Hey guys/girls…any advice on the following would be great.
For the last few years, I’ve periodically had some difficulty sleeping. Perhaps once a week. Not only is this affecting my training, but also life in general.
It usually starts with waking to go to the bathroom. When I get back in bed, that’s when unpleasant thoughts/feelings can creep in. Anxiety, depression, something which feels a bit like guilt. Feels like something rolling in my gut.
I won’t go in to too much detail, suffice to say I believe it stems from not achieving as much in my career as I would have liked to at this stage. Despite a strong academic performance when I was younger and top graduate roles, I feel like I’m not at the level I should be any more. Peers overtaking me in seniority and salary. Bad career/job moves etc. Yada yada.
I can be awake for hours with bad thoughts and feelings rolling around in my head.
Does anyone in a similar situation have any advice/strategies for dealing with this when it happens? I try to say to myself ‘you’re not going to resolve any of this at 2am in bed, so chill out man’, but that never really works!
And of course lack of sleep makes training suck, particularly as I’m trying to begin integrating strength training also.
Any advice, help, guidance etc would be greatly received.
Be kind to yourself and know you’re doing the best you can with what you have… self compassion needs to be addressed after a year like 2020. Don’t want to sound cheesy but look up some meditation tips and breathing exercises. Dan Harris has a great book and podcast. “Ten percent happier” it will get some positive thoughts in your head.
I’m not perfect and try to be better everyday and especially with my mental health.
We are all battling something some choose to accept and cope with it and others deny it and live in stress.
I’m still learning …
I could go into great depths on this…but just focus on what you can control. Don’t rehash the past, just ask yourself if you have done everything possible to be in the best situation you can be currently, and if not…get started on it.
And don’t be afraid to take a further step back if it contributes to happiness. I recently voluntarily gave myself a demotion, to go down a different career progression in the same company that I think will lead to greater job satisfaction.
If you get up and go to the bathroom, you probably have to turn on the bathroom light too right? The bright light can upset your sleep cycle. These motion-activated toilet lights let you go without turning the light on or making a disgusting mess. I have this problem and this cheap little light helped out a lot.
I think a lot of people feel or have felt the same, me included.
What works for me most of the time is to not turn on the lights when going to the bathroom, you should find your way anyway
But more important for me is to not stay in bed if those feelings come rushing in. After 5 minutes if I’m not sleeping, ill get up and turn some small lights on, make a cup of tea and read the news or TR forum. 20minutes later the bad feelings are gone and I’m so tired I could sleep at the table. Time to go back to bed.
A few tips I’ve learned that help with experiences I’ve had similar to yours:
Limit caffeine intake. I know it’s hard with the culture of coffee + cycling, but it can really help, even long after your last cup.
Create the best possible sleep environment you can. Light, temperature, sound are all important factors when it comes to sleeping. Try to put some resources into making your sleep area the best it can be. (highly recommend “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker)
Set a consistent sleep schedule and try to stick to it as close as possible.
Reduce your fluid intake before bed to limit the need to get up (easier said than done).
When it comes to mulling over intrusive negative thoughts, it can be helpful to attack them in the following way: A. recognize that these thoughts have entered your consciousness and that they’re taking over, B. discredit them when applicable (For me, 99/100 these thoughts are likely wildly blown out of proportion or are untrue), and C. consciously tell yourself you’re going to focus on something else. Choose a new topic and tell yourself that this is what you plan to focus on.
Lastly, I learned from the book mentioned above that when in a cycle of thoughts that are hard to break, laying in your bed is not a good location to deal with it. Walker states that getting up and going somewhere else comfortable and reading a bit in a book until you’re tired again is the best way to get back to sleep. It trains you that when you’re in bed in the middle of the night, it’s ONLY meant for sleeping. Not laying there and thinking.
I’m not an expert, but just simply stating what has helped me in the past.
Lot’s of good tips in here already. There is some good stuff in this thread as well:
I’ll add something that sometimes helps me is to write stuff down. If I’m just ruminating on a plan, or what I’m going to say to someone, etc., I can just write it down and then I don’t have to keep thinking about it. I also will say to myself “I don’t need to worry about this right now.” Hard workouts early in the day help me fall asleep because I just conk out, but can often wake up at 3 a.m. with the brain spinning. Find a good podcast that helps you relax. I’ve found that the sleep podcasts are not helpful to me because I just ignore them and think about whatever I want. What is better is something with a single person talking for hours (I have one episode of Hardcore History that I’ve never finished but started about a dozen times battling insomnia). I try to avoid taking any medication to help, but I learned that if I do take something, take it early because there is nothing worse than having to get up in the morning with another four hours of sleeping pill working its way through the liver.
Just wanted to say, I have been here as well and over time suffered from serious insomnia (like weeks getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night). A few years ago I started making some dramatic changes and I can very solidly get 7-8 good hours now if I stick to my habits.
I would start by encouraging you to read “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” if insomnia starts to become a regular pattern. The book literally changed my life.
The other is to treat your mental health the same way you treat your physical health and training (newsflash, it is all connected). For me, meditating first thing in the morning and before bed has not only made sleep immensely better but made me happier and made me a better husband and father as well. I try not to get too preachy about it because it can be obnoxious, but I can’t imagine still being where I was before I started this practice. Dan Harris’ first book “10% Happier” was my impetus. He is funny and skeptical about all of it, which helped me a ton.
tl;dr, look for day and nighttime practices and build good habits. Happy to chat privately if you’d find it valuable.
For me, what you are describing starts to happen more and more and really the only fix I’ve found is anti-depressants, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to staying on them for life now as its a recurring pattern of a slow decline back into needing them, despite doing as much as humanly possible to keep myself healthy mentally and physically
One other thing - for me, the routine anxiety turns into “I’m not getting enough sleep” anxiety once it is late enough. I’ve heard that studies show that even when people think they are awake the entire night, they actually are sleeping here and there. I’ve noticed that time does seem to go by sort of quickly when I have insomnia. During the daytime, laying in bed for four hours awake would seem like an eternity. So, try to set sleep amount anxiety aside with the idea that maybe you actually are getting some good rest along the way.
See a therapist. They have done wonders for me. Allows you to talk through your issues and come to place of peace and understanding. It was very difficult for me the first three sessions but once you start understanding the why’s of your feeling it starts to fall into place. I go back once every six months or so for a ‘refresher’
+1 for meditation. Even a few minutes a day of practice can help you learn how to recognize that these are just thoughts, and you can let them go. I have used the Headspace app in the past, and I’m currently using the Waking Up app by Sam Harris. It’s not a magic cure, but I think it helps - its worth 10 minutes a day to see if it works for you.
I would echo the suggestions of meditation and self-compassion. The two actually intersect quite nicely when practicing loving kindness meditation (sounds very new age-y, but I encourage you to try). It encourages us to be aware of our inner monologues, which are shockingly negative towards ourselves and others, and replace it with (as the name suggests) loving kindness for ourselves and others. You’d be shocked at how the benefits of a brief meditation carry throughout the day.
I have been noticing lots of interesting work in the psychology field relating to the benefits of self-compassion, and I’ve personally seen very encouraging results from limited practice.
I’m in the meditation camp along with some breathing practice. Getting grounded with both and some simple outside time
I use Headspace daily. I used one of their modules to help me with not achieving what was possible in my career. I kept rethinking bad choices and actions. I’m working on letting those go since I can’t change them now. Getting better at handling those thoughts when they come up now.
I think plenty of us get stuck in a cycle of thoughts that makes it difficult to get (back) to sleep.
What works for me is to try to replace those thoughts with something more peaceful.
I try to imagine myself sitting on the bank of a small stream, and then try to visualize each and every small detail. The water is calm, and I watch a leaf moving gently downstream in the barely flowing water. I can hear the small waterfall tinkling just upstream. I watch the sunlight dappling the water through the trees on the other bank. I can feel the soft, thick green grass on the bank between my fingers. I watch two butterflies chasing each other across the … zzzzz.
I’m not sure whether it is the inherent peacefulness of the scene in my mind, or just whether focussing on each small detail leaves no mental bandwidth for the vicious cycle of thoughts that was keeping me awake, but within 2-5 minutes of switching my thinking, I am usually asleep.
Find someone- friend or professional - to talk to about your feelings.
I’m in a similar boat - friends / college classmates / previous colleagues who’ve achieved more than me. It bothers me sometimes and I wonder what I could have done differently, but I’ve mostly come to grips with the fact that I won’t achieve everything professionally that my much younger self thought he would.
Good luck, and this will seem corny, but just as we aren’t our FTP, we aren’t our job title / salary/ net worth / hotness of our spouse.
Find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and commit to a regular therapy appointment.
My thinking is that it’s ridiculous how we have q separate standard for physical and mental health or progress. You wouldn’t bat an eye at seeing a doctor for a physical ailment, nor would you hesitate to hire coaching to improve your cycling, so why not hire a coach to help with your mental health? There’s no reason you need to figure it out by yourself when there are plenty of experts happy to help you out!
Insomnia is horrible as is anxiety. I hope you find relief asap.