Ask the Readers: Why Can’t I Sleep?

Last week, I asked you about motivation related to physical fitness. I was really inspired by your answers, so I went a little off the deep end yesterday. Literally.

I paid $50 to get my body fat measured in the most accurate way possible. It’s called a hydrostatic immersion test. Here I am in the tub:

Stop laughing.

Ready for the big numbers? Here is where I stand:

  • Height: 5′ 11″
  • Weight: 163.4
  • Body fat: 22.1%
  • Lean mass: 127.3 pounds
  • Fat mass: 36.1 pounds

I was taken aback by the body fat percentage. I thought that I would be in the high teens. 22.1 percent was a nasty surprise.

I’m hoping to get close to 10%, but I have a long way to go. To lose half of my fat, I’d have to lose 18 pounds which would bring my weight down to 145 pounds.

However, I’m not interested in just burning fat. More than a couple readers pointed out that I should focus on building muscle and not cardio. Mr. Money Mustache, who has a hell of a physique, agrees with this too.

So from here on out, I’m going to focus on building muscle rather than losing weight. I’m still going to bike twice per week, but I’m going to back off on the running. I’m also going to increase my caloric intake.

And my bet still stands. If I’m not under 160 by the end of September or cannot do 10 pull-ups, one lucky reader still gets a $100 Amazon gift card.

Here is what I learned from you:

 

Motivation

I liked Done by Forty’s subtle psychological tricks:

My only reliable secret is to reduce activation energy for good behavior. So for working out, instead of telling myself I’m working out…I just tell myself I have to put on my running shoes. If I get them on, then I don’t have to go for a run, I just have to step outside and see how I feel (or that’s what I tell myself). I also sleep in clothes appropriate for working out, so it requires as little as possible to get that first step going.

Mr. SSC:

I’m not a gym person at all, so when I got into running a few years back, it was a nice way to stay more fit. But, it gets SO friggin’ boring at times that I found it hard to stay motivated and actually run. Then I discovered if I signed up for a race I had “a reason” to run/exercise.

My reason is my battle with Mr. WoW. He has a huge lead and is pulling away, but I’m not giving up:

It’s looking bleak. I’d have to lose 5 pounds just to pull even with Mr. WoW

 

Financial Freedom Sloth encouraged me to do something that I like:

Exercise wise: the best is chose something you actually like doing. And then build up a routine in it (some moment on same day of the week) so it becomes a habit.

I enjoy P90x and it worked for me previously, so I’m sticking with that for now. Eventually I plan to try shorter, more intense workouts.

 

Food

A common comment was that diet is much more important than exercise.

Brian:

I love using the slow carb diet. Great way to easily adjust, then deflate one day a week.

Reader Robin:

My best advice is to track calories aiming for clean, unprocessed foods.

Mr. Tako:

While exercise may be important, changing your diet will probably have the biggest impact if you want to lose weight.

Reader Meagan:

For me, losing weight is 95% healthy food and 5% exercise.

 

Muscles, Cardio and Fat Loss

Catherine:

Strength training is better than cardio for fat loss. But anything is better than nothing.

Reader Tara:

Strength training builds muscle mass which burns more calories long past working out. While yes, cardio burns more initial calories, your body becomes a “fat burning machine” when you strength train which is better in the long run.

Mr. PoP:

Why are you tracking body weight and not body fat%?

 

Random

Reader Mack mentioned the book Bigger, Leaner Stronger. My library system didn’t have it, but the book had great reviews, so I bought it. I’m only one-third of the way through, but so far, I love it. In addition to diet and lifting techniques, the book goes into detail on motivation and willpower.

I loved Crispy Doc’s comment:

My best adherence to an exercise regimen is when the gym becomes a place I love: the outdoors. I can manage weights once a week 9listening to a podcast to enjoy it more), but the remainder of the time I take a two hour vigorous hike (again listening to a downloaded podcast), go kayaking or kayak surfing, or take the kids bodyboarding at the beach.

This is wonderful advice. If you’re reading this on Monday morning, I’m hiking Long’s Peak in my backyard.

Catherine had a lot of great wisdom, but the most meaningful comment from her was this:

Sleep – not sure how your sleep quality is but more/better sleep will promote fat loss over muscle loss during a calorie deficit. You want to lose fat not muscle if you want to succeed at that pull-up goal!

More on this in a moment.

And finally, Reader Steve let me have it:

You want to know the secret to losing weight? DONT EAT SHIT! Stop eating things with high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, (any kind), processed meats, canned foods, fast food, white bread, cheeses. I can go on and on. Stop snacking on chips pretzels doughnuts. Trust me, once you get out of the habit on munching on crap and snacking, you will no longer desire it. In fact, it will make you sick to eat it. You don’t need and gimmick diets. You don’t need to weigh your food, count calories or give yourself a treat. (Your not a dog or a six year old). You are a grown adult, acted like it!

You spent all this time to save money and retire early, (which is fricking awesome!), but you are too lazy to take care of your one biggest asset. You!

I love this! Steve, you’re totally correct! It’s time to get serious from here on out. Screw the donuts and beer, especially at the same time!

 

Where do I go now?

I have another body fat test scheduled for 10/8. I’m going to exercise like a banshee until then and see what I can do with my numbers. After that, I’ll tweak and experiment depending on results.

 

Sleep

When I’m on a plane, I get jealous looking around at all of the other passengers sleeping. I can’t even fall asleep when I’m in my bed. Some of it has to do with Mrs. 1500’s snoring, but most of the problem is with me.

Mrs. 1500 note: Yeah, you’re sleeping on the couch tonight.

I HATE it that I don’t fall asleep easily. When I’m tired:

  • I have no motivation.
  • I have no willpower.
  • It takes me forever to recover from a workout.

It isn’t an exaggeration that lack of sleep is the number one problem in my life.

I realize that this is mostly genetic, but some of it is my own fault too. I have issues with turning my brain off at night. I don’t know why it took 40 years to figure out that if you lay there thinking about stuff, you don’t fall asleep. But whatever.

Do you sleep easily? If so, how? And how do you shut your brain off?

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75 Responses to Ask the Readers: Why Can’t I Sleep?

  1. Team CF says:

    Ha, go Steve! Awesome comment.
    Good luck Carl, get in the best (and healthiest) shape of your life. Upgrade your best asset.
    Team CF recently posted…Thank YouMy Profile

  2. I’ve found that I really have to exhaust myself during the day. So I’ve upped my exercise during the day so that by the time it’s time to go to sleep that I can’t think about anything other than sleep. Otherwise, if I don’t I find myself staring at the ceiling wishing I could sleep.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…How Much Should I Have In My 401(k)?My Profile

  3. Tara says:

    Are you drinking caffeinated beverages pas lunch? I used to be able to drink afternoon coffee but now I can’t because i won’t be able to sleep at night.

    Also, doing too much hardcore exercise right before bed can actually wake you up and make it hard to sleep. Just something to keep in mind. better to exercise in morning or afternoon.

    • Thanks for the tips Tara! I encountered the same thing with evening workouts. Now, I do them first thing in the morning. As a bonus, my willpower is greater than too. Win-win.

  4. Ahum, I also said to build up a routine. Same day same time same type of exercise. I ain’t seeing any ‘building a routine plan’ being mentioned here! Don’t go blaming poor old Sloth if you lose to mr. WoW!!!

    • Damn Sloth, damn! 🙂

      I do have a routine. First thing in the morning, I do P90x. On the day off and yoga day, I’ll ride my bike instead. No days off for me and also no yoga!

  5. Ever since having a kid, I fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow!

    I struggled with sleep a lot in college, and I found that playing gentle music (classical music or maybe modern/something with words but that is lower key) in earbuds helped me to turn my mind off. Otherwise, I would get distracted by every little noise or keep thinking of something else and end up staring at the ceiling for hours. Good luck!
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Buzzing in our Earbuds: Our Favorite Podcasts- Part 2My Profile

  6. Nice work!

    I have 2 suggestions for improving your sleep:

    1) Try meditating just before going to bed. It will slows down your brain.

    2) Avoid blue light at night. It screws up your circadian rhythm.

    • I like the meditation suggestion. I switched to mornings, but now I’m thinking that I should do a second session at night.

      • Liz says:

        I sometimes use the guided body scan or sleep meditations on the app Insight Timer (they are free and there are many to choose from). Sometimes I find I am way too warm to sleep, especially if I work out in the evenings, so a secret weapon is (don’t laugh) a gel filled cooling pad intended for large dogs. 30 bucks on Amazon.

  7. I use to have problems falling to sleep and turning off my brain. Sadly these days I’m too tired for that to be an issue. Workouts an exercise stop it a bit for me. These days though my problem is little people and cats waking me up in the middle of the night. For the record, I also don’t sleep on planes.

  8. Doppleganger Wayne says:

    You will look back on that picture in 20 years, and say “God was I in great shape! And I thought I was fat”.

  9. Mrs PoP says:

    I have major issues shutting my brain off at night sometimes and it totally impacts sleep from time to time. The best thing that I have found that helps me quiet these thoughts and get some rest are valerian root capsules. It’s an herbal supplement that’s sometimes recommended for anxiety and sleep. My dr recommended it years ago. Yes, the capsules smell like gym socks that have been used for several days and spent the rest of the week ripening at the bottom of a laundry hamper… but I just swallow them and wash my hands to get rid of the smell on them.
    But they work! As in on election night in Ecuador, when I was massively stressed… I popped two of those (that’s considered 1 dose, I usually use half that much) and slept through the night. Best of all I don’t wake up hungover or have the need to sleep 10-14 hours the way I do if I take other sleep aids, even partial doses. And it seems to be way less habit forming than taking Tylenol pm or something even stronger.

    Yes, ideally we all wouldn’t need anything and simple tricks like limiting screen time before bed would help us all sleep better… but when that stuff isn’t enough – valerian has been my best answer.

    • Thanks for the tip Mrs. PoP! I just googled it and the Mayo Clinic states that it has potential. I’ll give it a try!

    • Tracyl5 says:

      I am a terrible sleeper too… I’ve never heard of valerian root capsules! I’ve used melatonin from time to time when my brain is particularly busy, but if I use them daily, I think it builds up in my system and I start having groggy mornings. Have you used melatonin? How do valerian root capsules compare?

      • Mrs PoP says:

        Melatonin helped me fall asleep, but not stay asleep if that makes sense. I would still wake up after a couple hours and be unable to go back to sleep. Valerian helps both parts of my sleep.

        I don’t take it every night though – at least not lately since I don’t have as much anxiety as I used to. Just when I sense that my mind is going 1000 mph and I can’t shut it off, which I can usually sense in enough time to swallow one an hour or so before bedtime.
        Mrs PoP recently posted…Why I’m Looking Forward To Amazon Owning Whole FoodsMy Profile

        • Tracyl5 says:

          Thanks! I will have to try it and see if I like it better than melatonin. Maybe it will also help with my anxiety, as I have that on a almost daily basis too. :o/

  10. Love the term “activation energy”, its so accurate. Starting something always seems to be the hardest part. Once going its not a big deal. The effort to start seems to be the biggest hurdle.

    Its like in physics how you have static friction and kinetic friction. Once something starts to move the kinetic friction is much lower. The challenge is getting over that hump of static friction.
    Owen @ PlanEasy recently posted…Appreciate More, Spend LessMy Profile

  11. Well hey, bravo for getting on the road to fitness! I know my body fat is too high, so I also need to get better about my exercise–I fell off the wagon for the last two weeks, but finally worked out today and feel great. 🙂

    As far as getting healthy is concerned, my sister-in-law said it best: You can’t outrun a shit diet.

    And the sleeping thing is hard. Mr. Picky Pincher has the same issue. His brain naturally wants to wake up at 10 pm since he’s a natural night owl. He stopped having screen time before bed since the artificial light was messing with him. And our regular walks and exercise have helped a lot too.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! August 27My Profile

  12. Not only can sleep affect your motivation, but it can cause hormones to be released that make you want to eat more…and not carrot sticks. I don’t have any advice as I go through the same thing. I’m trying to tackle that myself. 🙁
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…A Few Things I’m Still LearningMy Profile

  13. I’ve been the same way since I was a kid. When my mind starts racing, there’s no way I’m sleeping. One thing that make it worse is stress. For some reason my stupid brain thinks it can solve anything if it just keeps running all night, even if it’s running on empty.

    Quiting the job and losing the stress has helped a lot. Now I also am busier with physical activities and am more tired at night.

    I also started meditating. This exercise helps me recognize when my brain is running wild and then I note what it’s working on. It’s easier to stop it when you take a top level look down on your own thoughts.

    If that doesn’t work, there’s a certain herb that’s legal only in some states like CO…

    These days I’m more worried that I sleep too much. Is 10 hours a night excessive?

  14. I have the same problem with sleeping at night because I cannot shut my brain off.

    So I have found, and I think it was a book or something but God knows where my brain found it. But if you each morning or the night before set 3 goals for yourself the following day.

    It really helps me be able to know I have “accomplished” something and therefore allow me to turn my brain off. So I can get a good night’s sleep!

  15. zut says:

    Have a great time hiking Long’s!

    Although not as strenuous as Long’s have you done the hike from Maroon Bells to Crested Butte over West Maroon Pass? Crested Butte is trying really hard to become our favorite town in CO.

    • Ms. Liz says:

      Favorite hike ever–we did it last year! CB is really special–love that the oldest, crummiest townie bikes are most coveted.

      • I just got back from Longs! I didn’t summit, but came within a mile of the top (summiting wasn’t in the plan today).

        I have never done that hike, but now I want to. I also need to get my ass over to Crested Butte!

      • zut says:

        We’ve been driving over McClure Pass to Paonia. There’s a hot springs on the side of the road if you like that kind of thing. Having lunch in Paonia at The Living Farm and then hitting up some of the little wineries there (go to Azura for the views…you can thank me later) and the driving over Kebler Pass to CB. Stop by Lost Lake on the way.

        I mean seriously there is no one in Paonia or on McClure or Kebler Pass.

        This summer we took our inflatable SUPs and had the best time.

  16. Joe says:

    Keep at it. I took the last couple of month off from working out. It’s just been too busy with the kid being home. I’m looking forward to exercising regular again soon.
    Yeah, food is the key. We need to make some big improvement there too.

    Sleep? I haven’t had any problem since I retired early. My mind is at peace.
    Try exercising more. If you’re really tired, you shouldn’t have too much trouble sleeping. Just my theory.
    Joe recently posted…Is Your Risk Tolerance Too High?My Profile

  17. Kent says:

    I have a go to fall asleep album for nights where my mind won’t stop thinking (Miles Davis, Kind of Blue). I just focus on following the notes of the solo’s and that helps me stop thinking about anything else just because I’m so intensely listening. Can’t have the music up too loud, because it’s a good jamming album, but usually by the third song it does the trick.

  18. Mrs.Wow says:

    I’ve never ever been a good sleeper. Recently, I have been trying to overcome the poor-sleep beast and have found a few things that help. Having a routine is key (like financialfreedomsloth said), not just with exercise, but with sleep too. Part of my routine is having a cup of loose-leaf chamomile tea before bed and I swear by it.
    Mrs.Wow recently posted…Happy National Waffle Day!!!!My Profile

  19. Ms. Liz says:

    I read shit lit before I go to bed–murder mysteries etc. Turns my monkey brain off.

  20. Mike in NH says:

    My secret to sleep is pretty easy, reading a book. No TV, no laptop, no phone in the bedroom. Sitting there wide awake and thinking has a snowball effect on me. So instead I’ll use that nervous energy to learn something and read until my eyes are starting to shut. Some nights that takes 5 minutes, sometimes it takes an hour or two, but either way it’s time I spent in a valuable manner.

  21. I’m cheering for both you and Mr. WoW. I’m a neutral bystander considering I’ll be hanging out with both of you here soon enough!

    As for sleep, I second the no blue light recommendation. I have an app called Twilight on my phone that turns the screen red/orange/warmer so it doesn’t activate my brain!
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Cultivating a CommunityMy Profile

  22. MrWow says:

    I guess we can track body fat % too. I will have to looknat where to get that done. But yeah man. Keep at it. Like my lovely wife said, just build it into a routine. Once its habit, its hard to break.

    The food part is definitely the key. It was eye opening to me to realize that you have to run like 3 miles to burn off one piece of cake.

    As for sleep, I agree with a couple folks. Exhaust yourself. And no screens for like an hour before bed. We try to follow that, but its hard.

    Good luck! Keep at it! I hope you’ve picked out some good beer to bring along for me to drink in Oct! Off for my bike ride!
    MrWow recently posted…Happy National Waffle Day!!!!My Profile

    • Nah, I don’t expect you to track body fat % too. I’m just doing it because I’m obsessed with numbers and measuring myself. I am super curious to see how much muscle I can put on in 6 weeks. I’m not expecting big things. Shit, I’d be happy with 2 pounds.

      And yeah, food! Last week, I ate this shitty packaged muffin that was laying around. I then did a grueling, 2 hour hike up the side of a mountain. My phone app told me that I burned 240 calories. Then, I looked at the Shitty Muffin package and saw it contained 220 calories. It wasn’t even that big and it also didn’t taste great. DAMNIT!!!

      • MrWow says:

        It’s important to keep tabs on what you’re doing especially with things like p90x. Because you’ll always be exhausted at the end. You can just do more with less breaks. So you never feel the progress unless you keep track of it.

        Wait. Wtf am I doing?!?! Have more donuts! More beer!! Do you have a Netflix sub? You want one? How about a gift certificate for the local movie theater or massage place? Or better, the brewery?

        • I just fired up a notebook to keep track of my P90x progress. Fun! Not really. Almost puked today. Sigh… #WussPower

          And I’m on a cottage cheese/ grilled chicken/ salmon kick. No beer. Maybe.

  23. steve poling says:

    I didn’t realize the importance of changing my alarm clock, but that’s a factor. A habit is built from: trigger => action => reward. It operates below the level of conscious thought. Thus a new alarm (in this case using a new iPhone app as an alarm) triggered me to get up, and start walking on the treadmill for 20,000 steps BEFORE I could wake up enough to realize I was exercising. The reward was seeing the little Fitbit animations (silly, i know) move to green with activity.

    Getting up early proved to be a keystone habit and has helped get other things going in the right direction.
    steve poling recently posted…Habit HacksMy Profile

  24. Woody says:

    Getting The 4 Hour Body from the library was the best thing I did to get back on track. Minimum effort for maximum results. It’s a game changer for busy dad’s like myself. I highly recommend seeing if your library has a copy. I ended up buying a copy since it has so much valuable info to pull from.
    Lol. I’m not getting paid for this just thought it might help. You’ve already established a good baseline so you are halfway there
    Good luck

  25. Mr. Tako says:

    I’ve never been a great sleeper either Carl. When my mind is really “going over” stuff at night, there’s simply no turning it off.

    What seems to work best for me is being super tired. You know, one of those situations where you’ve worked hard all day long (physically) and your head hits the pillow and boom… out like a light.

    Coincidentally, you can solve your sleeping problem and win the weight loss challenge at the same time. Make your workouts a lot harder!
    Mr. Tako recently posted…The Future Isn’t What You Think It IsMy Profile

  26. S.G. says:

    I have always had a hard time falling asleep and there are any number of factors that could be contributing. There is actually a lot of good advice out there, and the best was to address it depends on what is keeping you from sleeping. However it sounds as though a running mind is what is keeping you up. Many people suggest meditation but that never worked for me (at least not how I understand meditation), so I generalize it more and suggest finding something to think about that takes enough thought that those running or stressful thoughts can’t make it in, but you can almost run in the background. I used to run favorite movies or scenes from movies in my head. Sometimes I picture favorite scenes from books. Sometimes I make up my own scenes. Mostly it’s just like day dreaming until real dreaming can catch a hold of me. But they are totally independent of anything that might catch my attention and bring me back to something real that would pull me into working stuff out.

    When there is something particularly stressful that just keeps pulling at me sometimes I just have to let it take hold with a conscious thought of “Can I work through anything valuable right now?” Sometimes big things need some quiet time away from distraction for you to work through it mentally and the dark right before sleep can be a good time to tackle things and go to bed at peace. Sometimes you have to tell yourself “Thinking about this right now isn’t productive. Sleep is more important.” and consciously set it aside.

    • Lots of wisdom here that got me thinking:

      “…and the best was to address it depends on what is keeping you from sleeping.”

      I was thinking about this earlier today. I plan too much. I still haven’t fallen into a post-work rhythm. I’m trying to hard to compensate…

      “Thinking about this right now isn’t productive. Sleep is more important.”

      Telling myself that I need sleep to accomplish my workout goals has helped in the past. I keep forgetting about this though. I need to put a big sign on the wall:

      “Time for sleep bonehead! Shut the brain DOWN!!”

  27. Todd says:

    I used to be the same way with sleep, couldn’t shut the brain off or woke up early. Now I sleep great. The first thing that helped was eliminating alcohol. I was amazed how much affect it had on my sleep. I still occasionally partake, but I know my sleep will be affected. Second was eliminating the job. No more job related worries while lying in bed. Like others have said, days filled with lots of physical activities helps.

    • Alcohol. If I have enough, I fall asleep instantly (the only time). But, the sleep is low quality and I don’t feel rested the next day. Then, when it’s time to go do bed the next evening, my brain expects the depressant. Since I don’t have it, I lay awake for 2 hours.

      So yeah, I’m cutting alcohol almost completely out until my next test.

  28. KMB says:

    Hey Crazy Carl, when your library doesn’t have a book ask them to buy it for you. They almost always will! Unless it costs $120 and is about buying and operating a trailer park. In that case they will tell you no dice…

    No advise on getting to sleep. I’m usually out as soon as my head hits the pillow, but then I wake up all night long.

    • Steve Poling says:

      Inter-library loan works if you’re library is connected enough.

      To get to sleep, do the yoga breathing thing: inhale for a 2-count, hold it for 3-count, then exhale slowly for a 4-count. lather, rinse, repeat. During the exhale phase, you’ll feel yourself relax. Just keep on relaxing until your alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

  29. My brain is rarely on, so falling asleep isn’t an issue. 😉 On the rare occasions that I’ve used my brain and have trouble sleeping, a few beers and a few episodes of anything hosted by Guy Fieri puts me right to sleep. The man is gifted…at putting me to sleep!

    Having an open schedule in the morning also helps. I have nothing on my internal alarm clock until mid/late morning. Ever notice how the night before an early flight the fear of missing the plane wakes you up before your alarm? Even more flexible appointments have the same effect on your night-time mind, in my experience.
    Ryan @ RoseRelish recently posted…Mt. Olympus Wisconsin DellsMy Profile

  30. Mrs. BITA says:

    You’re going to hate me. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and sleep like a baby (or slept like a baby until I had a baby of my own) on flights, and bus journeys, and even the car. Mr. BITA is a terrible sleeper, and thus far we haven’t found the magic spell to turn him into sleeping beauty. So I’ll be watching this space so that he can try out anything that works for you.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Budgeting For Sporadic StuffMy Profile

  31. I also have trouble getting to sleep. I again only have one reliable trick: it’s to meditate. Or, as far as my neophyte approach goes, simply focusing on my breathing, noticing if there’s tension in my neck and shoulders and, if so, trying to relax them as I breathe out. And then moving down to my arms and torso…

    Nothing earth shattering, but it does work. Whenever a new thought or anxiety pops up, no big deal. That’s just part of the process. I again think about the next breath. Rinse and repeat and before I know it I’m off to sleep.
    Done by Forty recently posted…Three Years Out: Are We on Track for FI?My Profile

  32. Tawcan says:

    Wow interesting that you went to get the body fat checked out using the reliable method. I wonder what my body fat % would be given I’m heavier than you at the same height.

    I usually sleep like a ROCK. Mostly because I’m tired from running after the kids. I don’t typically sleep on the plane though, especially international trips. Not sure why. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep when flying in business class one of these days (I can keep dreaming!)

    Do you use computer or electronics before going to bed? Try to have 0 screen time about 1 to 1.5 hours before bedtime.
    Tawcan recently posted…Coaching service now availableMy Profile

  33. The Roamer says:

    Hey that is a cool looking test. Now I am curious with my numbers.

    I had heard that 15-19% body fat was a good number for men. But women is something like 21%.

    That was some great advice for workout motivation. I have done some of them like signing up for fun runs motivated mr. Roamer and I to run very consistently. Now I just do rock climbing which is something I love.

    As for sleep I think a busy mind is something that affects my kids a lot too.
    I don’t call it meditation but I tell them to focus on their breathing and I highly recommend it to you. You don’t have to set time aside to meditate. You can just get in bed and focus on your breathing. I find it helps me too.

    Now even though we are all adults I feel like my next tip would be a little TMI. But I wonder if other people who are paired up use this tip to fall asleep better too.

  34. Shannon says:

    I take Unisom or melatonin- works like a charm.

  35. wendy says:

    For sleep, some of which some folks have already mentioned…

    -cut out the screen time/ blue light an hour or two before bedtime… the light tells your brain it’s daytime and chances are anything you’re reading or watching is winding your brain up
    -get 7-8hrs of sleep per night
    -make sure you, your house, & your bed are not too warm…cooling off is a natural part of how your body gets ready for sleep…your temperature drops, that’s why you get cold in the middle of the night
    -use blackout curtains to block out the sun & streetlights… get rid of all the random electronic & digital clocks in your room
    -use a small fan or other device for white noise
    -avoid the caffeine & alcohol…more than a couple doses of akly has been proven to mess with your sleep cycle
    -avoid heavy exercise several hours before bedtime…it jacks up your system just when you want it to wind down
    -use a paper notepad or journal to jot down anything on your mental ‘to do’ list or that is worrying you…trust that your morning self will take care of it
    -meditation works for a lot of folks… also the step by step breathing/relaxation technique someone mentioned (part of yoga savasana/corpse pose – if done right, it’s not sleep, but can set you up for sleep)…
    -go to sleep and get up at roughly the same time every day
    -have a bedtime routine… a couple hours before bed, do the same sequence of activities that triggers your body to follow a habit (read with the kids, put the phones/laptops/tvs away, have a warm beverage, get into your comfy clothes, dim all the lights, etc.)…

    We are the sum of our habits…

  36. If your brain won’t listen to the “thinking about it now isn’t going to help” mantra, then pull out a pen and write it down. I kept a list by my bedside for years to scribble down whatever was on my mind because MY brain wouldn’t ever listen to itself yelling at itself to shut up and go to sleep.

    Then I read an old book that I’ve read a million times – it has to be an old one because otherwise I’ll NEED to stay up and read the whole thing, this way I already know what happens and it’s just like tracing a comfortable path in my brain. If I can read til my eyes get tired, then I have a good shot at falling asleep but you can’t ignore that moment when your eyes and brain start to droop.

    Melatonin works well on the kids to make them fall asleep but I think similar to Mrs. Pop’s experience, it doesn’t necessarily keep us asleep so that’s only part of the solution.

    On really desperate nights (when pain is screaming high, so there’s no way I’m physically relaxing) I’ve taken a hefty dose of Benadryl which can knock me out if I haven’t taken it in over a week. I don’t strongly advocate the drug route but it has its uses when you really need that sleep. Or you can figure out what foods are your trigger, though that does sort of contradict your diet and exercise regimen. I’ve discovered that a good serving of dim sum or great Indian buffet with naan, in moderation, can put me down for the count.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…On the home(buying) front: getting the work doneMy Profile

  37. My wife and I are looking for people who can’t sleep through the night.. Any help would be much appreciated. Do you know any lullabies?
    Dividend Growth Investor recently posted…Altria Delivers Dependable Dividend Growth and High Total ReturnsMy Profile

  38. +1 for reading before bed. Even if I’m wired later in the day, reading (the subject doesn’t seem to matter) relaxes my mind and makes it easier to drift off.

    You could also join the military*. I consider “sleep on command” a special skill acquired from my years in the service. Airport layover? Car trip? Somewhere I should definitely not be sleeping? Easily done. Sleep is currency when it’s scarce!

    Also, PSHHAAAW! to the “no beer” stuff. High protein is the ticket, but you absolutely need carbs (Bigger, Leaner, Stronger is teaching you this). You can strike an energy balance for fat loss while still enjoying a couple Barley Sodas a week.

    *kidding
    Giant Trash Panda recently posted…So, you want to be a brewer?My Profile

    • Giant Trash Panda! Hilarious blog name!

      Yeah, I’m done with beer for now except maybe one on the weekend if a social situation arises. I’ll nurse that sucker for 3 hours.

      Bigger, Leaner, Stronger! I’m loving that book. Today was actually my first day experimenting with a high carb diet. I was surprised by how full I felt. I need 1700 calories just to maintain my lean body mass at rest. And I didn’t make it. Those proteins filled me up. If it stays like this, I’m going to have to force-feed myself.

  39. Crispy Doc says:

    A tip for Mrs. 1500: My wife used to complain loudly to all in earshot about my snoring. Then I suggested that if she was going to tell people about what went on in our bedroom, I’d do the same. Complaining ceased, problem solved.

    Carl: I’ve struggled with insomnia complicated by erratic sleep-wake cycles thanks to a medical career for the better part of two decades. Sometimes I medicate with benadryl when I need to be out before a shift the next day. When not working, I let myself awaken and read or write. I felt less aberrant (but only in this way, I assure you) on finding historical references to first and second sleep (http://www.history.vt.edu/Ekirch/sleepcommentary.html), with wake cycles during the night that our ancestors did not regard with anxiety or self-pity.

    An option that has helped over the years are mid-day power naps – we had a tiny med student lounge, but every lunch I sprawled out on a beat up sofa for 20 minutes and it let me return to the next marathon class rejuvenated and attentive.

    I’d also second Kent’s suggestion of finding a couple of songs or albums and getting into your groove – I’m partial to either Brian Eno’s Music for Airports or the Grateful Dead’s 2/18/71 Dark Star->Wharf Rat->Dark Star at the Capitol Theater (a generous legacy of my deadhead college freshman roommate).

    Off to rest before tomorrow’s morning hike!

  40. Jess says:

    I second the suggestion for keeping paper and pen to write down anything about your worries for your future self to take care of in the morning. My brain then believes “I did something” about the issue so then it lets me relax. Or if I have a list of things to do the next day going on in my head, I write that down too.

  41. Jeff says:

    OMG, that doughnuts and beer at the same time cracked me up!

  42. grbkeb says:

    Here is one suggestion from somebody who has pretty much been a lifetime hot and cold worker-outer. I’ve done the gym thing, lifting, running, P90X, Insanity, Crossfit, in addition to living a very active lifestyle (just hiked 30 miles this past weekend in the Tetons which was awesome!). I’m in my late 40’s now and I changed everything up at the beginning of 2017 and committed to increasing my intensity and mixing up the routine. I’ve gone from what I thought was a fairly built 208, to a lean 188 at 6’2″. Basically I’ve done a hybrid of scaling crossfit routines and mixing in the P90X chest/back & shoulders/bi/tri workouts. At the end of the day all these programs work if you just do them, but all of the sudden when I committed to doing weighted squats and heavy dead lifts at some point during the week, my physique slowly but surely changed. The intensity of crossfit workouts melted off the fat like nothing else I’ve ever done. Think you are in shape…try doing the Murph or the Filthy Fifty…they will humble you but keep you coming back for more. You can do these in your home if you’ve got a basic set up or at a regular gym…no need to join an expensive crossfit gym. If you are not doing the types of exercises that activate your whole body on a weekly basis you are going to linger in the land of meager results: Burpees, box jumps, battle ropes, jump rope, rowing, wall balls, etc. etc. etc.

    Also, if this helps I haven’t changed my diet at all other than I don’t eat bread if I can avoid it…and I love my craft beers. Good luck!

  43. Patrick (Mr "Outta the 'Patch" -blog under development. says:

    Sleep oh blessed commodity! I found several things extremely helpful. 1 no electrogizmo human interface for 3o minutes prior to z land. 2) The mindfulness app “Calm” has a free 7 day trial. I found that for some reason sessions 5/6 can drown out the psycho babble when I wake up in the middle of the nite (see note below why this is a nitely event). 3) the last one takes several months of mind body training but it is will either help you get to sleep or at the very least make your awake time more relaxing and regenerative. Go to guidetopsychology.com and look up “autogenics training” which explains the time effort and methodology of mind guided body relaxation. Then perhaps after several days of what seems to take forever to learn,you can decide to bookmark the hack at BYU where a female guides you through a 15 minute head to toe relaxation through the privacy of your earphones….
    Oh yeah the reason I wake up so much is the recently fractured (ok mercilessly hammered) right tibia during a botched paragliding launch a few weeks back. I have only used one of the 80 happy tablets the doc sent me home with in that time….earphones and the odd Tylenol handle most of the issues. https://caps.byu.edu/sites/default/files/mp3/Autogenics_%20Full_Body.mp3 is the link to the recording. If nothing else you will feel a lot more relaxed about being awake :o)

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