"Are you okay Steven? I can sense something's wrong." I love people who actually pay attention to those around them. They are the best kind of people.
She was right, I wasn't my usual self. The problem with being energetic and positive all the time is when your mood slips even a little, people notice.
The truth is I had been working two jobs, waking up at 5:45am, working until midnight and doing it again the next day.
Even though everyone knows me as someone who is always happy, it was taking a toll on me and people were noticing.
I used to believe that the ultimate factors dictating my moods were the people and situations around me, now I think in a completely different way.
I like to put my focus towards the factors I can control, while focusing less on the factors that I have less control over.
If you have terrible coworkers, you might be stuck with them. If you have bad in-laws, you're stuck. A dysfunctional family, good luck because you're stuck. The weather will be shitty, someone will insult you, and a bird will shit on your head.
So what are the factors affecting your mood that you have control over?
Well, one of the main factors will be our focus for today.
It's not any sort of revelation that sleep affects your mood. There are a ton of studies showing a very strong link between a lack of sleep and increased stress, irritability, anxiety, depression, increased risk of chronic diseases, learning/memory problems and many more disturbing symptoms.
Not only does a lack of sleep increase these symptoms, but it's been proven that a lot of these symptoms can make it harder to get a good nights sleep. Now that's a vicious cycle.
We don't get enough sleep and the crap of the world affects us more, because the crap of the world affects us more, we have a harder time getting to sleep.
Rinse and repeat until you're having a meltdown because someone cut in line and now you're that crazy person.
Once I experienced an involuntary ten minute nap between shifts, I knew that I had to fix things.
Here is what we need to do to get our sleep, and our moods, back on track.
See The Light.
Our light consumption throughout the day is one of the biggest factors that affects the quality of our sleep.
Hundreds of years ago when we had little artificial light and relied mostly on the sun, this was not a problem.
These days the sun could go out and no one would even notice. We'd light the skies with our tiny glowing screens. But the problem with these glowing screens is that they produce blue light which messes with your melatonin production.
Your melatonin production regulates your circadian rhythms and lets you body know it's time to sleep. When you check Facebook right before bed, taking in that blue light, you suppress your melatonin and ruin your sleep before it even starts.
My rules for light consumption are as follows:
- Lots of light in the morning
- No electronics/screens 1 hour before bed
- Have a low light lamp for before bed
- Get blackout curtains
A good general rule to follow is when the sun is up, turn up the lights. When the sun goes down, turn them down. This will help your body develop and maintain a natural circadian rhythm.
Before Bed Foreplay.
You would never just jump into bed with a significant other without building up to it, so why do you just hop into bed and expect a good night sleep?
You need to develop and routine that leads up to your bed time so that your body knows it's time to count the sheep and sleep away.
This routine should start at least 40 minutes before your bed time, and remember, no electronics.
You can read a little, meditate, have a sleepy time tea, take a shower, brush your teeth, whatever helps your body simmer down and get ready for the sandman. Just don't drink alcohol too close to bed and don't exercise too close to bed.
Another thing to include in your routine is the time you go to sleep and wake up. Scientists have found that if you can go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time at least 6 times a week, you'll have easier and better quality sleep.
Build a routine, fiddle around with it, and catch those Z's.
I just woke up from twelve hours of sleep, my body must have really needed that. I feel better than I have in the last week, but it will take a while to get things completely back on track.
There are so many unintended consequences when we don't give our body the proper sleep it deserves.
It can start with irritability and stress, but over time it can shape our personality, ruin our relationships and take a sledgehammer to our health.
In real life you might have terrible coworkers and a dysfunctional family. Someone might insult you and a bird might shit on your head.
But in your sleep, in your dreams, that's where it's decided. That is where you find happiness.