Sleep is the foundation of everything

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 7:12 PM | comments: 0

I used to pride myself on the fact that I could generally sleep through anything, and I generally slept well. I probably didn't really appreciate this until I started cohabitating with Diana, who does... not. She has her reasons, but if there was one thing that I could count on, it's that I was a good sleeper.

Then the pandemic happened. Well, I think that's part of it. I started a new job at the same time, and it captured an unusual amount of brain cycles for me. The differentiating factor I think was having so many direct reports, I think ten at one point, while also having to do a lot of vision stuff and some architecture. But also, you know, global pandemic. More and more, I'd get up during the night, sit up, maybe walk around, pee since I was up anyway, and it hasn't returned to my previous normal since.

Prior to that, for a year and a half, I had the need to go to an office, and by extension, needed to be in before everyone else. That's also a traffic mitigation tactic. Before that, I had a good rhythm of getting up early enough to do a walk and stuff. In fact, I remember 2014 and 2015 as years that I was particularly active, and at an OK weight, generally feeling good most of the time. Some of it was the newness still of living here, but I generally slept well and everything else was good.

Since then, I've hit another age milestone, but what I appreciate more than ever is that good sleep is the foundation to your well being. Not getting it has a cascading effect on everything else. If you don't sleep well, you don't get up very early. If you don't get up early, you probably don't have time to move around a little. If you don't move around a little, you get flabby and you feel your core in suboptimal ways. That all in turn has psychological consequences that antidepressants can't compensate for. And that mental health situation makes it harder to sleep. It's a vicious cycle.

I think I might be starting to break out of the cycle. My biggest issue is that a combination of brain-won't-turn-off and sometimes restless leg syndrome (that shit is real) keeps me up. It sucks. The brain thing, if I'm careful and put the phone away early, I can at least partially mitigate. The leg thing not so much. I accidentally figured out that I can beat both, when I had a well-timed panic attack. I don't have these that often, but some years ago, my doctor gave me lorazepam to use "as needed." It chills me out, brings my heart rate to a good spot, and it's like getting off of a busy freeway and on to a road with no other cars and nothing to look at. It's also a controlled substance that's particularly addictive, so I don't want that. The 30 pills I've had generally last me a year.

But like everyone else in Florida, I started to wonder if medical marijuana would help, since it's "known" to help with anxiety and insomnia, and that is a permissible reason to prescribe it. (This is a blog post onto itself, for another day.) I've only been using it for about three weeks, not counting the DC trip since you certainly can't leave the state with it. But boy did I feel the RLS after walking 12 miles around the nation's capital. The problem with medicinal weed (edibles, in this case) is that the research is spotty at best, since it's still a Schedule I substance, despite scientific consensus that it's not in the same category as heroin. Hopefully that'll change. I couldn't tell you what it feels like to be "high," because I'm from the "Just say no" generation and adhered to that, but the 5mg of THC I've been taking makes it super easy to go to sleep. Whether or not it works through the night is hit or miss, and I have to experiment with the strain and combination with CBD to figure out what the "right" thing is.

I write about this now because this morning I got up at 7, an hour before my alarm, having gone to sleep around midnight. I felt good, I walked a mile and change on the treadmill for the first time since August, and I felt sharp all day on a day where I really needed to be. I have hope now that I might be headed toward my pre-pandemic status quo.

There's still work to do, and I recognize that "sleep hygiene" is a real thing. It means going to bed at a time where you confidently believe you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It means putting down the phone earlier, because that NYT crossword can totally wait (I don't doomscroll the way I used to). I have to get into these good habits, because I know that it only gets harder as you get older, and I am not young. Sleep is key.


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