your best friend like that? If not, what would be different about how you speak to them? And how does that feel when you choose to speak to yourself in that same way?
Secondly, look practically at what you need to do in a day, and prioritise – do only what’s necessary and realistic (lifestyle). If you’re sleep deprived, that will be much less than if you slept soundly and well. Trying to ignore your fatigue and still do everything is like trying to climb a mountain with your feet tied together! Far better (and kinder to your brain) to focus on one or two things and get them right, especially when the brain fog is thick.
Thirdly, it’s easy to underestimate the physiological impact of sleep deprivation, but studies show that losing just an hour or 2 in one night can impact your reflexes to the extent that if you get behind the wheel of your car, it’s like driving after a couple of beers and a shot. Your reflexes are slower and your awareness is reduced, so your risk of having an accident is much greater after a broken night’s sleep. So again, be realistic about your energy levels, especially if you are doing something needing manual dexterity, quick reflexes, or deep thinking. There is little choice but to accept that you will not be at your best; you may need support from others to get done what you need, or give yourself longer to complete things. And although caffeine can give a temporary boost, in truth, large amounts of caffeine will upset your sleep routine even more.
Right now, ask yourself how do you cope with fatigue, and is it an effective strategy? Do you feel rested and energised, or just so desperately tired that sometimes you could cry? How would things be different for you if you found a comfortable balance of getting great sleep and still achieving the necessities of life?
Mindset, Lifestyle, and Physiology are the 3 pillars of good sleep. It takes focus on all three to change your poor sleep pattern. Happily, there are lots of ways you can achieve positive change in all these areas, and I teach you all about them in my Sleep Well for Life programme, helping you make the choices that are right for you and your circumstances. So if you’re curious about how you can overcome your sleep deprivation and fatigue, click the link to find out more!
Sweet dreams 😴🧡😴