I am honest.
You know that. I know that. I am proud to say that honesty and transparency came from my grandma, or nanny as I used to call her. Nanny Muir was the toughest person I knew, and she always told you the truth. Like that time she told me my legs were chubby when I was sitting on the couch as an 18 year old. That forever scarred in my mind, and I used to tease her about it often.
I was HORRIFIED that she said that to me, but at the end of the day, she was right. At that point in my life I was heading towards a weight that would soon start to affect my running, and I was definitely eating much more than I was burning.
Although it upset me, it was the kick I needed to start looking after myself a little better, which was good for me.
Nanny Muir is also gave me the “grit” that allows me to go so far into the well on race day. She is the reason I am able to push myself so hard beyond most runners, I know I learned that from her.
But as honest as I am, I have not been sharing something with you that has been going on behind the scenes.
No. I am NOT pregnant!
But I have been going to a therapist.
A sleep therapist.
I have hinted several times that I struggle with insomnia, and it was getting to the point where it was affecting my life in a severe way. I have always been an early riser, but when you take hours to fall asleep each night with a racing mind, and still wake up at 4:30am without an alarm, or you wake up at 6am when you went to bed at 2, that is something that is eventually going to affect your training when you are pushing it to the limit as an elite.
You know I have some serious goals I am chasing down, and although I honestly believe I am one of those people who can get away with less sleep, I knew it was affecting my performance, and not only that, but it was affecting my sanity. I think the panic attack last weekend proved that I am definitely struggling with stress.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, when I just could not fall asleep, I would get delirious and start crying. Frustrated that I could not sleep, night after night, when my body was so exhausted from my training.
Before people start telling me I am overtraining. This happens year round.
And before I start hearing the tactics that “I can never make it to the end of…..” well, I tried those, all of them, and nothing seemed to work. I even tried the Sleep with Me podcast, where a guy talks for an hour in a monotone voice about a boring topic. I would make it through the full hour, still listening.
Sorry if I am coming across as snarky (shows you what sleep deprivation does 😛 ) but my point is, it was time to do something about it. I HATED going to bed. I dreaded the night as I knew I would lie there frustrated, my body too tired to do anything, but my mind racing, getting myself more and more worked up as the night went on.
I started taking benadryl, melatonin, or Dream Easy. Which worked, they really did knock me out, but there are two disturbing things about that:
- I would often have nightmares or hallucinations during the night
- I DID NOT want to get to the point where these did not work and I had to keep upping the dosage. I do not like taking medicines, and I was finding I slept much much worse on the nights I did not take it.
- If I did not time it right between taking them and going to bed (I would try to strategically plan it so I took it an hour before I got into bed), then I would get unbearable restless legs. Something I have had most my life, especially during my time off, but this would get to the point where I could not stay in bed or even sit down, the only thing that would help it would be to get up and shake my legs
Finally I reached a breaking point.
Steve was working 60-80 hours a week, yet I was keeping him up at night. I could see it was affecting him, and it was getting to the point where I could not plow through the way I used to (did I mention I HATE taking naps!).
I booked myself in to see a specialist.
Okay……lets step away for a second here. I apologize, I planned on being well into the therapy by now, but I am just on a roll with my story here……we might need a second post for this!
I researched into a sleep specialist who would understand runners, and although I could not find one who ran. I found one who loved cycling, and I thought she would understand.
She was fantastic, I really liked her, and she told me that I had conditioned myself to associate the bed with frustration and anger.
Kind of like Pavlovs dogs, it was like my racing mind waited until I got into bed, and as soon as my head hit the pillow, my mind began to dump; everything I had to do tomorrow, everything I had done that day, all my worries, fears, frustrations (even if I wrote them down before I went to bed!). Once those tasks were out of the way, I was well aware I was still awake 45 mins later……and we all know how that goes when you know you aren’t asleep yet!
Dr Waldrop referred me to a sleep therapist, and prescribed me some pills for my restless legs (which have worked very well).
So, for the last 6 weeks I have been seeing a therapist about my sleeping. I had to fill out a psychological assessment, which was 300 questions long, and pretty scary to do, especially as you knew that they knew what they were looking for. What if they found out I was crazy? What if I have some kind of personality disorder?
Thankfully, the only thing she found was that I am incredibly driven, and well….she used other words to describe it, but what I got out of it was….Type A.
She put me on a sleep restriction the first week (which happened to be the week after the RnR Philadelphia). I was only allowed to sleep 5 hours a night, and if my mind began to race at any time, I HAD to get up. I also had to turn off all electronics except for a reading light for 90 mins before I went to bed.
That was HARD. SO much harder than I thought, but it worked. I fell right asleep each night, exhausted.
But it definitely affected my days too. I felt like a zombie, and every run was a struggle. I had a horrible meltdown on the day of my first workout back after philly, calling Steve crying saying that I did not want to run anymore.
Just goes to show you what sleep deprivation can do!
After that, I was allowed to slowly bring my sleeping back by 30 mins, only if I fell asleep within 20 minutes. All this time I have to keep a sleep log, to track how many hours I am actually sleeping.
I am now back to normal hours, although still waking up around 4:45 without an alarm. We still have a lot to work on, and she is not exactly happy that I am going off traveling for the next month…..not exactly what she wanted when it came to a routine, but what I think has realy made a difference is the hour of electronics off an hour before bed, and that is something that I can take with me wherever I go.
During that hour I tend to read a book and sit with a whiteboard. Any thoughts or worries I have, I write them down, emptying my mind of those thoughts.
I will update you more on how this is going in 2016, but I just wanted to share my struggles. To once again show you that elites do not live this perfect life, and I am not getting the 10 hours of sleep that other elites get. I am happy if I get 7.
I am trying to do something about it, and after last weekend, I have decided it is time to get help about my inability to relax and rest. That is for another day.
If I get back from Australia, and I still am struggling to relax, it will be time to take that next step. I am not embarrassed to admit that, and neither should you be if you reach out for help. I hope if you have something that is bothering you, you will reach out to someone to help, or you can email me (my email is at the bottom of the page).
Sleep deprivation is real. If you are struggling for more than a few weeks. Do something about it. You will not believe how much of a difference it will make to your life.
What would you like to get off your chest? Good or bad sleeper?