Abby DesJardien 0:05
Welcome to things that keep us up at night, the podcast. I'm your host, Abby DesJardien, wife, mother, three girls, entrepreneur, recovering workaholic, and sleep evangelist. I'm on a mission to empower women through better sleep. If you want actionable steps to solve the problems that keep you up at night, you're in the right place, from finances, to hormones, parenting to politics, relationships, and business. We'll talk about all of it. Let's get started.
Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of things that keep us up at night, the podcast. I'm thrilled that you're here. And I can't wait for all of the life changing discussions that we're going to have on this podcast. I wanted to start with the quote that was the catalyst for the work that I do.
She says about entrepreneurship that we boldly opt out of the system to create one that works for us. And then we work ourselves to the bone following the model that we wanted to escape in the first place. So I read this in the middle of my last health crisis that was caused by overworking as an entrepreneur. It was life changing. And it described exactly what was happening in my life. I had spent the last decade working as a speech language pathologist in the public schools. During that time, I'd had a high risk pregnancy, three babies, multiple mysterious health crises. In the summer of 2017, I made the decision to leave the public school system and start my own practice. The main reason for that was that that was the only way that I could see having the time to do the self care that I knew I needed to do in order to take better care of myself and be healthy.
I had this vision of working part of the day, spending the rest of the day doing things like taking walks and meditating and cooking nourishing meals. And what it actually ended up looking like was 14 plus hour days, nightly take out missing important parts of my kids lives like school plays and baseball games. And I just really ended up resenting the life that I had built around this business. And so in order to understand where I was, during that time, I have to go all the way back to when I was a young child. I have had a dysfunctional relationship with sleep for as long as I can remember, as a young child, I had night terrors every night for years. Shortly after that I was in a car accident. We were stopped at a light and somebody hit the back of our car. She was going 50 miles an hour. And so as you can imagine, I suffered some pretty severe neck and back trauma. Then, as a teenager, I leaned into my difficulties with sleep.
I decided that you know, we live in a society that rewards hard work, the more you accomplish and achieve, the more honorable your life is. And so I thought, "Hey, I know I struggle with sleep. So instead of worrying about it, I'm just going to use all these hours that I should be sleeping to accomplish things." I started college full time when I was 16. And during that time, I also work the opening shift at Starbucks every morning. I was doing extracurriculars 40 plus hours a week, and all of this at the expense of sleep. This came to a head for the first time when I was 18. And in the car moving to college on the other side of the state in Washington. The college I attended is in a small town in eastern Washington and so to get there it was about a six hour drive. And I had stayed out late the night before with my friends as kind of like a last hurrah celebrating and we got up early the next morning and started driving. About an hour outside of town, I fell asleep at the wheel and flipped to my car five times down the highway. They had to use the jaws of life to get me out of the car. Given how severely destroyed the car was, somehow I escaped with a concussion, some bumps and bruises. And that's pretty much it. So I wish I could say that at that point, I had the realization that, "Wow, I'm not sleeping enough. And it almost killed me. But I didn't. All through college, I continued the work hard play hard mentality, sleeping just a couple hours a night sometimes.
This continued through grad school, where I had a health crisis that basically, they thought I had not immune disorder, but really told couldn't figure out what it was and they told me they couldn't help me. So I was just left with, with what I had, there was nothing that I could do to change it, they said. So when I finished grad school, and finally got insurance, I decided I was going to figure out what was going on. I had multiple doctor's visits, they referred me to specialists who referred me to the rheumatologist to the sleep doctor to all these different people. And what they eventually arrived on was fibromyalgia, which for anyone that doesn't know is a chronic pain and exhaustion, that doesn't really ever lead up. They ruled everything else out. And so that was what they arrived on. They gave me a handful of pills.
It was antidepressants, anti anxiety, muscle relaxers sleeping pills, just all of these different medications to try and get me some relief. None of it worked. And finally, I referred myself for a sleep study. And what they found was that I had something called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, which basically means that all night long my legs twitch. And I believe at that first sleep study, they said that I woke up something like 420 times, so I was never getting that deep, restful sleep. So again, they prescribed another medication and Parkinson's medication to see if they could get my legs to stop twitching. That didn't work. So at that point, again, I just gave up on sleep. Like, this isn't something that I can do, the medication they gave me doesn't work. I, you know, I've done everything I can. I'm moving on and trying to figure something else out. So in the meantime, I was working as a speech pathologist in the schools, I had a high risk pregnancy, I had three babies. And I continued to have these cycles of sickness. And so when I did finally decide to leave in the summer of 2017, in an effort to, to better take care of myself. Like I said, I was on a mission to figure out what I could do to feel better. So here we are back in 2017.
It started out slowly, just getting the word out into the community. I was you know, I had all kinds of time in the day to walk and reflect and journal and meditate and all the things that I'd been thinking about. But then a wonderful and terrible thing happened.
And that was that word got out in my community that I had started this business. And speech therapy is something that is in high demand and short supply in many, many communities, including my own. And so when word got out, my client list exploded. I had set a goal of having 30 appointments a week and I quickly surpassed that and was nearing 50 appointments a week. Not to mention, I was doing all the scheduling, all the insurance, billing, all of the bookkeeping, all website design, everything I was doing all the things in my business, and I wasn't hiring any of it out.
I worked myself nearly to death, I had another health crisis I gained 30 pounds, my blood sugar was up, it was not a good time in my life. At that point, you know, I'd cycled through this, getting sick and getting somewhat healthy over and over and over again. And, and kept going back to it. Because in our society, we're taught that you work hard, you keep your head down, and especially as a woman, you sacrifice taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others. And it's just so backwards to me, because what I have learned is that in order to take care of others, I need to take care of myself first.
So then, next step, for me, I hired someone to take on a large portion of the caseload.
I took a step back. I started to really examine all of the, the things that I was doing in my life, and look at whether they were they contributing something positive, or that were they contributing something negative. And through so much trial and error and determination, I arrived on sleep again.
And this time, I was determined to make it happen.
Because I had tried all of the other things. I had been eating all food made from scratch, you know, vegetables, and organic meats, and drinking tons of water and working out and meditating.
And none of them worked. They all made me feel a little bit better.
But none of them made me feel the way that I felt like I should feel. So I made the choice to rededicate myself to sleep. And by doing that, I guess I should say, in the process of doing that, I just started throwing myself into the learning of it. I read so many books and took so many courses on, you know, why do we sleep? What are the benefits of sleep, what is keeping people from sleeping, and really just dove into it. And over about a year, I changed my sleep.
I started believing that sleep was important. I started believing that by changing my sleep, I was going to make everything else in my life easier. You know, I am going to do more efficient work, I'm going to do more creative work, I'm going to have better emotional regulation, I am going to just be a better parent, I'm going to be a better wife, I'm going to be a person that has something to contribute to society. And so sleep was the answer.
And as I changed my sleep, and started to feel rested, for the first time in my life, I looked around and realized that there is hardly a woman that I know, or even see in the public sphere, that does not sacrifice sleep, in order to either do things in this, you know, doing this constantly doing culture that we live in, or to take care of other people. I can't count how many nights I remember waking up in the middle of the night and walking out of my room to find my mom working on some project that needed to be done for one of us the next day. Things like sewing a costume for some performance or, you know, you name it, she did it all. But she did it at the sacrifice of sleep. And so that's the way I was functioning too and our society rewards that. So when I looked around, it's like oh my gosh, this is an epidemic.
Women have been taught that it is their job to take care of everything. And our society has been taught that it's honorable to overwork and that your worth is measured by the the amount of work that you do. You know, people brag and say I only slept four hours last night and wear it almost like a badge of honor. Instead, when I hear that now I, it really hits me. Because I know that you can't function on four hours of sleep. So that's when I came to my work. I am passionate about helping women, especially female entrepreneurs understand that sleep is the foundation of your business and your life, it is the one thing that you can do that will impact every other part of your day.
You know, like I said, sleep and emotional regulation, if you think about a morning, when you wake up after you haven't had enough sleep, you're tired, you're, you know, emotions kind of go all over the place. And the day just kind of feels like a struggle. Things that might not otherwise upset, you might kind of trigger a very emotional reaction.
And sleep and productivity, there was a Harvard study of 7400 adults, and it found that 23% have insomnia and, and it's estimated that they lose 11.3 days of work because of poor sleep. So their productivity was decreased by 11.3 days. They may as well just been on vacation those days, actually, they probably would have been more functional at work had those been vacation days. Another study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 45% of adults lacked adequate sleep.
There is a large percentage of the population that loses more than two work weeks of productivity per year, because of a lack of sleep.
It impacts your ability to problem solve, it impacts your creativity, it impacts your impulse control. So when we are being hard on ourselves about making what we perceive as a poor financial choice, or beating ourselves up about the food that we've eaten for the day, like, "Oh, I can't believe I drove through that McDonald's drive thru." Well, guess what, when you're exhausted, your impulse control is down and the hormones in your body are sending you into a state of crisis.
And so your body just wants calories. So it's craving those high fat, high calorie foods, you know, "Oh, I wish I could get out of bed in the morning and work out?" Well, you are having a hard time making those decisions because you are not rested. And so really, I am in this because I believe that women choosing sleep is the ultimate act of empowerment. By choosing sleep, women are showing others. We're showing society. We're showing our kids, that we are important and that we matter. And so that is a long winded way of telling you how I got here. It's my mission, through all of my programs and this podcast to help women transforms their lives through sleep. One of my sayings is that, "I believe in women. I believe in sleep. And I believe that well rested women change the world.
And so that is where I'm operating from.
I'll be back next Wednesday and every Wednesday following that with guests to talk about all of the things that keep us up at night.
Until next time, Sleep well.
Thanks for listening to things that keep us up at night. If you liked this episode, please visit us at things that keep us up atnight.com or subscribe and leave me a review wherever you listen to your podcasts.
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In the very first episode of “Things that Keep Us Up at Night”, you will learn:
* How Kate Northrup’s book “Do Less” became the catalyst for my work
* Why I wish I could say the jaws of life saved me in more ways than one
* What happened 420 times during my sleep study
*Women Entrepreneurs – I am talking to you: Sleep is the foundation of your business and your life!
Let me know what you think about this episode:
*Connect with me on Instagram at @abbydesjardien
*Check out my website and see how we can work together
*Subscribe to “Things That Keep Us Up at Night” here!
Loving what you are hearing at Things That Keep You Up at Night!? Have you found some tips to help you sleep better? Make sure you subscribe and leave a 5 STAR – Review at Apples Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts!
Song Credits: I Can’t Sleep by My My Snake Eyes feat. Red Red Revision