I love the holidays.
I hate cleaning up the aftermath.
I’m not talking about the empty smudged champagne glasses or the popcorn kernels littering the carpet after watching the twentieth Christmas movie. What I mean is how utterly crapola I feel after too many holiday indulgences and an off-the-rails sleep pattern.
The festive indulging this year was okay. The problem was that our family travels to the south of Italy where we spent ten days and every meal with my husband’s family. We eat healthy fare, but it’s different from the way I’m used to eating and my digestion pays for it.
Getting back on track food wise is as simple as being in my own home and eating on schedule again with food my stomach is familiar with. That actually only took a few days. What took a lot longer was restoring my sleep schedule.
The first sign of trouble was noticing how bad my running felt. I had no energy and really did not feel like going for a run at all. When I did get out the door I could only make it a mile before I had to stop and take a walk break. I knew this didn’t feel right. I knew my bad holiday sleeping habits were the cause.
How bad? We’d get home after dinner at my mother-in-law’s at 11PM, turn on the television and see a Christmas movie on that we had to watch. Had to! I’d fall asleep on the couch at 1AM then wake again at 4AM and crawl off to bed. By New Year’s I was in bed at 2AM and falling asleep at 4, pushing the cycle farther every single day.
But it’s the holidays, right? Are we having fun? Yes, we are… until we go back home, where our regular schedule requires a 6.15AM start. Ugh!
What I love about running is that it always gives the first signals that my body is not aligned in some way. I knew my sleeping was off but didn’t know how bad until I went for an eight mile run and could barely get through it. Running is supposed to be joyful and fun, not a slugfest where I just try and make it to the end.
I tackled my insomnia the way I do with all my running and health issues: as naturally as possible and right-this-minute. I dove in head first and came up with four bullet steps to get back on track:
1. Get to bed by 10:30 PM and out of bed by 6.30AM.
I have a really hard time getting to bed and then an even more difficult time getting out, but I stuck to this schedule and it seemed to work well.
2. Once in bed, stay there no matter what. No distractions, no reading – just lay there and meditate.
This was the hardest, especially in the first three nights. Someone suggested that I try taking melatonin and that helped a little bit in falling asleep.
3. Cut out coffee.
This was hard but had pretty immediate positive effects.
4. Take one weekend day to wake without an alarm.
I still go to bed at 10.30PM but I sleep longer, if I feel like it. I always feel like it!
From start to cured my homemade anti-insomnia plan took seven days. The best part is I’m running again, joyfully and effortlessly. Which proves once again that good health is multifaceted, but sleep is really the base to it all.
Now get to bed!