Today, I want to share how I believe sleep has the biggest effect on my health. I may not have a lot of “scientific” research to make this claim, but I do have my own data.
Here is my sleep data from 3/15/17. The averages represent three time periods:
- The time I stopped being so detailed on my diet until I went on my business trip.
- The first night of my business trip until two nights after my return.
- The time since then.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s becoming more and more true. When I sleep well, I feel well. I feel energized; I feel happy and content; I feel relaxed; I feel more able to handle stressful situations. I feel like I can take on the world and make it better. I am ambitious and optimistic.
When I sleep poorly, my body hurts all over. I have no energy; I have no drive; I feel on edge emotionally. I feel like I have to expend all of my available energy to not make situations worse, rather than push forward and improve. I want to crawl into a hole by myself to make everything easier.
Sleep definitely makes the biggest difference on how I feel, but I still have to figure out what is the primary factor that influences my sleep…
What the table above shows is that I started sleeping poorly when I stopped being vigilant on perfect nutrition. I also stopped going to yoga, using magnesium spray, putting my phone away, taking nightly Epson salt baths, etc. I didn’t show my sleep data when I was doing all of these things, but it was better. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better. I also slept poorly for the past 12 nights. A logical conclusion from these observations would be that good nutrition, relaxation, and sleep hygiene improves sleep quality.
But, what about my business trip? My overriding philosophy of that trip was to work hard during the day, but enjoy good food, good beers, and relax in the evenings. My nutrition, not practicing yoga, the lack of magnesium spray, turning off electronics (in fact, I used them more, as I played on my phone and watched podcasts), and not taking Epson salt baths was exactly the same as it was prior to and after the trip, but during those 6 nights, I slept great and I felt great during the day.
Granted, I had a hotel room where I could black out all light, lower the temperature, go to bed as early as I wanted, and sleep alone. The hotel room complicates the situation, but after I returned, my good sleep quality remained for both nights of my weekend at home. I’m sure nutrition and my surroundings definitely have a role in my sleep quality, but they clearly can’t be the entire answer. So, what can it possibly be?
After my trip, it’s been all downhill. I have had one good night of sleep out of the past 12. I am exhausted beyond belief. I cannot focus or concentrate. I am an emotional disaster. My hip hurt so badly in the middle of last night that I wanted to cry. I feel nauseated. I feel like no one understands what I am feeling, so I try to explain. Well-meaning people, who love me, offer their thoughts and suggestions, but I become easily frustrated. I appreciate that others want to help, but it seems like I am not explaining things correctly or it’s all in my head. Or, maybe my pain is caused by an injury or I need to be more active, rather than it’s sleep related. I definitely agree that I need more exercise and I did feel better when I was more active, but these symptoms started getting worse when I was working out more regularly. Now, I just want to cry at the thought of doing more, as I can barely get by with what I am doing.
I probably shouldn’t even be blogging, but writing is the only thing that seems to preserve my sanity.
Interestingly, the physical therapy office just called regarding my recent cancelled appointments. I explained to them that I just don’t see the point in doing more right now. The therapy has not been able to overcome my poor sleeping and I am still not sold on the idea of injecting needles into my trigger points.
After looking at my data, my feelings, and drawing my own conclusions, I googled “sleep has the biggest effect on my health” because I wanted to see how my experiences relate to others, as well as see if scientific research supports my thoughts.
The first match was an article from 2007: External Factors that Influence Sleep
It’s from the division of sleep medicine at Harvard… Sounds pretty impressive.
This paragraph interests me: “Individuals of all ages who experience stress, anxiety, and depression tend to find it more difficult to fall asleep, and when they do, sleep tends to be light and includes more REM sleep and less deep sleep. This is likely because our bodies are programmed to respond to stressful and potentially dangerous situations by waking up. Stress, even that caused by daily concerns, can stimulate this arousal response and make restful sleep more difficult to achieve.”
Wow – this is truth in my world! I get more REM sleep than deep sleep. It’s my deep sleep numbers that suffer most!
The second match is a 2016 article from the Fatigue Science blog: 5 Areas Sleep has the Greatest Impact on Athletic Performance
The entire blog is good, but this is the opening paragraph: “The modern elite athlete knows that physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance; however, sleep, while often overlooked, plays an equally important role. In recent years, it’s become clear that the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on game-day.”
I may not be an elite athlete, but I feel like I am losing when I don’t sleep well.
Article 3 was geared to teens, so I will skip that one. The 4th was a blog from 2017: Provocative New Insights from the Largest Consumer Sleep Study ever Released
It’s very insightful to see how poorly Americans sleep. It’s nice that I am not alone, and that I can sign up for their on-going sleep study. How cool would that be? My sleep score is likely between 55-65 according to their quiz (America’s average is 77, still not good, but I am clearly below average even for sleep-deprived America).
The 5th (and final one I will share) is: 10 Things to Hate about Sleep Loss
Nothing surprising there; all true! And, several of them cause problems in other areas of my life that likely exacerbate stress, which makes my sleep even worse.
I could go on and on with Internet matches; there were tons!
Maybe I’m not crazy… Maybe I’m just incredibly sleep-deprived… and likely crazy, but that’s a whole different blog…
Time to start the Whole30 again because things were definitely better when I was following it perfectly. My husband is going to do it with me, which makes me really happy!