I had a really cool experience a couple of weeks ago. It was a bit of a wake-up call of sorts, if you pardon the pun.
Recently I spent nine days doing a course and was sharing a room with a colleague at the venue where the course was being held in Orlando. I had decided prior to the course that I was also going to use this time to give my fitness a bit of a kick along and run at least 10km every morning for the ten days I was there.
My plan each day was to set the alarm for 4:00 a.m., get up and drink a liter of water, then go back to bed and wake to a second alarm at 5:00 a.m. Doing this meant that I wake up fully hydrated and ready to go.
On the morning of the ninth day, with more than 80 kilometers already under my, I woke about 3:40 and needed to go to the bathroom, so I decided to drink my water then, and turned off the 4:00 a.m. alarm. Then it started! My roommate has sleep apnea and his snoring was like something out of a "Dream Works" sound effects studio. I lay there trying to take my attention off it, hoping that he would stop, but it went on and on, for a period just about as long as eternity I think.
Finally, I heard him wake, stir a bit and put on his face mask, part of his breathing device, and the snoring stopped. I was glad, but looked at my watch and in dismay discovered it was 4:58 a.m.. This is when my mind started.
"Oh no. I am tired. I have been ripped off and missed out on valuable sleep. I need more sleep." By this time, I was almost levitating off the bed with dis-belief. "How could this happen?"
Then my mind changed gears and started to become more consoling. Like a smooth voiced therapist it said to me, "Look you have done well. More than 80 km in eight days, in warm weather too when you have come out of winter in Australia. It won't be any big deal if you take the morning off. And just think, you will be so much more rested tomorrow. You will have an incredible run tomorrow. Re-set that alarm for 6:30 and get the extra sleep you both need and deserve."
Guess what. I bought it. I reset the alarm and slumped back into the pillow with some relief. But after a few minutes I felt uncomfortable. Another voice from deep within was saying to me, "What about your goal?" I could not lie there and feel comfortable because I was breaking an agreement I had made with myself.
Then I had my realization. Here was my mind telling me all this, and it wasn't even the one that was going to be doing the work. It had been playing its all too familiar game of saboteur, testing my resolve to stick with my commitments.
So I got up out of bed, put on my running gear, left the room, did my normal maximum set of push ups and headed out on the trail. When I got back, I realized for that particular course, it was the quickest run I had completed all week. How cool!
How often does this happen to you? Perhaps you don't have a great night sleep so you mind kicks into gear telling you all sorts of stories about how tired you are, how bad the day is going to be and about how you are never going to catch up on the lost sleep.
Perhaps it is a good time to stop, feel your body and realize that you perhaps you are not quite as tired as your mind would have you think.
Please Note: By writing this article I am not suggesting you try to use your will to overcome sleep deprivation. I am simply discussing those odd occasions where you have one of those nights where you just didn't sleep so well.