Monthly Archives: January 2012

Grandma Died . . . I Can’t Sleep

Sadly, my special grandma died Friday night. I will miss her, and remember all the great times we had, and the things she taught me over the years.

Having learned on Saturday morning about her passing, it was on my mind as I settled in to sleep Saturday night. My thoughts were on Grandma, flitting from one memory to another, I was upset. So it took a long time to fall asleep, then I was in and out of sleep through the night, disturbed by the high winds, thinking about the next days’ activities, and even wondering what time it was, if it was time to get up.

This was acute insomnia, which is really typical when people have some type of life-event. Fortunately, I have a long history of robust sleep, so this one night won’t throw me off. On the other hand, for people who have recovered from chronic insomnia, even an understandable acute insomnia in response to an identified stressor can bring up worries about their sleep. That worry about sleep makes sleep more elusive, and can trigger another episode of chronic insomnia.

So what to do? First of all, if an identifiable life-event has happened, keep in mind that it is normal for sleep to be disturbed as we are processing our emotions. As best you can, take time each day to sit and reflect on your experience, allow your emotions to come up, and express them either to a friend, by journaling, or other way. Do this during the day, at least 2 hours before bed, and then in the night tell yourself “I’ll have time to think about this more tomorrow, now is time to rest.” Second of all, don’t begin to worry about your sleep, knowing that as you recover from the event, your sleep will improve. During this emotional time, keep in place all those healthy sleep habits mentioned in other posts – regular bedtime and wake routine, getting out of bed if awake long in the night, saving the bed just for sleep, regular exercise, etc.

Use these strategies. If a time comes that you are no longer feeling emotionally charged about the event, but your sleep is still disturbed, then it is time to get sleep help.

Top 10 Online Influencers Helping America Sleep Better

It was a good morning to open my inbox and see that I’ve been named one of ‘The Top 10 Online Influencers Helping America Sleep Better’ by SharecareNow.  See their announcement here  http://www.sharecare.com/static/sharecare-now-shift-work-sleep-disorder

There are some great resources among this list for people wanting healthy sleep and it’s many benefits. Here’s a run-down of the Top 10, with the links to their sites. Enjoy!

Meet Us at the Bus Stop

So . . . how many of you are driving to work at 6:30ish? Ever see a kid suddenly caught in your headlights as they are waiting for the bus?

Over the last months the Start School Later movement has been gathering steam as almost 3,000 people across the nation have signed the petition, and the media has discussed the research showing that students do better when school starts later.

This week, on Thursday January 26th, the Meet us at the Bus Stop event is happening across the country to highlight how early children have to get up for school, so early that they are often waiting in the dark, on cold winter mornings, to catch the bus. Please join in by posting photos or video interviews of your children as they are waiting for the bus on Thursday morming. You can post them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/279393105455960/

See video from the previous Winter Solstice 2011 event at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl0zvs43wjQ&feature=youtu.be

Sign the Start School Later petition at http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139

Sleep ‘Fixes’ Negative Emotions in Your Mind

We’ve talked in other posts about sleep and emotional well-being. It’s well established that sleep problems contribute to depression, anxiety, anger, poor ability to read other’s emotions, among other contributions to emotional well-being. We also know that REM sleep in particular consolidates memories. Bring these two areas together, and now new research is showing that sleep right after a negative experience ‘fixes’ that memory and emotion in your mind.

The new study, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, had people look at disturbing photographs then rate arousal (calm/excited) and emotional response (happy/sad). After 12 hours, the participants saw a mix of the same photos with some new ones. The photos were rated again, and categorized as old or new. Some people first saw the photos in the evening so they slept between viewings, and others saw the photos in the morning and again in the evening after their regular daytime activities.

The big difference between how the photos were remembered was whether the person had slept between viewings. Those who had slept reported similar negativity and emotional charge, while those who had stayed awake rated the pictures as more neutral. There was also a trend for those who had the most REM sleep to have the least amount of change in negativity and emotional charge.

So what does this mean for us? First off, probably none of us should be watching the scary 10 o’clock news. Going to sleep right afterward is going to help us remember anything upseting, and also lock in those negative emotions. We also want to have that hour of quiet wind-down before sleep that we’ve talked about before. And forget discussing any bad news or addressing any conflicts with our spouse during that time, unless we want the bad feelings to linger in the morning. These are all things we knew to avoid on some level before, but now science is backing up common sense.

Your Bedroom – A Perfect ‘Sleep Cave’

Remember the ‘Man Cave’ which was popular a few years back? Well, think of creating a ‘cave’ at home to sleep in, because the ideal sleep environment is indeed cave-like. Below is a check-list to work through as you design the perfect sleep environment. You can also see this month’s issue of SHAPE magazine, with tips from designers and yours truly.
http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-give-your-bedroom-better-sleep-makeover

To make a perfect ‘Sleep Cave’:
1. Dark. Should be as dark as a cave, this allows your natural melatonin levels to soar at night and help you sleep.
2. Quiet. Ever sleep in a basement and have a better night’s sleep because it was so quiet? Turn off everything that makes a sound, thus asking for your attention. Do what you can to keep the dog from barking, or his collar from jingling. If there are irregular sounds, a soft white noise machine might be helpful.
3. No electronics. Did a caveman have little lights flashing, or sales texts chirping in the night? Research this last year shows that many people are woken multiple times each week by the phone. Make sure you are not one of these folks by putting your electronics to bed in another room.
4. Comfy. Sleeping surfaces vary widely around the world. What’s most important is that the bed is comfortable for you. Unfortunately bedpartners can prefer different firmness in the mattress. Modify it with extra padding so it’s softer for one, or put a firm board under the mattress so it’s firmer for the other person.
5. Cool. People sleep better when it is cooler than 65, or even cooler at 60 degrees. Adjust both the temperature of the room, and the covers so you aren’t waking up too hot. Many patients tell me they like the bed to be warm when they get into it in the evening, but then get too hot in the night. You can use a heating pad, electric blanket, or hot water bottle to warm the bed beforehand, but then turn it off once you are in bed.
6. Minimal ‘stuff’. Back to those cavemen, they didn’t have so much stuff in their sleeping quarters, did they? Remove all the things from your bedroom that are thought provoking or call for action. You want the bedroom to be a place that you are ‘off-duty’ from the responsibilities of the day.

Although none of these recommendations are high tech, they are based on solid research, and make a huge difference in how well you sleep. Making these changes will be worth it as you get optimal sleep and all its’ daytime benefits!