I’ve seen this hashtag quite a bit in my social media feeds lately: #teamnosleep. I was perplexed so I searched on it and found two prominent themes. Parents with infants (of course – #teamnosleep), and busy people pushing themselves to maximum effort and sacrificing sleep. I get the parents with infants and my heart applauds and commends you. I don’t get the others. Well, that’s not true. I do get it. I’ve done it. And suffered for it. So, I am perplexed because I don’t understand why we, as a society, continue to glorify being so busy that we’re not sleeping. Why do we promote this as a good thing? It is not.
So, all of you #teamnosleep people out there…. here’s my story about being on #teamnosleep many years ago:
I was a busy working executive climbing the corporate ladder. I had just moved into a new house, was trying to get settled in that house, had been traveling, and also working my 70 hour a week job. Sleep was a novelty. I don’t need it, I thought. I’m young. I’ll push through.
I was in my office one day in the midst of this “no sleep” time and started to feel off. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but I knew I didn’t feel well. I tried to push it aside as just being tired, but eventually the pains in my lower abdomen and woozy feeling got the best of me. I decided to leave work early (shocking – it was ONLY 4pm) and as I stood up to go tell my assistant I was to getting ready to leave because I wasn’t feeling well I passed out in my office. Down I went, knocking my head on my desk in route to the hard floor.
I had no idea what happened. I just stood up, saw white flashes of light and the next thing I knew there were three people standing over me trying to wake me up. Completely mortified, I tried to stand up and went right back down – passed out. AGAIN. I remember someone asking me if I was pregnant. Ha. Um. No. (If you want to know more about this, check out a previous blog post I wrote: Thanks, But I Don’t Want to Hold your Baby).
Fast forward 15 minutes and the ambulance shows up to cart me off to the hospital. I remember being in an out of consciousness in the ambulance as the EMT tried to keep me awake, calling my name repeatedly and asking how I was doing. I just wanted him to shut up. I needed to rest. I felt awful. Every time he called my name I opened my eyes, heard the siren of the ambulance, and thought to myself, “what are those sirens for? Oh, me.” And back out I’d go. Until he stirred me awake again, 10 seconds later. If I had the energy I would have smacked him.
I won’t bore you with further details about the battery of tests I went through to try to determine what was wrong with me– weeks of brain and heart tests, only to reveal nothing. Oh, I did have a urinary tract infection. But the cause for my passing out? Stress and exhaustion. Yep, #teamnosleep.
Sleep is so critical to our well-being. Not just physical but emotional and mental as well. We think we can function on no sleep and for some reason society praises us for it, but it is nothing to be praised and glorified. We should be praising and glorifying those who are well-rested and put their well-being and sleep ahead of the need to be seen and get ahead. Of course, there are times in life where sleep is sparse, when you need to push through something or take care of a sick child, parent, or loved one. But chances are you’re not out there glorifying those times as something good and something to boast about; no, chances are you’re just hoping to get through the night.
Here’s what I learned back when I was a member of #teamnosleep (before hashtags and social media). I cannot do my job if I’m so tired that I’m passing out in my office. If I listened to my body in the weeks prior to that episode, I never would have passed out; my body (like yours) was giving me messages that I need to slow down, rest, SLEEP. But I ignored them. So, it responded with a huge whack on the head by having me pass out in my office and then miss many days of work. (Thank you #teamnosleep.) I also learned that lack of sleep creates lack of health and without your health, you cannot be at your best for your family, your career, or anything in your life. Anyone else still voluntarily want to be on #teamnosleep?
This post was originally featured on HuffPost on August 22, 2017.