“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway
If I could give only one piece of wisdom, share only one thing that’s had a tremendous impact on my mental and physical heath. I’d tell you to get outside and go walking. I know this isn’t always feasible. I know that life happens, weather happens, and our own bodies are not always very cooperative, but walking was my gateway to feeling better. It’s one of my keystones. Without it, I feel like all the other things I try to do to help myself, tend to unravel.
My goals are simple. I go outside, pick a direction, and walk for fifteen minutes. When my time is up, I go home. Fifteen minutes out. Fifteen minutes back. That’s it. That’s how I get in a half hour of walking. I can usually fit walking into my life 3-4 mornings a week.
If I could give you TWO pieces of advice, I’d tell you to get more sleep.
Yes, yes, YES! I can already hear your excuses. You’re a special snowflake. You don’t need the same amount of sleep as everyone else. Human adults need approximately 8 hours of sleep per day. Children need more. But…you’re special. You can live on NO sleep and make up for your lack of shuteye by drinking copious amounts of coffee, tea, and/or energy drinks. You’re not going to listen to me, because I’ve been there. I’ve been making excuses for decades! Too much to do. To little time to do it in. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I said.
And then…I started perimenopause. My body felt foreign. My mind seemed to shift. Everything I thought I knew about being me…changed.
If you’ve ever suffered an injury, you’ll notice you feel tired, more so than usual. Why? Because you need sleep to heal. Children also need more sleep, more than adults, because their bodies are growing. You need sleep to grow. Healing injuries is a form of growth. Makes sense, right? Anytime your body is in construction mode, it needs hours to get the maintenance work done. There isn’t a magic wand fix. Your body can only do so much. It’s not as if you can’t heal during the day, but there’s a LOT going on while you’re awake. Most of your body’s construction work takes place while you’re resting.
I’ve been regularly depriving my body of much-needed sleep for a long time. Decades. I was in retail management for nearly 20 years. In my experience, most managers are sleep deprived. They live on caffeine and adrenaline.
When I started experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause, everything came crashing down on me, all of my years of trying to fit 28 hours in a 24 hour day stopped. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like a zombie. I felt like I was losing my mind!
For one thing, I wasn’t sleeping as deeply as I did in the past. Every little noise woke me up. I’d have a hot flash and THAT would wake me up. I felt like I was constantly waking up.
So, let’s do some math.
If I go to bed late and get up early, allowing 5-6 hours beddy-bye time, and then those few precious hours get eaten up with perimenopausal tossing and turning…guess how long it will take before Juli goes crazy. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture! In addition to this dilemma, my body is going through some serious changes. Plus, it’s not as young as it used to be. All those aches and pains… Yeah, Juli’s body is definitely in “construction mode.”
What does this mean? Sleep is now a VERY real necessity. I can’t play games with the clock, not anymore. I HAVE to get enough sleep!! Sleep is another keystone. I can’t possibly feel healthy without it.
If I want to get enough sleep, I have to go to bed earlier. It’s simple math. If I want to STAY asleep, I have to eliminate as many distractions as I can. A cool, dark bedroom helps, but I was already doing that. And still waking up. Slept with a fan on. Still woke up. I reluctantly bought some earplugs.
It took a few weeks to get used to them. They were uncomfortable, even though they’re made of soft foam. But, they work. I need to use TWO alarm clocks, an obnoxious cat, and my hubby to wake me up in the morning. The earplugs block out almost everything. But they do work!
Now that I’m getting enough sleep, I no longer feel like I’m losing my mind. Sleep has helped tremendously with my battle with depression. Even my aches and pains have lessened, simply by getting more sleep.
Walking is NOT groundbreaking. Sleeping is NOT groundbreaking. These are things I should have already been doing. Perimenopause is NOT for wusses. It’s not horrible, either. Yes, it has kicked my tush, but it’s also FORCED me to live a healthier lifestyle. Maybe there’s a reason why some women breeze through perimenopause and others, like myself, feel like they’re going through a nightmare. Perhaps this is nature’s way of getting adrenaline junkies, like myself, on track. I’d like to be around and healthy in the future. Perhaps this is the start.
More posts to follow…
Take care and sleep tight!