Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sleep deprivation

One of the most important things in changing your habits is identifying your triggers and finding ways of avoiding or dealing with them. Triggers, put simply, are things that cause you to eat more. It doesn't matter if the triggers are reasons or excuses; they are something that you need to learn to live with or avoid.

One of my biggest triggers is sleep deprivation. Since the birth of my son, I sometimes think I have been in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. Then I went and had my children 17 months apart, and continued the poor sleep cycle. As someone who used to need a minimum of 8.5 - 9 hours of sleep a night to function, I've learned to deal fairly well with 5-6. I don't really start hitting a state of non-functionality until I'm under 4 hours, and even then I can usually manage to deal.

I deal by eating. It's like I substitute food for those extra hours. And the foods I substitute most are the refined carbohydrates, the things that give me the sugary boost.

And the question is, how to change that?

First step is avoidance. There are times when I have been sleep deprived and not taken the opportunity to get extra sleep. My husband is one of those wonderful men that will often watch the kids and let me sleep in on weekends or go to bed early. There are still occasions (becoming fewer and more precious) that both my children will nap at the same time. These are all opportunities to get more sleep.

(A quick aside: we won't be discussing how to get my children to sleep better here. That's a subject for my parenting blog, when/if I choose to discuss it.)

Sometimes avoidance doesn't work though. Whether it's teething, nightmares, sickness or other reasons, sometimes my children are going to wake up all night long and that means I will too.

That's when I have to learn how to deal with it in other ways.

Today is one of those days. Before I would start one of these days off by grabbing a cookie or a bowl of my husband's frosted flakes. Today, I made myself a bowl of 5 grain hot cereal and threw some peaches on top. I'm now drinking a cup of hot peppermint tea. I can't do much caffeine since having my gall bladder out, so sadly, that's not an option for me.

The thing is, I don't really know how to deal with it, so today is something of an experiment. My plan is to keep food in myself, but really focus on the whole grains, fruits, and healthy proteins. I'll also be going outside this afternoon for a walk with the kids (thanks to our continuing chinook). I think the biggest thing is to keep busy, so maybe my house will get cleaner today.

I remember reading once that for every hour of sleep debt, you lose 10 IQ points. Even looking back at this blog post, I think that might be true. I don't feel like it has the same quality of writing as usual. Good thing I was pretty smart to begin with. ;) Otherwise I wouldn't be able to put 2 words together.

So, a question for my readers today: How do you deal with sleep deprivation, and what are your triggers?

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