When was the last time you heard someone talk about burning the candle at both ends? When were you last in a conversation where sleep deprivation was being glorified? Whether at work, out with friends, as a parent? What if we lived in a society that lauded sleep and sleep health instead? One where the resources to get a good nights sleep were readily available?
Well, my BFF (and founder of Project Sleep) Julie Flygare gave a TEDx talk where she talks about what this could look like and you can officially watch it starting now. So I thought – what better time to publish this sleep-themed post that’s been sitting in my drafts for way too long?
So often someone sends me one of the three following emails or DMs:
- “Holy shit Michelle I related to everything I read on your blog what do I do next?!”
- “I can’t relate to your experience with narcolepsy but I am so sleepy – what do you recommend I do?”
- “I’m struggling with depression and anxiety and I think I might be sleepy but things are just really hard. What should I do?”
This is the information I want you to have! Twenty percent of people have a sleep disorder and as Julie Flygare says in her TEDx talk, most of those people have no idea that something is going wrong with their sleep, that their sleep could be so much better, and therefore that their *lives* could be so much better. (Um I was one of those people until 5 years ago.) She guides viewers to answer these two questions to figure out if you might be part of the twenty percent:
- Do you have trouble sleeping throughout the night regularly?
- Do you have trouble maintaining wakefulness throughout the day regularly?
If you answered “yes” to either, the first thing you should do is meet with a board certified sleep specialist about your concerns. (You can also check out this blog post to see how sleepy you are.) There are more than 80 sleep disorders but a few of the most common are:
- Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders
- Idiopathic Hypersomnia
- Kleine-Levin Syndrome
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
Some of my favorite resources for each linked above. (And tips for parents linked below because suffice it to say, having a little one can cause sleep issues amiright?) The second thing you should do is consider tapping in to the relevant sleep disorder community where you’ll learn about medication options, tools that can be used to help reduce symptoms, and coping strategies. It’s important to go to a board certified sleep specialist as the average doctor receives very little education about sleep throughout their schooling. A sleep specialist is also the one who will order your sleep study and discuss your results with you.
Type 1 narcolepsy with cataplexy is my personal brand of sleep disorder. You can read all of my sleep-related blog posts here. This one is a personal favorite from a time before I started meds that really worked. It’s kind of shocking to look back and see how bad things were! If you’re interested in more of my story, check out this video series that I filmed with Project Sleep a few years ago (3 videos as you scroll to the bottom). And visit the full Rising Voices of Narcolepsy video series library here – this is an incredible collection of so many people’s stories with narcolepsy. The vast array of experiences that are showcased is inspiring!
Are you a parent struggling with your child’s sleep? There are so many pitfalls to watch out for with sleep at every stage of child development and knowing what’s to come can help keep you on track to raising a competent sleeper. Two of my favorite resources are
- Becoming Your Child’s Sleep Coach by Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg: Whether it’s teaching your little one how to sleep through the night, how to fall asleep alone, or how to stay in their bed after you leave the room, these are just a few of the skills that Dr. Schneeberg talks about in her highly acclaimed first book.
- The Rested Child by Dr. W. Chris Winter: From cradle to college, Dr. Winter covers the ways that sleep disorders can be commonly mistaken for a variety of psychiatric disorders and can put our children at risk for a myriad of health issues. Written in a truly amusing way, Dr. Winter’s book is a quick read.
You can also follow Dr. Winter on Instagram @drchriswinter where he regularly chats with other sleep health professionals.
What is your relationship like with sleep? Do you think you could be in the twenty percent?