May 22, 2009 10:00 AM   Subscribe

If you are really exhausted from lack of sleep and stress, x say 2 months off and on, what's the best thing to do to get back in good shape?

I've had a pretty stressful couple of months (2 moves, started a crazy school program, lots of work, anxiety). I haven't been sleeping particularly well for a lot of it and also fell of my exercise routine that I'd been doing since January.

Anyway, I missed out on a lot of sleep. The last few weeks I've just felt weary. Sometimes I don't but it doesn't take much for extreme weariness to kick in.

So what do I do? I have a hard time sleeping during the day, or sleeping in. Should I force myself to lay in bed, even if I don't sleep? Or just try to get on a more regular sleep schedule and wait for things to fix themselves?

An additional problem is that I usually wake up a bit after sunrise and it's really hard to get back to sleep. And I play music at night so I'm often awake until 11 or 12. = I'm getting 6.5 hours of good sleep a night quite often, and 8 would be more like it.
posted by sully75 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think first you should try to get an exercise routine going again. This will help you in a variety of ways, but most importantly it will help you fall and stay asleep at night. Try to spare 30 minutes a day for this. Start out slow, but you really want to aim for fairly rigorous exercise to get the best effects.

Second, you really need to develop a bedtime routine for yourself, at least until you get into the swing of things sleepwise again. Stop staying awake until 11 or 12. At around 9 is when you should start your routine. Try to plan efficiently during the day so you no longer have homework or housework obligations at that point. Brush your teeth, wash your face, make your bed. Get into bed. If you need to be amused before bed, read a book or magazine with music playing quietly. Try to avoid staring at brightly lit screens, like computers or tv. Give yourself a good hour to unwind, then shut everything off and wait for sleep.

In the beginning you could try taking a sleeping pill (such as Ambien or if you're more grocery store inclined, Melatonin) to help you, but I wouldn't do that for more than 2-3 days max. Just be patient and keep up with your routine. Your body will figure out that it's time to go to sleep now. If you try for a couple of weeks and it doesn't happen, considering going to a doctor about it.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2009

Boy, sully75, I've been there. And quite recently, too.

I think your first port of call should be reestablishing your sleep patterns. Make your bedroom quiet and dark, install a light-blocking shade over the windows if you need to, and remove all distractions from the room if possible. Find a way to come down off the adrenaline high of performing so late at night - have a nightcap, do some yoga, hot shower, whatever makes you drowsy. At least give yourself a fighting chance of getting eight hours of sleep a night!

Other things that helped me, in no particular order: drink lots of water, B12 supplement, fresh air, and exercise. The exercise doesn't have to be schlep-to-the-gym exercise, either - go mow the lawn, or dig in the garden, or go for a walk, or something.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 10:13 AM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry that was sort of rambling.

My basic question:
If you are exhausted from lack of sleep over a period, is it better to try to force yourself into bed even if you can't sleep? Or just get on a regular schedule? What if your lifestyle sort of prevents a very regular schedule?

posted by sully75 at 10:24 AM on May 22, 2009

I totally neglected to read the fact that you're a musician. Sorry, my advice is totally worthless for you!
posted by sickinthehead at 10:25 AM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: sickinthehead...that's all good advice. Thanks. 9pm is just not going to happen though. I kind of wish. I should think about trying to do it once in a while. Sadly I love to play music and have a chance to do it several times a week and it lets out no earlier than 10pm and usually 12. I'll be moving closer to where it's played in a couple of weeks which means I'll be able to walk home and be in bed quickly.

But thanks for the other ideas. I do end up taking my laptop to bed with me, and I'm going to have to get strict with myself about that.
posted by sully75 at 10:27 AM on May 22, 2009

Response by poster: sickinthehead: there's other good stuff in there! But yeah. And sometimes I have class starting at 7am. It's a bad scene but I'm enjoying myself as soon as I get enough sleep to remember I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing.
posted by sully75 at 10:28 AM on May 22, 2009

I can say that trying to force yourself to sleep when you aren't tired will backfire. For me, it only makes me more anxious about falling asleep. Any change in sleep routine has to be introduced gradually. I take melatonin about an hour before bed and when I get in bed the only thing I do is a crossword puzzle (it's become ingrained in my head that crosswords=sleepytime, so it works somehow). No TV and no phones. I think I heard that using a cellphone before bed can cause insomnia, but it may be an urban myth.
posted by wowbobwow at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2009

Sleep is more important than exercise, so deal with that first.

You say you get about 6.5 hours of sleep per night. Since you asked the question, I'll assume you are still tired after that much sleep.


Go to bed when you first feel sleepy. That might mean giving up the late-night music sessions. I've found that if I don't go to bed when I feel tired, then I get a second wind and stay up for another 2-3 hours But, I pay for it the next day.

If you wake up too early, give yourself permission to roll over and try to go back to sleep.

If you cannot give uo the late-night music, figure out a way to sleep later. We need the sleep we need and nothing we can do is gonna change that.

Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Your body is a creature of habit.

And, remember, it's all downhill after 23.
posted by justcorbly at 3:15 PM on May 22, 2009

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