- Week One: Purpose
- Week Two: Self-Perception
- Week Three: Breathing
- Week Four: Cravings
- Week Five: “The Search”
For this week’s Fighting Spirit topic, let’s cover something very basic but often neglected: sleep. Most of us could be use another hour of shuteye, right? But few actually take any steps towards doing anything about it.
I’d argue this is one aspect that gets the most “I know I should, but…” type of excuses. More than hitting the gym. More than changing up eating habits. Being too busy with work or pulling an all-nighter for school are just some of the reasons we’ve come completely accustomed to.
Or maybe it’s babies.
Or maybe you’re one of those types of people who subscribe to the whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality. And if that’s the case, that’s a shame.
The thing is, lack of sleep is going to fast track you to that death. And if it’s not your life expectancy, it’s going to diminish your quality of life. Living a life where you’re half-awake? There’s no way you’re reaching your full potential being a zombie. There’s no YOLO grace and awe in that.
Sometimes I look back at the self-esteem issues I had in high school and wonder: if I didn’t stay up til 3am every night, would my outlook on life be any better?
In the first year I was teaching in Japan, I focused so much on the “just showing up is half the battle” principle. So I’d stay up late again, wake up the next day, and bring my grogginess to class. I got the work done, sure. But was there a lot of missed opportunities there? You betcha.
Even now, I know I’m heavily affected by a lack of sleep. I might not turn into the same type of asshole. I do my best to keep the grouch contained. But I’m just not that fun. And adding that on top of a calorie deficit? Oh man…
I’m not saying sleep cures everything, but a lack of sleep definitely doesn’t do anybody any favors.
When it comes to the fitness front, getting enough sleep isn’t just part of recovery. Sleep is actually the active part of building muscle. Think you’re getting stronger while you’re hitting weights at the gym? (The simple answer is, well yeah.) But when you’re at the gym, you’re actually giving your body some tough love:
Weights: Ya feel that? Even if you move me, I don’t think you’re strong enough.
Muscles: Oh yeah? I’ll show you!
Weights: Is that right? What are you going to do about it?
Muscles: Just you wait and see! I’ll come back even better!
Now, if you’re actually giving your body the time re-coop and rebuild, you’ll come back like that scene when Spider-man’s adjusting to his powers. But if you’re not… you’re a lot closer to being like Spongebob.
Think about it. As great as caffeine or a good pre-work can be to help you with your lifting routine, that shouldn’t be the source of your lifting prowess. That should be on you. And if you’re gassed before things are even starting, that’s a clear sign something needs to be adjusted. Your bedroom habits need a fix (heyo!).
This week my sleep hasn’t been optimal. But really, I’m not sure how many of us can stick with an optimal sleep schedule every week of the month.
But when you notice that something feels off, try to get more rest. When your thoughts are kind of hazy, go to bed. If it feels like you’re stuck trying to cram too much into a day, you probably are. Do it later.
What if you’re struggling with falling asleep when you’re in bed?
I once recommended a client to write out all the troubles that were keeping her awake. The idea was to get her outside of her head and bring these concerns into tangibles. And in that way, she could diminish the value of some while keeping the others in check.
It didn’t work that way. Seeing her list so long, she came close to having a panic attack.
If you’re list is that long and troubling, you probably shouldn’t be trying to keep it all in. I might not be the best professional to turn to in that case, but please don’t internalize all of that. Don’t let that routine be “just the way it is” for you to go to bed.
Some people will recommend a nighttime prayer. Others like to say meditation. But the core of it is getting your mind to think of nothing.
Thoughts of tomorrow will keep you awake. It’s so easy to get anxious about things that aren’t even happening yet.
The mistakes of today? Well, once you can get to sleep, today becomes history. You’ll get to restart anew.
If you could just… clear up that mental space…
For a nice… reboot.