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When we arrived home from France this summer (I can hardly believe it was one month ago!), we expected to endure the usual jet lag. And I wasn’t worried about it at all — I find that going from France to the U.S. is a much easier jetlag situation than going from the U.S. to France.

But this time, something different happened. Instead of easing back to my usual schedule of staying up quite late and getting up at the last possible moment, I went with the jetlag schedule and ended up using it to my advantage. Because of the jetlag, I found I was naturally waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM — which is very early for me — and would pop right out of bed, fully rested, and get to work. This meant 2 or more full hours of work that I could put in while the house was quiet and still. I loved it! Plus, it was early enough that it wasn’t work day hours on the East Coast, and it meant I could stay ahead of things, and respond to inquiries before my inbox was filling up for the day.

It also meant I was droopy and sleepy by 8:30 or 9:00 PM. That’s very, very early for me — on my usual schedule, it’s not uncommon for me to hit the grocery store at 10:30 or 11:00 PM. But somehow I didn’t mind the early call to sleep. I gladly crawled into bed and zonked out immediately. I vowed to stick with the new sleep schedule for the whole school year. I felt great!

But alas, it didn’t last. I was going strong for the first couple of weeks, but eventually, I stayed up too late too many times. A good conversation would linger till midnight, or we’d start a movie, thinking it would “help me fall asleep,” and then I’d watch the whole thing — plus check in to Facebook.

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Then last week, the lack of sleep ramped up, and I’ve been paying for it ever since. For me, a lack of sleep is my number one cause for getting sick. It’s as predictable as the sunrise. Take two nights without enough sleep, add an intense schedule that has my brain going a mile a minute, and I am guaranteed to wake up with a scratchy throat.

The scratchy throat is just the warning. If I heed the warning, take care of myself and get some sleep, I can ward off the coming head cold. But if I don’t heed the warning (and last week I didn’t), then it will take over my life, and I’ll find myself slogging through a week of work in a head cold fog. Working at something like 50% capacity. Sometimes less. And letting the house totally fall apart. I end up paying for the lack of sleep for weeks — behind on work, behind on parenting duties, behind on the house.

So you can imagine, I rarely ignore that scratchy throat warning. I’m actually really good about making sure I get enough sleep. It’s not worth it to me to risk getting sick. I know those extra hours I stay up will be completely lost (and then some!) when I’m unable to work because I’m sick. Like I said, not worth it. So last week’s head cold was rare for me.

 

What about you? Have you experienced a direct connection between sleep and health? What does that look like for you? For those of you with chronic sleep problems, do they seem to lead to chronic health problems as well? What about fitness? Do you find you sleep better when you’ve put in some exercise that day?

 


Credits: Photos by Heather Zweig and Sarah Hebenstreit. Taken in my sister Jordan’s house (and featured in my book).