Sleep is my barometer for my mental and physical health. I’ve spent three significant times in my life battling with horrible insomnia. Lying in bed each night with that wired, amped up feeling like you are buzzing, yet totally exhausted – the worst! The first time I struggled with sleep was at Bastyr doing 32 or so credits per quarter for six years….there are no words. All I can say is that it was rough – especially with no shuteye! When I recovered from that, Joe and I moved to Manhattan and the stress of no money, no community and a new overwhelming city was a lot – especially for a new relationship. Not to mention I think we live on the loudest corner in the city (if there is one).
Things calmed down after a few years and I was sleeping better- and then came the writing of the book. I’d always seen colleagues in awe of doctors that wrote a book while still in practice and I thought “how hard can that be?” Well come to find out, it was quite hard! A book is an undertaking like no other and while I loved writing it, I was stretched very thin, training very hard, dieting, pushing my limits – and again, back to not sleeping. That laying in bed so tired its nauseating, yet wide awake and agitated is one of the worst feelings in the world, I think. And for me it just builds as I get more and more anxious about how tired I’ll be the next day after not sleeping. This time I had another variable – during the time of writing the book I was also training very intensely and dieting strictly so many nights that jazzed up feeling I was having was my poor little adrenals struggling to keep my blood sugar up enough to let my brain function….but dare I eat anything late at night spiking my insulin and disrupting my growth hormone and leptin, and blah blah – sometimes knowing too much is a curse. Experiencing this insomnia, yet again, really drove home that sleep disruption is my first clue that something is off for me – and if I don’t listen things are going to go downhill quickly. If I’m feeling upset, preoccupied, guilty, frustrated, sad, or overwhelmed then my sleep will suffer. It’s become my best way of monitoring my stress and emotions…and my blood sugar! When I’m under a lot of stress my blood sugar dips are more extreme and I get that jolt of adrenaline to keep me going – even if it’s late at night, or worse, in the middle of the night. And although I’m still working away at my body comp goals, I’m not afraid to eat something late at night if it means I can avoid the low blood sugar-adrenaline jitters and be able to fall asleep. I’ve always been the type to go, go, go until I hit the wall – as I’ve gotten older the wall comes quicker and I think it’s harder…. I’ve finally tuned into my sleep and stopped sacrificing sleep for working a few more hours, social obligations and stressing out. If I feel its blood sugar related I make a smart protein snack choice and I am consistently taking adrenal support. On the weekends I let myself sleep in if I feel like I need it and most of all listen to my body. If there are things on my mind keeping me up or my blood sugar is bouncing around, then I know I’m out of balance. I’m grateful that I’ve come from the place of getting nervous just thinking about going to bed, fearing I’m in for hours of fitful anxiety, and learning to use insomnia as a way to check in with myself and make sure my mental and physical health are ok. Do you have any clues to your well being? And more importantly, do you listen to them?