I am writing this off of three hours of sleep in the last three days. So, if this post gets a little hairy, its probably because I am either completely losing control of the faculties in place that regulate the differentiation of my stupid Neanderthal lizard brain and my actual rational, logical thought organization centers or I passed out and my face hit the keyboard. Before I start, anytime I bring these issues up with anyone, I get a lecture about sleep hygiene. Yes, I genuinely appreciate when people show empathy here and take the time to offer me advice. But, here is a list of things I have done to try to improve this situation:
- Gotten rid of all light pollution/exposure in my room
- ZMA, melatonin, valarian (actually helps for a couple days at a time), ambien (helps my sleep quality but turns me into a psycopath), zquil (gives me a terrible hangover the nex day), and changed my dietary habits in the evening.
- I could drink 3 gallons of coffee or have 0mg of caffeine and it literally makes no difference. This is based off of months of trial and error.
- I’ve done 2 sleep studies. Both of which were conducted during extended bouts of my issues. Everything was completely normal… except for the combined hour and a half I actually spent sleeping. I was half hoping that I just had sleep apnea so that I could get a CPAP to finally be considered eligible to live in Rhodestown
So, this begs the question, what the hell is my problem? I have a couple theories. The first of which is that I am just having 6 hour long panic attacks without actually panicking about anything. I am a pretty even keeled, laid back person for the most part. It takes a lot to get me genuinely riled up. I am pretty sure anxiety isn’t the issue.
Which leads me to my second theory. Sympathetic nervous system over stimulation. Our bodies aren’t as smart as we give them credit for. Many of the reasons for our emotional, physical, and hormonal reactions to certain situations/stimuli are merely left over cave man survival mechanisms. This is a reason I am not a fan of anxiety drugs and add medicine. Yes, there is a percentage of people that have borderline debilitating issues with these conditions and they actually need these medicines. But, think about what anxiety meant when we were hunter gatherers. Anxiety and worry were probably both elements relating to lack of food, the impending winter months, or inevitable attack from another tribe/grizzly bears/dinosaurs/whatever. Fear is a fucking awesome motivator. Anxiety kept humans moving and thinking. I know this because we are all alive today in a relatively comfortable time with very little to actually worry about. Sure, paying the bills is tough. But, there is a zero percent chance of having to watch your family get gored by a saber tooth tiger or trampled to death by a mastodon.
Anyway, what I am getting at is, the fight or flight response from lifting heavy stuff has about a zero differentiation from the same fight or flight that is cued from watching one of natures perfect killing machines sprint at you with its mouth open. I think at some point in our evolution, we lost the ability to better regulate that stimulation. Basically, I think the nervous response from heavy training is much harder to “turn off” for some people. Me being one of them.
Once I started considering this as the possible origin of the issue, I started experimenting with some different modalities/protocols that have made some difference. Basically, if I take the time to do some kind of parasympathetic driven activity, my sleep quality is slightly better. None of this is the end all be all of insomnia cures, but it helps me tremendously.
- Light static stretching before bed. Basically, I will just hang out in a pancake stretch for 10-15 minutes, switch to something like a couch stretch for 5 mins on each leg, then maybe pick 2 or three smaller muscles to stretch.
- Light extra workout. My favorite is 100 reps of each of these exercises with a mini band: facepulls, pull aparts, good morning, curls, tri. extensions, some bodyweight squats, maybe some short planks for 20-40 seconds.
- Contrast shower. 20 minutes of 1:30 hot, 30s cold, and always end on cold.
- Ice bath. Find a happy place and sit there for 20 minutes.
As you’ll notice, all of these are right around 20 minutes. This is because I never feel like its enough work if its shorter than 10 but I get incredibly bored at 30. Science.
Anyone else experience similar issues? I’d love to here what works for you.
Sprint. Kill. Sleep… please just go to sleep.