In early February, as the Coronavirus was slowly making its way to the United States, I was set to go to a clinic in Boston. I was excited for this as two of the speakers there were guys that really shaped my methodology regarding not only training, but also life. The clinic was scheduled for Saturday but early Friday morning, we ran into a little hiccup!
Our daughter woke up after midnight with a terrible cough. Her crying didn’t help the matter and she was really struggling to get air in. We figured that she had croup but we were not totally sure. We tried to steam her in the bathroom to no avail. We then tried the cold air outside but that did not seem to help either. So we loaded up and made our way to the hospital! We spent a few hours there and she responded immediately to the treatment. After making sure there was no rebound effect, we made our way home sometime between 3:30 - 4:00 am. It was a rough night but we were glad that things were handled so well at the hospital and she was feeling much better.
During our time at the hospital I was able to nod off for 20-30 minutes. It felt like the deepest sleep that I have ever been in. It made me realize the value of deprivation. If you take something away from somebody and then allow that same thing back in, they value it so much more. Anyhow, after we made it home I only had time for about one hour of sleep before my alarm would go off for work. I was going to "suck it up" and go in and not cancel my morning. I only had a few appointments so I thought I could pull it off. Once my morning ended, it was time to go home to rest.
After the morning appointments I drove home I realized that everyone could still be sleeping, dogs included. If you ever been by our house you know our Jack Russell's can make quite a stir if you enter their territory. So, instead of going into the house and getting the dogs all fired up, and waking the house up, I opted for a car nap. I reclined the seat and closed my eyes. I nodded off for a few minutes but soon realized the car is just not as comfortable as one's own bed!
As I got inside I realized that my daughter is awake and after the night she had, I skipped going to sleep and decided to spend some time with her playing around and doing whatever else she wanted! After a few hours of hanging out, Emi was ready for her nap and I was ready to hit the road. It was already around noon and I didn't want to drive there at night. After getting about 2-3 hours of sleep the previous 24 hours, I hit the road to Boston. This was a bad idea. I did not know it at the time but what I decided to do that day was incredibly risky and something that I should never attempt again!
Last week I wrapped up reading a book titled Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker. In it, he discusses some very scary statistics on driving while tired. For starters, you don’t always know how sleep deprived you are when you are sleep deprived. In my case, I was well aware of the possibility but like everyone else who drives while sleepy, I thought I could “work through it” and make it there safely. I did and because of that, it could open the door for future errors in judgment. Arriving safely reinforced the idea that I can successfully drive while tired. The next time a situation like this arises, I could think to myself, “Well, I made it to Boston on a few hours of sleep, I should be good to go for this trip”. This type of thinking could lead to a fatal mistake!
If we start looking at the effect lack of sleep has on car accidents, we start with those of us who get 6-7 hours of sleep. If that is you, you have a 1.3 times increase in incidence of being in a car accident. If you sleep 5-6 hours, there is a 1.9 times increase. 4-5 hours has a 4.3 times increase and if you sleep less than 4 hours, which is what was the case with me, there is an 11.5 times increase in the incidence of being in a car accident! Continuing with frightful statistics from the book, according to Walker, if you were to have a wakefulness of 19 hours, you are as cognitively impaired in your ability to attend to the road and what is around you as a legally drunk driver. It is like the person who stumbles their way out of the bar noticeably drunk and says to their friends, “I am fine to drive, I do this all the time!”
There is more to this story than just driving while incredibly tired. After short weekend trip to Boston, I decided to get back home early on Sunday. The ride was uneventful and because of all the sitting I did the past three days, I thought I would get out for a long walk. Unfortunately, this walk felt terrible and it was a sign of things to come!
My legs were fatigued and I was finding myself short of breath. I didn't think much of it and was hoping a good nights rest would cure it all. As the days went by, things got worse and worse. The following day started out okay but as the day progressed, I began feeling worse and worse. My throat began to hurt and my voice became scratchy. That night, I woke up shivering with my teeth chattering and shaking uncontrollably. I checked my temperature the following day and it was over 101 degrees!
The illness I experienced really opened my eyes to how interconnected everything is. The stress of my daughter's visit to the hospital, the lack of sleep, the unwillingness to take time off, all of these things led me to have a compromised immune system. With the immune system not functioning to its full potential, it led me to be more susceptible to illness. Fast forward a few months and we are now in the midst of a pandemic. If we don't keep all of these things in mind and take everything into consideration when viewing our health, the mistake we make could be more severe than those mistakes I made in February.
In addition to being mindful of our well-being, there are things that we can do to promote good health for ourselves. For one, I would recommend getting a good nights sleep (sounds obvious after my debacle in February)! Try to keep your sleep and wake cycle consistent for every day of the week. In addition to that, you should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep. This means actual sleep, not time in bed on youtube, texting or watching shows like Tiger King on Netflix.
Remember, 7 hours is the minimum. In order to reach that, you should create a plan and here is the kicker, follow the plan! This is how I would sort out my sleep schedule: figure out what time you plan to wake the following day and count backwards 9 hours. A 6 am wake-up means that you should get in bed by 9 pm. Eliminate electronics including phone and television and implement things that may aid in getting your body ready for sleep. For me, I like to take a hot shower, drink some tea, take some supplements like Magnesium and CBD Oil, then read or listen to a book before bed. If you give yourself 9 hours in bed, the hope would be that even if you read for an hour, you will still get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. If it takes two hours to fall asleep, you would still get the minimum requirement.
The second thing I would recommend is partake in some type of physical activity each and every day. Ideally, this will take place in the morning. Not only will it help you sleep better at night but it can also improve your overall health which means a healthier you! I'm not saying that having a six-pack will ward off germs but I am saying that being as healthy and fit as possible is a good place to start!
When coronavirus first started to appear, those with pre-existing conditions were most at risk. We can help fight against such pre-existing conditions by exercising and keeping a regular fitness regiment. To name a few areas that exercise can help is improvements in your heart & respiratory function, reduce inflammation, mitigate stress and help fight against other potential harmful mental states that may occur during this pandemic. Our fitness training should support a healthy lifestyle. Train hard, don't compromise your immune system in anyway, consider the health of others, and keep fighting the good fight!