Nine Ways I’m Improving My Sleep and Fighting Fatigue .
By Brad Beckstrom
I shouldn’t complain, after all, I’ve spent a half a century on this planet without a major illness. I’m not sure my second half-century will go as well, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. In return for my overall good health, I’ve gotten to battle my share of ongoing “nagging conditions.” I think “conditions” is a good word for these because they are a state, a circumstance in which I operate, they are ongoing and generally unyielding to my efforts. I have learned to live with these conditions and manage them on a day-to-day basis so that they’re generally unnoticeable to others and, on a good day, unnoticeable even to myself.
What is my condition? Boogers. That’s it. That’s what I’ve called it since I was a kid “Boogers”. The official medical term is Sinusitis, Basically your nose overreacts to everything and fills up with some sort of snot that dries up in the night and turns into boogers. It’s sort of like having a mild cold all the time. Immediately people think “oh, you must have allergies.” Nope, I’m allergic to nothing. I’ve been tested probably 5 times, even once at the National Institutes of Health. After sprays and meds didn’t work, top docs told me, “oh, the problem is your deviated septum. Surgery can fix that.” I got a second opinion, “yep surgery will fix that.” I got the surgery, it didn’t fix it. It’s my condition. It’s not going anywhere.
I was told that these sinus problems need to be addressed or they can lead to sleep apnea which can lead to stroke, cancer or DEATH. So, now these boogers could kill me if I didn’t get rid of them. Or more likely, my wife will kill me for my loud snoring,
smother my ass in the night just to stop it. I was tested for sleep apnea, spent the night in the hospital hooked up to lots of wires and observed. I was diagnosed with borderline sleep apnea which is one step below mild sleep apnea. Just to be sure, after another 10 years of fighting boogers, I went back for a second sleep apnea test. Same test, same results.
I was told that if it really bothers me that much I could try a CPAP machine, which I agreed to. This machine basically involves wearing a face covering mask to bed the blows air down your throat. It basically just dried out my sinuses even more and that lead to…you guessed it… more boogers. Tried some new high-tech sprays, some with steroids, same results some had the added benefits of causing nosebleeds.
The biggest challenge that this condition presents is not so much with my sinuses, it’s with fatigue. Having your sleep disrupted on a regular basis, even mildly, can really catch up with you. Sleep quality goes down with age and decreases nearly 20% over our adult lives. There’s plenty of motivation to achieve quality sleep as it can lower your risk for cancer or heart disease and obesity.
So, I don’t have this licked yet but I’ve been working on it for a few years and here are nine ways I’ve found to battle fatigue and make sleep awesome again.
- Find your baseline. You may not need an expensive sleep test like I did. There are some great smartphone apps that will give you some fancy graphs tracking your sleep data. They can also be set to wake you up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle. I’ve tried Wakemate that has more detailed sleep data app and the Fitbit wristband that also tracks exercise and has an excellent smartphone app. You can even compare your sleep data to others.
- Get a feel for the type of sleep problems you have. Some of the app data can show you whether you have onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep), sleep maintenance insomnia, waking up during the night and having trouble falling back to sleep, or waking up early and being unable to fall back asleep.
- Once you find your baseline sleep cycle and realize how screwed up it is, develop a new respect for sleep. Sleep is awesome. Like a lot of things, we all are a bit different and we each need to spend the time to find what works best for us. The good news is this is a test where you’re asleep most of the time, so that’s a bonus.
- Get on a schedule. Setting a regular sleep time, at least for most days of the week, is one of the best things I’ve done to improve my sleep. Once you understand your body’s sleep cycles (see items 1 and 2) you can get a good feel for when you need to get to bed and get up. After several months, you’ll no longer need the app or the wristband.
- Exercise daily – I’m sure this is on most better sleep tip lists. The real reason It works is that you’re reducing stress and anxiety through exercise which thereby improves your sleep. See The trail that saved my life.
- All things in moderation, especially caffeine and alcohol. I break these rules all the time but know your limits and try not to drink too much of any liquids right before you go to bed or you’ll be up in the night for other reasons.
- Keep your sinuses healthy. Disrupted breathing is one of the most common causes of insomnia. I found that a simple saline sinus spray called Ayr helps me clear my sinuses before bed. In the winter I use a saline gel to fight dryness.
- Become a master of the 20 min power nap. One of grand benefits of working from home is access to the power nap. Like exercise, I think of this as a unmovable item on my schedule. For me, I found that 20 to 25 minutes in the late afternoon works best for me. Its especially effective when you hit that late afternoon wall, way better than any energy drink.
- If you suffer from Onset Insomnia (trouble falling asleep), here are some great breathing and mindfulness exercises you can try. Welcome to the cool side of the pillow.
These are all drug-free sleep tips. If you have ongoing sleep challenges, share them with your doctor. Before they pull out the prescription pad, ask for natural alternatives to sleep medications.