T=Tired This is the fourth and final entry in the series Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
This is a personal challenge for me. In my sophomore year of college, I got up before dawn to cox the crew team. Then I stayed up late because…college! It was not unusual for me to fall asleep in class or on the floor of my dorm room, or face down on an open book with my glasses on and a pencil in my hand. Singing in the choir, hanging with my sorority and my two roommates, and keeping up with a full course load filled every moment. At one point, I called my mom in tears about some end-of-the-world scenario and she asked me, “When was the last time you slept?” I couldn’t remember. After a good night’s sleep (or six) the post-apocalyptic nightmare in which I had been living was replaced by the normal world.
That moment is the primary reason I didn’t continue with choir in my junior year, eased my way off the crew team, and have always made an effort to fight for sleep. And it can be a fight. There’s always another book, television show (hello Jon Stewart!), assignment for work, or “crisis” to keep you up late.
Sometimes the wee hours of the morning seem like the only time the world is quiet and restful….and it’s a shame to sleep through that. Meditation has helped give me the few minutes of peace in the day that make it easier to give into sleep at night. I also recommend a nice, non-stressful book (anything by Anthony Trollope).
What about the times you’re tired…but you went to bed on time, got your eight hours, and have been a model citizen of the Land of Nod? My doctor recommends a blood test. Common causes of fatigue are low levels of Vitamin D, Low Iron (Anemia), or a Thyroid Disorder like Hashimoto’s. Poorly controlled allergies or sleep apnea can leave you exhausted. And some medications (again, allergy medications) can give you a bit of a hangover. Benedryl leaves me foggy for hours after it should have worn off.
Once you ruled out the obvious (not sleeping enough) and the less obvious, consider whether your “tiredness” is a mask for depression. Depression can mess with your sleep patterns and the “everything is awful” feelings that tired people may experience may come on with unshakeable force for a person predisposed to depression. Again, this is a good time to seek medical help. Depression often has a strong genetic component. I’ve found the combination of a good antidepressant to restore brain chemistry and cognitive therapy to help you “autocorrect” behavior and thoughts that work against you really can leave you refreshed.
A friend of mine who suffers from anxiety had difficulty sleeping at night….which left her tired, jumpy, and more anxious during the day…so she had more trouble sleeping at night…and round and round it went. She had a bad reaction to one form of medication and was reluctant to try another, but on the advice of her therapist, she took the plunge. Three weeks in, she’s sleeping at night, eating again during the day, making plans with friends, has color in her cheeks…and it’s wonderful to see.
Witness the rapid deterioration caused by lack of sleep in Al Roker’s marathon session (which earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest live weather broadcast). After 36 hours, he doesn’t look or sound like the same guy. Lack of sleep ages you…and it really is a matter of life and death. In the final hour, Today Show correspondent Jeff Rossen did a piece on “Drowsy Driving” that should inspire us all to reform our sleep habits. Now, if he couldn’t even think clearly enough to hit the breaks quickly enough to avoid an accident, how could he (or any of us) think clearly enough to solve a problem, have a cogent discussion (that doesn’t devolve into an argument), or clearly evaluation a situation?
So there it is. A plea not to believe the world is as grey as it seems when you’re tired…and a way to conquer the kind of tiredness that isn’t caused by lack of sleep. Now I need a refreshing nap…
This is a good post to note that I am in no way a medical professional or therapist or any such thing. These posts are intended as helpful suggestions, not as diagnostic tools or treatment for major issues. Special thanks to Madi, Harley, Petey, Henri, and (of course) Daisy. Apparently there’s some truth in the phrase “dog tired.”