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[personal profile] radicallifechange
Thus far my biggest challenge has been sleep. Getting to bed early enough to wake up on time, waking up on time, waking up on time even if I get to bed later, not napping too much, etc.

I also think sleeping may be one of the most important aspects of this whole plan.

Fuck, sleep and I. I feel like we've had this stand-off so many times before.

What's been going on:
  • Beginning of January - things were going fairly well. I was just pushing through the sleepiness in the morning and I even remember that as soon as the second day I was getting to bed way earlier. I was hopeful by that by the end of January the sleepiness would be kicking in at night at making it a lot easier to get to sleep.

  • Roadblock in mid-January - I'm finding that the nights I work I have an especially hard time getting to sleep early, and even some nights I'm not working I'm still having a hard time relaxing at night. The sleepiness in the morning is getting hard to push through. One day, I'm so tired that an hour into my workout I realize that I can hardly focus because all I can think about is sleep and my heart rate has been up since I woke up, which is generally a bad sign for me. I then take a nap, and from that point things have been going up and down.

  • End of January - I realize that this isn't working out because more and more days I'm sleeping in, and I'm still not getting to bed much earlier. I realize I'll probably need to think of some things to help me wind down at night. I brainstorm, come up with a whole list of possibilities, and decide that I want to experiment with some combination of the following:
    • melatonin
    • having a strict lights-off time
    • lighting a candle when I get home instead of having bright artificial lights on
    • spending a few minutes "unloading" from the day in whatever form that takes, journaling, etc.
    • some time doing self-relaxation techniques - something similar to affirmations, but not quite like that. I would describe what I have in mind more along the lines of self-reassurance. Reassuring myself that everything's going to turn out okay, that the next day will be fine, that I'm doing well, that I can relax.
    • some time meditating

    I've been doing some mixture of the above elements most nights, and it's helped. I have more consistently been getting to bed at an earlier time, though I'm still not waking up at my target time yet.

  • Today - today I am feeling disheartened. Last night I stayed up quite late and today I didn't get up on time, and I have no urge to work out. I am into the second week of February and I just feel disheartened that I have another setback with this. Today I slept in and my body feels like crap and I'm just not happy with a bunch of other stuff, on top of that. Part of me is frustrated because I felt like this sleep thing would be worked out by now and that I'd already be able to be moving on to other stuff, and instead I've actually cut back on working out and simplified some other elements of my plan because I know that until I get this sleep thing down everything else is too much. BLAH.

Why do I feel it's important for me to wake up on time?

I feel it's important because every time I sleep in later than I want, I start the day off on the wrong foot. For some reason or another, once I've woken up late - and this feeling gets progressively stronger the later I wake up - I feel more rushed, off-kilter, and generally displeased.

For instance, during the winter one of my problems was that if I slept in really late - like say, 10:30am or 11am - that I no longer wanted to go to work. I just felt like my day was already so gone, like I had no motivation, like I just felt more lethargic.

I don't like the feeling of waking up late, and that feeling usually negatively affects my whole morning routine. Before, it would negatively affect my entire day, so that's not to say that I'm not seeing any improvement. I no longer have days where I want to skip work because I slept in later than I wanted. Even when my morning routine doesn't end up happening or it goes badly, I still go to work.

Why do I have such strong negative associations with waking up late? / What is my history with sleep?

I know that my issues around sleep started when I was really young. I remember being, hmm, I think somewhere around 9-10 and being up late every night in bed staring at the ceiling. I would lay in bed and think and think and think and be unable to fall asleep.

From what I remember of being young, I remember that I had almost no routine when it came to sleep. There of course was school that we had to wake up for, but on the weekends I remember that as a family we would sleep in very late. Some days I recall my brother and I not getting up until 1PM. Other nights on the weekend, I remember we would stay up late watching TV with our mom - I have a very vivid memory of one time watching something called The Creep Show at 4am. People would tease and call us vampires because sometimes the lights on our house wouldn't come on until pretty late in the day on the weekends.

I asked my mom about it, and she tells me that when I was very young, around 3-4, she had no success getting me on a routine for falling asleep. She said most nights I didn't want to go to bed, that I would have anxious or sad reactions; I would cry, be unable to relax and fall asleep, etc. So eventually she stopped trying to get me on a schedule and I would just go to bed whenever I was exhausted.

When I was 14, we moved into a house and I no longer had to share a room with my brother. In some ways that was of course wonderful and liberating, but I think that also completely eliminated the need to turn the light off for someone else. I think around this time was when I would start staying up all through the night. I would stay up reading or on the computer especially. Entire nights would just fly by while I absorbed myself in a novel -- I would curl up in bed, and the only sounds in the room would be me turning the pages and occasionally flipping to a different side when one of my shoulders got tired. Throughout my teen years I was very involved with online communities in various forms, and that's another thing I'd stay up late doing - reading e-mails, forums, building websites, making graphics, etc.

Then in high school, I also started staying up all night to do my homework. I was a Class A Procrastinator. I spent so many stress-filled nights trying to squeeze what should have been a day, a week, or MONTHS of work into one night. I seem to remember that there was one night that I tried to write five separate essays about five separates book, and I think if I'd read one of the books it was a lot. I'm not sure how I got away with so much of the shit that I did. There was something about my ability to take tests and to bullshit my way through things like essays that just boggles my mind to this day. I remember one year in Academic Decathlon I won a gold medal for an essay I wrote about a book that I hadn't even CRACKED open. I SKIMMED the Cliff's Notes. It's ridiculous to me that our educational system is such that I could fake my way through all that learning.

The result of frequently stayed up all night was that I often napped as soon as I got home from school. My cycles went something like this:
  • Stay up all night or nearly all night
  • Struggle to wake up in the morning and almost always inevitably run late for school
  • Nap anywhere between 2-5 hours during the day
  • Try to sleep again that night, but stay up late doing homework I didn't do during the day or with leisure activities
  • Alternately, I would try to make myself go to sleep earlier, or my dad would try to push me to go to sleep earlier, and I would end up in bed for hours tossing and turning, thinking, unable to sleep. Sometimes, this would also happen when I would THINK I was ready to sleep. I'd be incredibly tired, nearly to the point of exhaustion, but then I would lay down to go to sleep and I'd be instantly awake and anxious again.

The results of such poor sleep habits?
  • Constantly waking up late and always feeling stressed and rushed about getting to school
  • Often missing school due to sleepiness, or just generally feeling lethargic and run-down from not being well-rested for extended periods of time
  • Feelings of inadequacy and stress
  • Deeply negative associations with "time to go to bed" or "I should be going to bed now to sleep for school tomorrow" - I always felt that what I was doing wasn't great, but I didn't know how to change it, I didn't have any ideas for how I could possibly get myself back on track

Aversion to the process of trying to fall asleep

I want to make a differentiation here:

I HATE going to bed.
I LOVE falling asleep.


What does that mean?
  • Falling asleep is great. I love the feeling of falling asleep. I love that sweet relaxation, that drifting sensation, I love the feeling of my mind quieting down and everything just slowing. In fact, the worst thing about the sensation of falling asleep? Is my fear that something will jar me out of it and I'll lose it and be awake again.

    It's not that I want to avoid falling asleep. It's not that I want to be up, active, doing things. I'm not a person who resists going to bed because I want to cram more time into my day.

    In fact, I want nothing more than to BE ABLE to fall asleep.

  • The feeling of NOT being able to sleep even thought I WANT to is awful. That is why I resist "going to bed." "Going to bed" doesn't imply anything enjoyable. It implies:
    • desperately WANTING something, and not being able to have it
    • TRYING and trying and trying to attain something and ultimately failing
    • disappointment, stress, anxiety
    • a lack of control - I end up feeling that I have absolutely no control over whether I fall asleep or not, and certainly no control over WHEN I fall asleep

I think this differentiation is interesting, too, because a lot of times I sleep much more easily when:
  • I'm not in a bed - on a couch or other comfortable surfaceWhen it's not "bed time" - like, maybe I'm lying in bed reading, and I'll just nod off, even though at night my bed is Enemy No. 1

I actually can't even count the number of nights in my life I've slept on a couch. When I get stressed out or am having more problems sleeping that's one of my first methods that I try to use -- something about the couch not being the "place I'm supposed to sleep" and something about just hanging out on the couch, rather than the whole "okay, now I'm going to bed and I'm SUPPOSED to sleep" thing.

Progress I've made over the years

I have made a lot of progress with this issue over the years. I had a period when I was waking up at 5:30am every day, and one of the things I discovered during that experiment was that after the first couple weeks of being sleepy in the morning that eventually my body NATURALLY would start to wake up at 5:30am. That was a freaking trip!! I couldn't believe it! I was just springing out of bed naturally. It was mind-blowing for someone like me, because I couldn't even imagine what waking up without feeling exhausted was like.

I also remember that I had a really strict night routine, which I've been having trouble with this time around. To wake up at 5:30am I really had to be IN BED at 8:30pm or it was a no go. And of course as time went on, I started getting naturally sleepy at 8:30pm, too, which was another shocker.

And one of the reasons I have made having a sleep routine a big part of my plan is because I long for that ease.

I long to be able to simply know that at a certain time at night I will get sleepy and easily fall asleep, around 95% of the time.

I long to be able to simply know that at a certain time in the morning I will wake up and easily get up for the day, around 95% of the time.

Notice I'm not shooting for 100% -- I don't think considering life circumstances that would be realistic. But to know that the vast majority of the time that I can simply COUNT ON that structure to be there, to know that my body's got this down, to know that I don't have to constantly worry, tweak, adjust, work on it -- God, that sounds so wonderful. And I want that for myself, and I really think it's time.

I have become more and more regular with my sleep over the past handful of years. I can't remember the last time I stayed up all night, which is really saying something for me. I can't remember the last night I slept well into the afternoon. (During high school, it was entirely normal for me to sleep until 3-4PM on the weekends.) And I've had periods where I've fluctuated a lot, but I come back to working on forming a healthier routine faster and faster. It doesn't get so out of hand anymore.

Right now, sleeping in for me usually means 10-20 minutes later than I wanted to get up, or sleeping in REALLY late might be sleeping in until 8:30am. And staying up late usually means 30 minutes-2 hours later than I wanted to go to sleep. It's not nearly as extreme as it was.

Even though I'm still working on it, and even though I would still like it to be more regular, I also want to acknowledge how very much this has changed for me already. A lot of it is that my confidence level has increased, too -- now I feel more capable of maintaining an early morning wake up routine.

Before, I would sometimes run late to a work shift that started at 1PM because I couldn't always wake up early enough to get ready. Before, the idea of working a morning job was UNTHINKABLE to me. In fact, for a long time I felt I would never be capable of working full time, or working a normal job, because my sleep patterns were so bad.

Now, I feel confident that I can maintain an early morning wake up routine. I'm confident that most of the time I won't drastically deviate from it. I'm confident that I will no longer oversleep and miss appointments.

This is really great progress and I'm really happy I've made it. :D

The obvious solutions

Why not just tweak your schedule to wake up a little later? To be honest, I just don't think it would make a difference. I think regardless of what time I'm "supposed" to get to bed and what time I'm "supposed" to wake up, there's that lingering resistance to the "obligation," to the pressure, to be fear that I might fail to meet those "obligations." I think if I adjust my schedule to wake up 10-20 minutes later, I will still wake up 10-20 minutes later than I'm aiming for.

Why not just be accepting of your imperfections? It's true that at this point I could probably say "okay, I've done really well, this is a totally acceptable place to be." But that wouldn't be honest of me. I'm just not quite happy. It probably is my perfectionism - I still want more regularity, a little more security, to feel more confident. I still long for ease around waking up and falling asleep. And I just think that until I GET THERE, I won't be quite happy. It's something I think I've been wanting for most of my life, really. And even though this is a struggle and I'm setting high standards for myself, I feel this is the right thing for me. I feel that I will benefit from this, and that I'm doing my best to accept my imperfections along the way to achieving MY definition of a perfect scenario.

In conclusion

I now no longer have anything to say on this topic! Lol. Talked it into the ground. I didn't get to the part of detailing how the feelings are coming up at this point for me, but maybe that'll be another post another day. For now, this has given me a lot of food for thought, and I'm going to work with some of this and see where it gets me.

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radicallifechange

May 2013

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