I’d like to tell you about my day yesterday.
I got up and was still tired. I went to sleep when I finally felt tired the night before, but that wasn’t enough. I went through my classes only halfway-there, not unprepared, but definitely not excited to be out of bed. I ran some errands in the city after I was done teaching, and then went home.
I should have gone running yesterday. I intended to, right up until I got home and sat down on the couch for a moment. It was then that I realized that I was still tired. Not just kind of tired, but really, really tired.
I’ve just come off of a forced-vacation: I was on vacation for 2 weeks, and then I came back and all of my classes went on break. So I, too, went on break for an extra 3 weeks. Not because I wanted to, but because there was no work. While I was on break, I got back into a natural sleeping pattern, which I favor: I go to sleep when I’m tired, and wake up when I wake up. I’m normally an early riser, but I slept in a few days on my break.
When it came time to get back to teaching, I had trouble getting into a pattern, since my classes are scattered across the schedule: Monday through Wednesday I teach in the afternoons and evenings, and Thursday and Friday are both morning classes. So I’m not really on a ‘true schedule’, although I try to be.
Yesterday on the couch, I immediately noticed that I was totally exhausted and tired. I’d gotten about 5.5 hours of sleep for two consecutive nights, and it wasn’t enough. I sat on the couch having that argument that we ALL have with ourselves: to work out, or not work out? But I have this excellent amount of free time until I have to leave the house. I could go out and do it. But I’m so tired, I don’t want to stand up. You shouldn’t just ‘give up’ so fast. I’m not giving up, I’m really tired.
I learned something a long time ago, thanks to my MS: never push yourself too hard. Yes, push to be or get better, but don’t martyr yourself, ever. Many fitness junkies will tell you otherwise, that you never move forward without that extra push. I am telling you that there is a difference between working out and OVERWORKING. As someone who has a relapse whenever I choose to overwork myself, I’ve learned to tell the difference.
But most people can’t tell the difference. We’re so busy being hard on ourselves for not being Superwoman 24 hours a day, that ANY lack of enthusiasm feels like a failure. The secret to learning the difference is listening to your body, rather than your mind. Your mind tells you what you’ve been raised and practically programmed to think, and your body, meanwhile, tells you what you want, what it wants, what it can do, what it won’t do.
Days like yesterday are the reason I expect to work out on Sundays: because you can’t predict life. You can’t expect to have a perfect week, every week, and then have a rest day on Sunday. It almost never works like that. We have to roll with the punches and work with what we’ve got. On Thursday, what I had was a whole lot of tired, and I knew that as I laid down and set my alarm to take a nap, it meant I’d be working out on Sunday. And I’m totally ok with that.
One of the things that we’ve been raised to think is that we can function TOTALLY fine with less sleep than is normally recommended. 8 hours is the recommended amount of sleep for adults, and it goes to 9 or 10 when we’re talking about teenagers and kids. We need that sleep for our body to reboot.
I used to think I functioned better on 5 or 6 hours of sleep. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I was either in total denial and proud of how cool I was, or I was just used to it. It’s not the case anymore. If I don’t get my 8 hours, I FEEL IT the next day. I’m done denying it, and I don’t care how uncool I look. Know why? Because while all of my ‘cool’, overworked friends are practically falling asleep sitting at their desks, I’m out being majorly productive every day and using my fully functional, charged body to do a TON of physical activity.
Maybe you function better on 7 or 9 hours. Give yourself a trial: on the weekends, go to bed at a reasonable hour (when you’re tired) and don’t set the alarm. See when you wake up. That’s your ‘normal’ sleep cycle time. If you need more or less sleep is purely up to you and your body chemistry.
But for me, 8 hours is what I need these days. I don’t need the stress of less, or the fatigue that comes with it. I don’t multitask as much as I used to, either, and I’m ok with that. I also don’t push myself to load up my days and my schedule the way that I used to. I think we’re all guilty of trying to do too much, for too long, for too many people.
Slow down! Take a breather, say no to things, and don’t stress about what’s not important! Your body will thank you for it!!
With that in mind, I’ll leave you with the wise and talented Arian Huffington, speaking for TED:
GET MORE SLEEP!!!