After my slightly dramatic last blog post (The Off-Season: Sleep Goes MIA Part I), I thought I would continue the trend…
If you type into Google ‘Can you die from…’ fourth from the top is ‘…a lack of sleep’. I just need to point out that I hadn’t googled this myself, I heard it on one of the numerous podcasts I have listened to on sleep deprivation. I then checked Google and can confirm; it is fourth from the top. This therefore indicates that I am not the only person struggling with sleep and definitely not the only one concerned about the potential side effects of no/little sleep. Good, makes me normal…
I am no expert on the science behind sleep deprivation, I am just very well accustomed to the effects of it. It is annoying.
In my final year of university, I admitted to myself that I was certainly not a good sleeper. Although, looking back, I have never been one to lay-in and I have constantly had this guilt that going to bed early/getting up late was wasted time due to it being completely unproductive.
It was at its worst during my final year at university where, at most, I was getting 5 hours a night, best case scenario. I struggled with focusing during lectures, stressed over coursework, was emotional and struggled to maintain a social life. Because my sleep pattern was so sensitive, I avoided late nights in an attempt to at least try to sleep. In hindsight, I would have been better going out, letting my hair down and relaxing as opposed to sitting in my room worrying about getting to sleep and the mounting pile of coursework and background reading I had to do. I missed out on a lot, in particular a lot of fun. I didn’t really talk about it so people must have just assumed that I was boring, which I guess was also true.
After consecutive nights of very little sleep, I am hardly going to be fully functioning and firing off all cylinders. I find that I experience ‘hangover like’ symptoms with a groggy head, I am more indecisive, eat enough for a family of four, am far less efficient, over-think everything, get claustrophobic and am moody.
You would think that after one- or two-nights bad sleep, I’d be exhausted so naturally end up having a great night’s sleep and catching an early night. Wrong. Very wrong. After a bad night’s sleep, I actually get into a shocking cycle where I dread going to bed for fear of enduring another sleepless night. I enter into a vicious circle which is so hard to break. It almost becomes routine. I am actually better staying up and keeping myself occupied in order to distract myself from worrying about falling asleep.
To go back to Google, (to the best of my knowledge) you cannot directly die from not sleeping, a lack of sleep does increase your risk of (including but not exclusively):
- Having a life threatening/debilitating accident;
- Heart disease;
- High blood pressure;
- Poor mental health;
- Diabetes; and
So there I am, laying there at some stupid hour with anxiety because if I don’t fall asleep in the next few seconds I am going to be an immediate candidate for all of the above. I am also going to be completely useless the next day.
As I have grown older, wiser and taken on this triathlon business, my sleep has improved. However, like with my training, there is always room for improvement, and it is certainly not perfect. Yet another positive the sport and structured training has brought with it.
Since understanding the issues behind my inability to sleep, I have spoken to a number of high achievers and sports men and women who, like me, suffer from (undiagnosed as I hate the doctors) insomnia. It is these discussions with others that has led me to write about it and has also made me wish that I had been open about it sooner, realising it is certainly not uncommon. This most recent blog post mainly discusses my experiences in the past and I am certainly not so sleep deprived at this moment in time and nor do I intend to revert back to how I was then.
To be continued…