How To Survive on Almost No Sleep

I like to sleep.

Everyone has their own personal sleep needs, separate from what is recommended by a doctor.  My husband can be quite happy and functional on as little as two hours of sleep while I am barely functional on eight hours.  It’s simply how we are.

I do not sleep well when my husband is gone.  This is not surprising after thirteen years of marriage.  I’ve become quite accustomed to his presence in my life.  It is now something that I both enjoy and count on.  On a normal basis, it is not a problem to need him home for me to sleep well.  After six weeks apart, I’m sure if I have ever been this tired before in my life.

Now I know, six weeks apart is a strange thing for some people.  Many married couples don’t spend more than a night or two apart at any given time.  As a military wife however, I am well aware of how lucky I am.  I have never dealt with the frustration and pain of a long deployment.  In the military world, six weeks is nothing.

But none of that matters, not when it doesn’t make my current sleeplessness any better.  I have gone from a regular 8-9 hour night to 3-4 hours.  There are days when I don’t feel even slightly functional.  Everyday of my life now involves a headache at some point or another.  Let’s just go ahead and be honest; I am a cranky monster right now, liable to kill anyone who gets in my way.

No matter what is happening with my sleep, I still have a life to live during the day time.  I have children, a puppy, homework, housework, and writing work.  Even if I wanted to ignore these staples of my life, some of them refuse to be ignored.  Seriously, if you have ever considered not going grocery shopping with children or animals in the house, they are quick to remind you how often they need to be fed.  For some strange reason children seem to think they need to be fed or a regular basis.  It’s strange.

Of course, there are many coping mechanisms that can help you to survive when you are barely above zombie status.

1) Get comfortable with your coffee maker.

I switched to decaf a year ago (something that may be borderline sacrilegious for a writer) after several months of severe headaches brought on by caffeine deprivation during moving and travel.  I still hit my coffee maker every morning, and occasionally in the afternoon.  Even without the caffeine, coffee provides me an almost instant pick me up.  There is just as much power in the idea that is might wake me up as there is in the reality of your body’s reaction to the caffeine.


As counterintuitive as it may seem, exercise really does wake you up.  You expend your energy, but you get back so many benefits.  Endorphins, serotonin, adrenalin; these all give you a healthy wake up call.  As an extra bonus, if you work hard enough during the day, you might be exhausted later when you want to go to sleep.

3)Natural Foods.

This may be a bit of a toss up, as everyone has their own opinions of what constitutes eating healthfully.  All I can say for sure is, I feel better if I eat as close to naturally as possible.  My body seems to process things better, and I feel less heavy and overfilled, making it easier to get comfortable and sleep later.

4) Power naps.

I love sleep, but I am horrible at napping.  Usually, if I take a nap of any sort it is less than intentional, and more of the result of my absolute inability to stay awake any longer.  It usually only lasts about ten to twenty minutes before either a child or dog wakes me to deal with something, but for those brief moments of rest, it is beautiful.

5)Shut off the world.

Laying down, trying to sleep, it is easy to be distracted.  There are books to read, movies to watch, games to play on my phone.  There is just too many things that can be done, since I am not sleeping anyway.  However, I also know that by doing these things, I am depriving myself of the opportunity to sleep.  One more chapter may only take five or ten minutes, but that is five or ten less minutes of sleep, and let’s face facts, it is always more than just one more chapter.  Eventually, you need to put it all away.

6)Just lay down.

I have been guilty of staying up later, insisting I don’t feel tired many times.  Usually it is true.  I know I will not be able to sleep, and there are other things to do, so I don’t feel tired enough to stop doing whatever I am doing.  However, once I lay down, I do feel more rested.  Sometimes I am laying there for much longer than I would like before I actually fall asleep, but every moment that I am not moving is one more moment where I can feel slightly relaxed.



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