Her phone dropped and she didn’t hear it. Deborah Tan realizes today that she is officially tired and sleep-deprived.
Have you ever gone through a day feeling like you’re walking in a haze? Okay, it’s not the annual forest-fire haze I’m talking about here. I’m talking about this mental-haze where you feel as if your mind is so clouded with fatigue, it feels as if every breath you take and every move you make, you are being weighted down by sandbags.
While I have had such episodes before, I don’t think I’ve had it as badly as I did this morning. As I got into my car to get to a meeting at Raffles City, I felt it hit me like punch. My eyes, though open, could barely focus. There was a subtle, but definitely obvious, throbbing at the back of my head and it was slowly spreading to my neck and shoulders.
Although I perked up slightly for my meeting and was most definitely present and functional, my mind started buzzing again the moment the adrenaline left my body. All I could hear – between my ears – were sounds that resembled a static screen.
Three minutes after I drove out of Raffles City, I reached for my phone to check the time. As I felt around inside my bag and then on the passenger seat, a sinking realization struck me: my phone wasn’t in the car with me. The exhaustion, coupled with the frustration, was almost too much to bear. I took a deep breath, turned to the radio station that plays classical music (to soothe the raging beast within) and drove back to Raffles City. There was no other way to deal with this but to head back to the mall and retrace my steps.
The Case of The Missing Phone
It didn’t take me long to find my phone – thank god. The first place I looked was the parking lot I had parked my car earlier. There it was, under the car that was now there. The phone must have fallen out of my hand as I got into the car, balancing my laptop and notebook in one arm.
And Next, The Case of The Malfunctioning “Printer”
An hour later, back at the office, Vanessa, Denise and I were preparing to leave for a meeting. I needed to print out something so I told them I’d see them outside. I stood in front of the printer for a couple of minutes wondering why it was taking this long to churn out the documents when … I realised I was standing in front of the water dispenser.
While it was easy to laugh off this blooper, I recognize I have a bigger problem and I need help.
Admitting That I Am Tired
I think I have to admit that I’m exhausted. Denise wrote on Monday how she is running herself into the ground and trying to keep afloat of all the things that are happening in her life. While I don’t think I’m verging on a burnout, I can see myself suffering physically. When I get home, all I want to do is lie on my couch and not move a single muscle. I often find myself too knackered to even get a drink of water and will only eat if someone’s there with me. At night, I’m too fried – mentally – to sleep. I fret over work that needs to be done, I go through every minute detail of the business hoping I’d discover something that … I don’t know … would assure me it’s alright to go to sleep.
Truth be told, I am too tired to even entertain the thought of taking a shower. I want to pay people to wash my hair for me because I cannot imagine mustering the strength to blowdry my hair.
Are You Tired Too?
I bet you are. I’m not the only person who’s suffering from not having enough rest. My sister, a mother of three young kids – all under 7, wrote about how she barely sleeps through the night anymore. My cousin once told me she can’t remember what’s it like to sleep for 8 hours uninterrupted. It’s not just mothers who are suffering. Anyone who has to juggle work with life is probably wishing they can accomplish all they’ve set out to do and STILL get enough sleep EVERY DAY.
Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?
There are many reasons why we are all feeling tired. Some don’t get enough sleep because they feel that night-time is the only time they have to do the “leisurely” stuff like read a book or catch up on Sherlock. For me, I don’t get enough because I am too afraid to sleep. Whatever the reason, it’s time we recognize no reason is ever good enough to sacrifice sleep for. There are actual tangible health benefits that come with getting your 8 hours of shuteye. One, it helps your brain detox itself of Alzheimer’s-causing toxins, two, it helps your body repair its damaged cells, and three, your skin needs sleep in order to get better.
Beyond the health benefits, adequate, quality sleep is a life-saver. I’m ashamed to say I have dozed off at the wheel more times than it’s acceptable. Being sleep-deprived means I’m not as “engaging” as a girlfriend as I should be because whatever energy I have left to be “human”, I save it for my clients and for the people I meet at work. We often save our most terrible selves for the ones most forgiving of our shortcomings. And it shouldn’t have to be like that.
Save it for tomorrow
We all live to fight another day. If something can wait, save it for tomorrow. If a deadline can be negotiated, save it for tomorrow.
Lose all the light in your bedroom. If your curtains are letting even a glimmer of light into your room, invest in thicker ones. Keep your phone on a table at least 20cm away. If your phone blinks whenever a new email comes in, find a way to turn that off.
Exercise, exercise, exercise
Overeating and/or a lack of exercise contributes to an increase in fat around the throat, which could affect the quality of the sleep you and your partner get. Even if sleep apnea isn’t a problem, exercising helps to regulate body temperature, which can aid sleep. Exercise is also a stress buster. So if stress is keeping you awake, get onto that treadmill.
Exorcize your ghosts
Don’t waste time and energy recounting all the stuff that made you unhappy during the day. I know many of us tend to replay the arguments we had with people, thinking of the things we should have said and done, obsessing over how others would now be perceiving us. Rather than let such things play over and over inside your head, why not just read a flighty work of fiction and lose yourself in a little fantasy instead? Oh, don’t read using your iPhone or any gadget that gives off light. Use a Kindle or a real book.
Pray, meditate, stretch …
Do whatever it is that relaxes your mind and body. A 2-minute breathing practice and some easy stretches will prepare you for bed and help you sleep much deeper.
Most importantly, be patient. If you have been a poor sleeper for way too long, you will not be able to sleep continuously for 8 hours. Don’t stress yourself out, just try your best. If you wake up after just 3 hours of sleep, don’t turn to your phone or turn on the TV. It’s like hot yoga – even if you can’t go on – try to remain in the room and build your “tolerance”. Lie on your back, close your eyes, and just breathe …
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She is going home to sleep after this post. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.