Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Importance of sleep

I just got a new phone today - a Samsung S4 - so cool, but I needed to get a case for it so it wouldn't get banged around in my purse, so off to the mall after work.

Paleo Grandad met me there and after getting the case, a nice red one (and a keyboard for my iPad - 20% off, how could I refuse?), we went into White Spot for dinner. As usual when  Paleo Grandad walks into a restaurant, his Paleo switch turns off and he chose a shrimp sandwich on sourdough bread with fries, which he said was "OK" only - I think we should save off-Paleo eating for "OMG delicious" and not just OK.

I try to stick as close to clean eating as I can, because I hate the stomach upsets I get when I don't so I am more motivated.

Back home again, and time to relax and de-stress before our ten o'clock bedtime.  We could have gone for a bike ride, but then I wouldn't have time to blog and that is a great de-stressor for me as well (find something you love to do).

The Paleo lifestyle is not just about the food you eat - though that is a really important one.  The Paleo lifestyle is diet, exercise and sleep.  I figured out a long time ago (as did Paleo Grandad) that that if I was tired you really don't want to be around me.  Heck, I didn't want to be around me.

I began having sleep problems (falling asleep and staying asleep) about 15 years ago and started taking medications to try to correct the problem - sleeping pills, anti-depressants and tranquilizers. Don't ever believe that any of these medications aren't "addictive".  They may not be in the sense that you can be addicted to say heroin, but the dependency these legal drugs create is pretty bad.  After awhile the dosages you are on stop working and you have to take more or switch to another medication with new side effects.  You begin to think that it is impossible to sleep unless you take the pills.

After a few months on the Paleo diet I noticed that I was falling asleep easier and, instead of waking up three or four times a night, I was only waking up once.  I have tried several times BP (before Paleo) to get off sleeping bills but I never succeeded.  As I was feeling the best I have in years mentally and physically I thought "Self, I bet you could sleep without the sleeping pill - you need to try again!"  Never go cold turkey on a medication (and always talk to your doctor first), so I decreased the amount I was taking over a three week period and, this time, it worked.

I had to make a few other changes that I think contributed to me kicking the sleeping pill habit.  Here is a list of changes to think about courtesy of
  1. Wake up at the same time each day. It is tempting to sleep late on weekends, especially if one has had poor sleep during the week. However, if you suffer from insomnia you should get up at the same time every day in order to train your body to wake at a consistent time.
  2. Eliminate nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants. The effects of caffeine can last for several hours, perhaps up to 24 hours, so the chances of it affecting sleep are significant. Caffeine may not only cause difficulty initiating sleep, but may also cause frequent awakenings. Alcohol may have a sedative effect for the first few hours following consumption, but it can then lead to frequent arousals and a non-restful night's sleep. If you are on medications that act as stimulants, such as decongestants or asthma inhalers, ask your doctor when they should best be taken to help minimize any affect on sleep.
  3. Limit naps. While napping seems like a proper way to catch up on missed sleep, it is not always so. It is important to establish and maintain a regular sleep pattern and train oneself to associate sleep with cues like darkness and a consistent bedtime. Napping can affect the quality of nighttime sleep.
  4. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can improve sleep quality and duration. However, exercising immediately before bedtime can have a stimulant effect on the body and should be avoided. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before you plan to retire for the night.
  5. Limit activities in bed. The bed is for sleeping and having sex and that's it. If you suffer from insomnia, do not balance the checkbook, study, or make phone calls, for example,  while in bed or even in the bedroom, and avoid watching television or listening to the radio. All these activities can increase alertness and make it difficult to fall asleep.
  6. Do not eat or drink right before going to bed. Eating a late dinner or snacking before going to bed can activate the digestive system and keep you up. If I really need something to eat, I take a tablespoon of coconut butter and that works for me.
  7. Make your sleeping environment comfortable. Temperature, lighting, and noise should be controlled to make the bedroom conducive to falling (and staying) asleep. Your bed should feel comfortable and if you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider having the pet sleep somewhere else if it tends to make noise in the night.
  8. Get all your worrying over with before you go to bed. If you find you lay in bed thinking about tomorrow, consider setting aside a period of time -- perhaps after dinner -- to review the day and to make plans for the next day. The goal is to avoid doing these things while trying to fall asleep. It is also useful to make a list of, say, work-related tasks for the next day before leaving work. That, at least, eliminates one set of concerns.
  9. Reduce stress. There are a number of relaxation therapies and stress reduction methods you may want to try to relax the mind and the body before going to bed. Examples include progressive muscle relaxation (perhaps with audio tapes), deep breathing techniques, imagery, meditation, and biofeedback.  All good suggestions, but the only thing I find that works for me is reading - I have a Kobo e-reader with a back lit screen.
  10. Consider participating in cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy helps some people with insomnia identify and correct inappropriate thoughts and beliefs that may contribute to insomnia. In addition, cognitive therapy can give people the proper information about sleep norms, age-related sleep changes, and help set reasonable sleep goals, among other things.

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