I literally slept with my Phone, okay it was my Blackberry, but I didn’t want you to think I was old. I worked for a company headquartered in Sweden. This meant my Blackberry buzzed constantly as I tried to sleep in California. I’d start with it on my nightstand and by morning it ended up in bed with me. I’d reach for it in the middle of the night expecting urgent messages. There were many. I’d ferociously type in the pitch-dark bedroom answering anything high-priority, press send then fall back to sleep and wake up with a barrage of new messages under the covers.
This went on for years, five to be exact. I steadily was losing sleep and gaining weight. I topped out at 198 pounds. I took medication to control my blood pressure and was teetering over the line for high cholesterol.
I got my first speeding ticket after turning back the clock for daylight savings time. I confess I was sleep deprived before I lost another hour of sleep. I vividly remember seeing the police officer and my heart jumping into my throat and unable to react quickly enough to step on the brake to slow down. My fatigue cost me over $300! Stressed out constantly, unable to enjoy life, even my marriage was suffering. I started seeing a therapist and she diagnosed me with clinical depression.
Little did I know back then that all my symptoms could be traced back to sleep deprivation. Arianna Huffington talks about all the science in her book The Sleep Revolution. She is re-defining success and putting the spotlight on sleep. Important information to our well being. She writes about how sleep deprivation is even negatively people’s sex lives!
I’d fantasized about throwing my Blackberry in the fountain in Place de la Concorde as the character Andy did in the Devil Wears Prada movie. Returning it after I resigned was a lot less dramatic for me but no less cathartic than the way I imagined Andy felt in Paris. I felt like I was being set free from prison. The handcuffs were off.
I replaced my Blackberry with a Smartphone after I started my new job. I made the mistake of using the clock app on my phone as my alarm. It seemed like a great idea. I could set it for different times depending on the day of the week. Earlier for weekdays and later for weekends. I could even select different volumes and tones. The snooze button seemed like a nice feature. The problem was I kept it so close to me when I went to bed it was interfering with getting a good night’s rest. I was addicted to my new toy!
I began leaving my phone in the kitchen downstairs before I went to bed. I immediately noticed a positive difference in my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It helped that my new company looked down on answering e-mails at night and on weekends, so I didn’t feel obligated to constantly check my work e-mails.
I received a Zen Alarm Clock as a gift years ago. I decided to start using it instead of my phone to wake up in the morning. I quickly adjusted to the gentle chimes waking me up. It doesn’t have a snooze button, but it does get progressively louder until you turn it off. I didn’t even miss my phone! I was getting back in touch with my own circadian rhythm. I’d go to bed, sleep seven hours and wake up well rested and ready to take on my day. It’s amazing how much more productive and energetic I felt. My mood significantly improved and my ability to deal with daily challenges improved!
I also avoided reading on my ipad and opted for “real” books which helped me fall asleep. Arianna Huffingon talks about how this allows your brain to naturally produce melatonin, making you fall asleep more easily. I also began a morning meditation practice, it helped me become more present and create space in my mind. I resisted the urge to meditate with apps. Instead I made an altar including spiritual books, candles, incense and old fashioned CD’s specifically geared to mediation and visualization. I kept a journal and pen close by as well for inspiration.
Getting at least seven hours (six minimum) sleep helped me gain the energy I needed to start exercising. I started with yoga then added cardio. Eventually, I added weight lifting. It also had a positive impact on the food I was choosing. Did you know that sleep deprivation causes spikes in the hormone cortisol which can trigger cravings for junk food? It’s certainly true for me. When I began getting enough sleep my nutrition improved with little effort.
Within a year’s time I had lost 65 pounds (with the help of a personal trainer), released my therapist, and came off my blood pressure medication. I still struggle with FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media sometimes and I slide back into old habits. Especially as a new entrepreneur. To nip it in the bud I do a mini digital detox to re-connect to myself. Turning off the phone helps turn off comparison mode. I’ve found keeping Sunday for more face-to-face connections helps keep me grounded and balanced and generally happier.
Technology can be such an asset in creating work-life integration. Creating healthy boundaries is critical to having a healthy relationship with devices. It allows so many working mothers like myself the flexibility to get our work done remotely and be there for our family. It’s important to build morning and evening rituals around going to bed and waking up without screens. It’s life changing and helps me enjoy my days more than ever before.
Sleep is the new busy. Slowing down to get more rest allowed me to reach my weight loss goals and become the best version of myself. Don’t let FOMO keep you from embracing your own sweet dreams. Get your sleep and live the life of your dreams!
Originally published at medium.com