Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What's Keeping You Up at Night?

Ever go to bed feeling completely exhausted expecting to fall into a deep slumber, but instead, you watch the clock hour after hour? 11pm…1am…3am…5am… Your eyes won't shut, your mind refuses to quiet down and you're flip-flopping like a fish outa' water. I sometimes just go on my phone and see who's up on Facebook. I write, "Insomnia again," to see if anyone is out there. I get a whole bunch of suggestions like, "Take melatonin," "Take NyQuil," "Take Benadryl & wash it down with some wine."  I search Google only to find the same 'holistic' advice like deep breathing and meditation, but sometimes I'm just too fired up to even calm down. I did take the suggestion of making chamomile tea before bedtime. It seemed to work for a while until it 'found me out' and said, "Ah ha!" Well, a couple of weeks ago I found something else that seems to work…if you could even do this. I was on Twitter, and there is this user who puts up a bunch of random factoids that are really interesting. One of them stated that if you find a comfortable spot and lay there for 15 minutes  *completely still* and motionless, your body will automatically shut down. This means not even moving a finger, a toe, a nostril --you get my drift. I tried it. I don't remember after the 10th minute, in fact, I slept all the way through the night. My mom is the same way. Every time I ask how she slept, she always gives me the same answer, "Ya know, on and off…"  She wakes up at around 4 am, sometimes earlier just to make coffee and have a smoke. She can't sleep past that. So she took my advice. The next morning I called her, "How'd you sleep?" And she said, "Ohhh Deb, I slept soooo good! I didn't wake up once!" But like I said, it always seems to 'find you out' --- as if your body is trying to figure all these little self-help techniques and squashes em'.

The stomach.

Insomnia or interrupted sleep can happen for many reasons though, and sometimes medical reasons. Last night, I was exhausted. But I couldn't sleep due to my constant itch in the back of my throat. (Post nasal drip. I know, TMI.) So, I had a huge cup of hot broth and within minutes, I was asleep. The thing is figuring out why you can't sleep. At times, when I fall off the Paleo wagon, I go through what's called the "low carb flu", to which my stomach is still adjusting. There are many suggestions such as eating carbs before bedtime or having a banana which has some tryptophan to help induce sleep. None of those ever worked well for me. Stomach issues is one of the main reasons why people are up till all hours of the night. Pop a Prilosec (H2 blocker) or better yet, a probiotic. Even the ol' standard yellow mustard due to its turmeric and vinegar helps a great deal. Better yet, take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar straight up or diluted in a small cup of water. Your stomach can be the biggest contributor to insomnia. So check what's ailing you and see if your home remedy works. Trial and error.

The mind.

Are you an over thinker? Over-analyzer? Many believe that if your mind is running on overtime, so will your body. Here's the strange thing about the mind: if you're over thinking something nonsensical or something that can definitely be managed in the morning, you'll be up all. night. long. If something is too overwhelming for your mind to even handle, you'll fall asleep due to overload. I say this because all I did was sleep while my dad was still here suffering. My mind couldn't handle the visions of the past 12 hours of sitting in the hospital watching him scream in agony. All the thoughts of, 'what if I lose my dad' and 'is he sleeping now' and 'did the nurses give him his pain meds on time', came flooding into my mind. My mind couldn't process it all, so it shut down. If your mind is going through a traumatic event, your body self-preserves itself. The other thing is, you're also more likely to get nightmares that wake you up. So it's a tricky thing. If it's something like, "Oh I gotta make sure I call my client at 9am or he'll drop the deal," then you'll definitely have those peepers still open till the wee wee hours of the night.

Booze.

I don't even know why I dabble in it from time to time knowing that the most sleep I will get is 3 hours, if I'm lucky. I'm talking about overindulgence though. More than 2 glasses of wine or whatever the cocktail of the day is, I will have the worst sleep ever. Alcohol strips you of your natural serotonin levels which is a huge necessity for sleep. I know that without a doubt, if I go out with my girls, I'm gonna have a shitty night's sleep, so I make sure it's on a Saturday night so that I can sleep in on Sunday morning. So I have to work around my booze time. I do disagree with some of the medical websites out there that say do not drink a glass of wine before bed to sleep. I think 1 or 2 glasses is perfectly fine. It's when it stretches it's limits and leaves you waking up restless.


Hormones, menopause & PMS, oh my! 

You men have it easy. I suffer from what's called "sleep jerks". These sudden jerks leave me waking up gasping for air. They're also called "sleep starts". This has nothing to do with sleep apnea, however it is a sleep disorder that many people suffer from. Right when you're about to fall asleep, your body jolts you up, leaving you almost half paralyzed without any breath inside your lungs. It's like someone took the breath right out of you. And many believe that this is "the supernatural" doing this, but I can't even wrap my mind around that one. This usually happens to me right when I'm PMSing. My hormones are way out of control, my wife is sleeping on the edge of her side to stay away from me and my dog is very concerned. You get my drift. In a nutshell, your brain is trying to save your body from ----DYING! And it will save it every time, but it's just scary when you go through it. It's also known to be respiratory depression, which is alarming, but it's due to hormones and adrenal fatigue. Ever hear someone suggest taking a large dose of vitamin C to go to sleep? Well, vitamin C & E as well as aspirin (which I can't take due to my stomach) will help restore adrenal strength, which will then make you sleep better.

There are so many personalized reasons why we can't sleep so I am only speaking from my own experience and what I found out about it. I've even heard that lighting in your bedroom will leave you awake, tricking your mind into thinking it's daylight out. Strange, cause I have no problem sleeping with the TV light on in the background and now, I have a small Christmas tree that illuminates my entire bedroom which makes me sleep better. You have to find out what works for you. But all these things I stated above have helped me a great deal. I still suffer at least a couple of times per week. Many also believe that leaving your WIFI on and keeping your cell phone on your nightstand can interrupt your sleep. I'm not sure about that, but it's interesting to read up on. Madelene sleeps with her iPhone right on top of her chest listening to some calming music or some religious sermon. I keep telling her to never place the cell phone on your body. We even believe the reason why she developed fibroid tumors on her right ovary was because she placed her cell phone in her right pocket during the day at work. But people will still do this. There are so many factors. I mean, why is it that sometimes I'll drink espresso after 8pm and I fall asleep like a baby afterwards? What explains why I have a calm and relaxing evening and I'm up all hours of the night? It's just a matter of our personalized and complicated bodies screaming for assistance. Assess it. Figure it out. And if you can't, watch a good movie and don't try to force yourself asleep. Do something instead of just lying there. Wear yourself out. And…sleep well.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

My mind and my body conspire to keep me awake. And every so often my partner joins in the fun.
I am decidedly an over thinker. And when muscle spasms wake me shrieking in the small hours then the brain says ...'now you are up, brood about this...'
I am also a light sleeper. So if my partner gets up and cruises the house then my eyes snap open and the brain says brood on this. And if I manage to drift off the spasms come to the party.
It is no wonder so many cultures have used sleep deprivation as a torture. It is.