The Importance of Sleep, Part Two

After reading Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, Ph.D., I found his summary of “Twelve Tips of Healthy Sleep” to be beneficial. If you never read the book, following is the most important information to improve your sleep and keep you healthy.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule, Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day [even on the weekends].

2. Exercise, but not too late in the day. Exercise each day, but not after two to three hours before you sleep.

3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, most sodas and tees, and chocolate all contain the stimulant caffeine. Caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off.

4. Avoid alcohol before you sleep. Having a nightcap or one alcoholic beverage may help you relax, but heavy drinking robs you of deep sleep and keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.

5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. Heavy foods can cause indigestion and drinking too many beverages can cause interruptions to urinate during the night.

6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay of disrupt your sleep.

7. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can help disrupted sleep, but too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep.

8. Relax before bed and don’t over schedule your day [easier said than done!].

9. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after the bath can help you feel sleepy.

10. Dark , cool, gadget free bedroom. Get rid of that thing in the thing in the bedroom that can distract you.

11. Have the right exposure to sunlight. Scientists suggest sunlight in the morning or first half of the day to regulate sleep patterns. Too much exposure late in the day can keep you up.

12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep in 20 minutes, get up to do some light activity, reading, light housework, but not watching TV or searching on the internet.

The Importance of Sleep, Part One

My current reading is the book, Why We Sleep , Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD. He shares the importance of sleep. It’s an extensive explanation on sleeping patterns (from in utero until old age); who needs to sleep how long; how it affects the body; what diseases adequate sleep can prevent (or decrease the chances of contracting); stages of sleep and what happens in each stage; when we dream, what it may mean, & how science can interpret a limited meaning of dreams.

Chapters 1 & 2 introduce the need for sleep routine, the negative and dangerous effects of sleep deprivation, who sleeps how much, caffeine, jet lag, melatonin and circadian rhythm. Adults need a standard of eight hours of sleep each night. The shorter hours you sleep, the shorter your life will be. While we sleep, every single major organ in the body and brain, are enhanced during sleep (or harmed if we don’t sleep enough). If we adapt to the old saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, that death may be a lot sooner than we think.

How does our body know when to sleep? Why does a cup of coffee keep us awake when we “need”it? Everyone has a circadian rhythm, the internal twenty four hour clock our brain helps to keep us awake and asleep when we need to. Our innate biological clock is technically 24 hours and 15 minutes – about the amount of time the Earth rotates around the sun. Our body adapts to the light and darkness as the most reliable source of keeping a circadian rhythm. (Does your body get off track when we change our clocks twice a year? Takes a little getting used to?)

Lastly, everyone’s rhythms differ from each other. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Our society revolves around the 30% morning people and causes the 70% of night owls to struggle with sleep deprivation. School, business hours, the bank, etc. favor the early morning person, 0700 – 1700 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

Caffeine is the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. It is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant in the world. Caffeine blocks what they call adenosine receptors in the brain and inactivate these receptors. Caffeine tricks the brain by blocking the sleepiness feeling and make us feel alert and awake. What’s the problem?

Caffeine shelf life is 8 hours. If you have coffee around 3 p.m., that caffeine isn’t out of your system until 11 p.m. (if you metabolize it in an eight hour average). Coffee after dinner? Not getting to sleep until 2 a.m. Drink decaf? Decaf still has up to half of caffeine in the coffee. Not drinking coffee? Caffeine is still found in some teas, sodas, energy drinks, dark chocolate, ice cream, some pain relievers, and some weight loss pills. There will be a caffeine crash to deal with. Energy level can plummet quickly.

Dr. Walker also advises against the widespread use of sleeping medications because eventually they will wear off.

Since I have been challenging myself to get more sleep, I feel better, even healthier. I have a weakened immune system from my transplants and sleep helps to strengthen my immune system. I feel happier when I have 8 hours of sleep.

January Depression and Social Interactions

January is a time I always experience depression. I’ve been injured or ill most Januarys in my adult life. I’m more sedentary, getting less Vitamin D, melatonin, and less social interactions with neighbors or the general public. And let’s not forget the fabulous weather we have. (I live in the upper region if South Carolina where we have cold, rainy Januarys).

Besides using my Emotional Journal, I need some time outside, whatever exercise I can do, and a daily interaction with a friend. Talking, praying, to getting together at Starbucks are a few of my favorite fun and deeper ways of interacting.

Generally the more depressive state reports more negative social interactions. Research had shown that the more depressive symptoms who experience both a high number of positive AND negative interactions showed a state of well being. (N.B. Allen & P.B. Badcock, 2003). When we experience more social interactions, both negative and positive, we are more sensitized to the people of every day life. We face both social rejection and social acceptance.

Humans were created to have the need for connections and to gain acceptance into social groups. We have bonding ideas, beliefs, activities, or experiences and we work hard to keep these bonds strong. We need the connections emotionally and spiritually, as it plays into our mental health, and can cause negative physical health symptoms.

Even if I can’t meet face to face with a friend, a phone call or at least a text to say hi helps to lift my spirit. Instead of going through a drive through to eat, do laundry or banking, try getting out of your car and comfort zone and walk in to talk to a live person. If you are in a line for checkout, do you automatically get on your phone to avoid people, or make small talk, smile, ask how someone’s day is going – and listen to their answer. Try to be positive, even if they are not.

Right now, I’m headed to the dog groomer to pick up my spaniel and are walking into the business and try to talk to the groomer.

How are you? Hmmmm….

So how are you? An easy question…or not.

I really never know exactly how to answer this question. How much should I tell? Getting transplants and living with chronic illnesses isn’t like healing a sprained ankle or lowering my cholesterol.

Do they want the truth? Would they understand? Is it just a courtesy to ask how I’m doing? Do I say good, fine, I’m getting along – just to avoid being awkward or to keep from opening up and crying?

Do I tell them the 8 additional diagnoses resulting from receiving three transplants? If I do, they might think I’m not thankful enough & I didn’t deserve the organs since I’ve experienced depression, don’t have a great quality of health, have sleeping problems, brain damage, get sick easily, have audio sensitivity, daily headaches, vomit 2-3 days a week, my kids are preoccupied with my health…

My answer depends on a few factors…

How well do I know this person?

How much energy do I have to spend on this conversation?

Are they the type of Pollyanna that tells me ‘it could be worse.” I know it can, and that kind of response shows me that they haven’t listened or can validate when anyone tells them that the world isn’t all kinds of sunshine and rainbows.

Do they really care, or is it a check off that they have “ministered to someone’ or shown “kindness”?

I try not to be negative, I really fight it.

I’ve had so many people from transplant recipients (who were out of the hospital in 10 days versus the better part of a year in the hospital), to church members asking me how I’m doing (while looking around the sanctuary at the same time and having to cut the conversation short because their family is hungry) to a close friend getting tired of me “being sick.”

I actually went to a dinner with friends and one guy was having a third glass of wine, saying that it was ok because that was what your liver and kidneys were for. This couple visited me in the hospital, brought meals and were our friends!

I never asked for this life, but it’s my “Option B,” ( read the book by Sheryl Sandburg & Adam Grant). My original marathon running, healthy mom, part time hairstylist life was taken away from me. Heart failure found about 5 years too late, followed by open heart surgery , then 2 years later with a heart, live, and kidney transplants with three hernias, brain damage, balance and audio problems, followed by much more was my second or “Option B” life. I don’t have the options opened to me before.

So…this year I’m not renewing my beauty license because I know I won’t go back to work, my job is taking care of myself, being a stay at home mom & wife I’m establishing a better sleep routine, improved nutrition – 18 days without soda- spending a lot of time with a pain and rehabilitation clinic in Greenville , reading and doing the exercise I can while working through neuropathy.

PTSD: Signs, Risk Factors, and Treatment

I still have hospital nightmares that have me being rolled onto hospital beds or transport, with me running away from a criminal, only to be trapped in ICU. Not joshing with you.

I have sudden thoughts and feelings when put into a specific circumstance that closely identifies with my hospital trauma, I feel like I am physically and mentally back in Emory University hospital the summer of 2012. IVs, tubes, Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, labs 4 times a day,, new IVs every 2-3 days. You know I really think the hospital likes needles and tape.

The last time I felt PTSD extremely serious was Christmastime 2015 when our niece, MJ, was in ICU due to a horrible car accident. I had prayed and taken 1mg of Ativan (needed more), I felt the cold air (to keep the germs away, the sounds of the non stopping beeps, and the sound of her ventilator. A ventilator has a specific sound that I will never forget because I had been on them many times.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms can include:

    Persistent re-experiencing of the trauma
    Reoccurring dreams or nightmares
    “Flashbacks” or “deja vu” (sensing that the traumatic trauma is happening in the present)
    Sleeping disturbances
    Increased avoidance of general social situations

These symptoms are certainly not all, but some of the most common symptoms to describe the official definition of the PTSD. They disturb the quality of life starting with lost sleep, decreased mental capacity to focus on the present , and declining having meaningful friendships.

Risk Factors can include:

People who have experienced a natural disaster, catastrophic illnesses, combat exposure, incest, rape, assault, losing a loved one.

Types Of PTSD – Clinical Presentation Acute (less than three months) and Chronic (More than 3 months in duration).

Psychological origins and consequences of severe trauma

Attachment and Repetition: Severe stress experienced in childhood and infancy is Attachment and Protection. They experienced in-utero, at birth, or sometime early childhood. These children or infants will seek out attachment, even to an abusing parent, developing into a lifetime of perusing attachments with abusing friends or spouses.

Hyperarousal : Inescapable shock, depression, and a depletion of norepinephrine. This leads to a receptor sensitivity in parts of the brain Their nervous systems may be permanently altered so people are unable to reduce the excessive emotional arousal.

Since PTSD often comes out of nowhere, at an instant, how should we get treatment?

Most professionals and most people would recommend psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, or Behavioral therapy.

Secondary, but much less recommended – medications to help certain aspects, but won’t completely heal.

If you don’t know where to get help and you’re in trouble, call 9-1-1.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Call a friend, call a pastor, counselor, priest, Rabbi, or someone you admire with spiritual leadership.

PTSD and any other mental illness doesn’t get bettor on its own. “Time Heal All Wounds” is not true.

Sources include : Handbook of Clinical PSchopharmacology for Therapist; Susan Tankersly Therapy; Greenville Psychology and personal experience.

Nutrition and Anxiety

“You are what you eat,” as the saying goes. To a certain extent, we are. We eat sugar (or in my case drink a Coke), I get the caffeine and short term pleasure – sugar – and sooner or later, I crash. Worse, my addiction to refined sugar is strengthened. On the flip side, most days I eat 7-9 servings of combined fruits and vegetables and feel full, but not stuffed.

I’ve read a lot of articles of what foods can help with depression, anxiety, and targeted vitamins and minerals that will help my lab results.

Today, I’m focusing on anxiety. It may seem silly, but every January/February I’m anxious about getting the flu or viruses, especially when I’m in large crowds. (If you are new to my blog, I’m a transplant recipient). I also get anxious for my two kids in school, because traditionally, the third quarter is the toughest.

So here is a comprehensive food list to help reduce anxiety.

From – Asparagus, Avocado, Blueberries, Turkey, Almonds, Yogurt, Kale (or Arugla), and Salmon.

From – Vegetables, Fruit, Salmon (but more information is needed).

From – Brazil nuts, Fatty Fish (2 times a week), Egg Yolks, Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate, & Tumeric (not for those with transplants. Turmeric strengthens the immune system).

Foods that make anxiety and irritability worse:

  1. Alcohol (dehydrates)
  2. Coffee
  3. Aged, Fermented and Cultured Foods (But during the process, bacteria break down But during the process, bacteria break down the food proteins into biogenic amines, one of which is histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormones, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In susceptible individuals, it can trigger anxiety and insomnia.the food proteins into biogenic amines, one of which is histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that aggravates digestion, hormones, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In susceptible individuals, it can trigger anxiety and insomnia. {per}
  1. Added Sugar (Soda, Processed foods, desserts)
  1. Hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, which are packed with LDL cholesterol and can lower HDL cholesterol

My Challenge – January 6- February 5

Since I don’t drink alcohol, or coffee (except an occasional Starbucks sugar Frappuccino), I’m challenging myself for 30 days to have no soda and cut down on processed foods. Will you ride this roller coaster with me?

Feelings vs. Truth

This is going to be a very different kind of post.

One concept I have learned in 5 & 1/2 years of therapy, is that feeling are REAL, but feelings are not TRUTH. We feel what we feel, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Abraham Lincoln said “I have noticed that most people in this world are about as happy as they have made up their minds to be.”

Notwithstanding things like medical depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another diagnosis, a traumatic life event, or a natural disaster, I agree with the 16th President.

Now, I’m much happier living at home and not the hospital. I feel better and stronger when I sleep for more than 7 hours. I like when my car works. I like when the internet works. But in general, we experience joy, anger, sadness, fear, disgust ( remember the movie Inside Out?).

Another concept over the last two years I’ve learned is that no other person CAN MAKE us feel the emotions we feel. Think about it. We can be talking and I say, “I want you to get really angry. Now. Get really angry.” Did you get angry? I hope not. We get angry when we perceive someone has mistreated us ( and it must have been on purpose!!).

Another reason is that we have unmet expectations. For example, I call my husband on his way home from work and tell him I’m making pasta for supper, but I don’t have very much cheese at home. He arrives home with no cheese. I got angry because he didn’t think to stop for the thinly sliced Italian 6 blend cheese mix. Now, should have stopped? Possibly. But, I should have expressed my need for him to stop to get pasta cheese. He didn’t make me angry, I chose to be angry, or more accurately, disappointed that I won’t have cheese with my pasta.

A third reason can be plain miscommunication. Did we read into the message we received? Was it an email, text, phone call, a quick exchange? Face to face communication when both parties are willing to remain calm is the best setting to correct a miscommunication.

A lot of our emotions are in our control.