Ah glorious sleep. It's been elusive for me at times over the years. When stress, work, work travel and life get to be too much, sometimes the thing your body and mind need the most feels out of reach.
Over the years, I resorted to Benadryl, NyQuil and more to help me sleep. That, in combination with a little lavender oil on my pillow, or a face mask - and I thought 'bingo'! the magic bullet. It actually worked for a while and then after nightly use, it stopped working.
I knew that I could not keep doing what I was doing and function well day to day. That was the moment that inspired my journey to figure out the root cause of physiologically why I actually couldn't sleep. I knew I was stressed, anxious and - I guess the good news is that I understood the root cause of it. With that said, the coping mechanisms I was using to manage my unhappiness were not serving my body and at a gut level, I knew it. I'd go to happy hour, or have a glass or two of Chardonnay to wind down and relax at the end of the day, go to sleep and have a large cup of coffee in the morning to kick things off on an energetic, positive note. But ironically, would then navigate through my day with low energy, rinse and repeat on a constant pendulum of highs and lows.
I was lucky enough to find a naturopathic doctor who helped me better understand what was happening in my body. She reviewed my diet and on the surface, despite my kale smoothies and stir fries, she was surprised I wasn't feeling better, so suggested we dig a bit deeper with some blood tests. I agreed to do heavy metal testing, thyroid testing and baseline hormonal testing and discovered my adrenals were really taxed and I had stage 3 adrenal fatigue. To me that sounded pretty serious. But the doctor said, "well everyone pretty much is functioning at this level these days; to remedy it, you just need to sleep - like for a year and a half - really sleep." She gave me natural herbs to balance out my hormones, and recommended an elimination diet (remove alcohol, dairy, gluten, caffeine, sugar - any inflammatory, acid food or beverage). I took the supplements religiously but stubbornly did not change my eating habits - at least as dramatically as I should have.
I continued with the herbs and supplements and didn't see any major shifts in my energy or sleep - surprise surprise. So one morning I picked up my handy "Clean Program" book (which is amazing if you haven't read it), dusted it off, and decided to pull out coffee and my evening wine to see if it might make a difference in my sleep. The first few days were uncomfortable. I realized the extent of my dependency on the caffeine and hit of sugar from the wine I got every evening. I had headaches from the coffee withdrawal, and insomnia (still). But - drumroll - by the 3rd night I could sleep - like really, sleep. I slept soundly for the first time in years, through the night, not one toss or turn, not one trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I didn't take melatonin, Benadryl, NyQuil or any other natural sleep aid. I just slept.
Mind you, I was still drinking my favorite black or green tea in the morning, and I still slept - so I didn't even have to pull out caffeine entirely for my body to reset.
It goes to show you that lifestyle changes are not an all or nothing approach or solution. If you are, or have been one of those folks who thinks, well if I don't do something 100%, I won't do it at all, I have news for you. 20 minutes on the treadmill is better than nothing. Pulling out coffee for a day is better than nothing. You do not have to go completely Paleo tomorrow to feel better. You might just have to shift one thing.
What works for one person is another's poison. There are small adjustments you can make every day to move you along a better path - one that serves YOU, fills YOU up, feeds YOUR spirit, YOUR body, allows YOU rest and to feel better.
Try something different today - I double dog dare you. Crowd out something that doesn't serve you anymore. See how it feels - do you cling to it emotionally? Can you go without it - for an hour, an afternoon, a full day - a week? If not, you might consider breaking up with a creature comfort for a day and swapping something else in. That could be a walk instead of TV after work; or swapping tea for your daily latte.
Whatever it is for you, I know this much is true: you've got this. If you need support, you know I'm here for you.