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Posts tagged ‘sleep’

Good Night?

Did you have a good night?  Are you having good nights?  Sleeping, that is.

When your nights are not good (or just too short…), your days tend not to be good either.  Up to a point you can exercise the old “mind over matter” strategy and affirm having a good day despite your sleep deprivation, then do all you can to engage yourself positively in the activities of your day.  However, night after night will catch up with you.  You might be getting through your days OK, but are you giving yourself and your body the sleep you need?  Do you feel rested and ready to go in the morning?  Do you have enough energy to sustain you throughout the day?  If not, it might be worth taking a look at your sleep and consider making some changes to get the sleep your body and mind may be craving.

Getting Enough Sleep

Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night.  Some seem to do fine on six, and others need as many as nine.  To add to the challenge, the quality of your sleep is as important as getting enough of it.  It’s a little easier to start with the length because that’s often the easiest to do something about.  Most people need or want to wake up by a certain time in the morning, which means that, for most of us, the part we have to work with is what time we’re going to bed.  And, for many of us, we often stay up late on Facebook or Twitter, or we’re texting or surfing the web or playing computer games.

You have to be very committed to disconnecting from your day and letting yourself go to sleep.

And even then, if being on the computer or your cell phone or watching TV was the last thing you did before you went to bed, you might have difficulty falling asleep or might have difficulty sleeping well.

Wow!  There’s a lot to this whole area, isn’t there?  It’s generally recommended that you disconnect yourself from your cell phone, computer and TV at least an hour before you want to go to sleep, to give your brain a chance to wind down from that kind of visual stimuli and processing of information.  Perhaps you might consider reading a book you’re enjoying (but not on your Kindle…) or listening to some music or journaling or perhaps even doing a relaxation exercise during that time instead.  It is generally much easier to replace an old habit with a new one, instead of just trying to do nothing.

Stimulants and Sleep?

On to another sleep stealer — caffeine.  One of my favorite beverages.  There’s a lot of individual variability with caffeine, but the same kind of recommendation holds true.  Don’t drink coffee or caffeinated tea or soda too close to your hoped-for bedtime.  What is too close?  I’ve seen recommendations to stop drinking caffeinated beverages as early as 3:00, and some people know that they need to follow that advice, or they’re not able to fall asleep.  Caffeine does affect your body for several hours so you might consider backing up when you stop drinking it until you notice that you can more easily fall asleep.  Three to fours hours would be a good place to start.

Also, for those of us taking ADD meds, be very careful to take them as prescribed.  If you’re taking short-acting Adderall, for example, you want to make sure that you’re not taking your last dose too close to your bedtime!  Otherwise, you’re likely to lie in bed and want to go to sleep but not be able to!  It’s a yucky feeling.  I’ve tried it for naps.  Very frustrating!

A Relaxing Drink Can Backfire

On the other end of the spectrum is alcohol.  We usually drink it in the evening to wind down or enjoy time with friends, but it has a rebound effect that occurs several hours after we’ve imbibed that can wake us right up, sometimes making it hard to fall back to sleep!  If you do drink, please be moderate, and keep in mind both sides of the effects of alcohol, the initial relaxation and the delayed rebound effect.  When you’re aware of this, you’re in a better position to make a good decision for yourself about whether to drink that evening.

Checklist

* Am I getting seven to eight hours of sleep?

* Am I allowing some time before I go to bed to let my brain wind down from the computer, TV and cell phone?

* Am I doing something relaxing before bedtime that helps my brain and body wind down?

* Am I being careful to stop drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages a few hours before bedtime?

* Am I conscientious about taking my ADD meds as prescribed so they don’t interfere with my sleep?

* Am I remembering that even though drinking alcohol can be relaxing, drinking it in the evening can cause me to wake up in the middle of the night?

There are so many things that can affect our sleep, in either a helpful or a detrimental way.  By answering these questions, you have a good starting point to assess your own sleeping habits and see if you’d like to make any changes.  Sleep is something that can dramatically affect the quality of our days, and it is worth our time to do what we can to enjoy our days as much as possible!

Lullaby…and Good Night…

Sleep, glorious sleep, why are you so elusive?  For me, anyway.  How about you?  Are you getting enough sleep?  Are you getting quality sleep?  I don’t remember sleep being so problematic when I was a kid.  But, it does seem to be problematic now, so it deserves my attention to make it the best I can.

“Getting enough sleep allows you to feel more rested and be more focused.”

No doubt.  But I’m not getting enough sleep.  Are you?  What can I do to improve this important area of my life?

The obvious answer is to get more sleep!  Yeah, right.  I know I need to get more sleep.  You probably know the same thing.  But you’re not, are you?  Why not?  Oh, for probably a hundred reasons or so.  OK, I’m exaggerating.  But, clearly, if it were easy to get enough quality sleep, we’d all be doing that, right?  One of THE MOST IMPORTANT things I learned in grad school was this.

“We’re always doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Credit goes to Dr. John McGowan for having repeated that sentence enough times during his counseling class that it stuck with me.  And I am so grateful because it provides a compassionate view of the way we’re doing things.  He didn’t say, “And we can’t do any better.” What would have been the point of being a helping professional?  It bears repeating.  “We’re always doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”

So, if I go with what I learned from Dr. McGowan, somehow I must be in need of something I “don’t got,” right?  What is it that I might be missing?  The first thing to recognize is that it could either be internal or external.  Internally, it might be something physical, such as feeling too hot or too cold, or having some pain that I’m not able to ignore.  Or it might be something on my mind that is worrying me.  It could also be something external, such as my old, in-need-of-being-replaced bed, or loud thunder or a dog barking or needing to care for a baby or a sick child.  The list could go on and on and on and on…  But you probably already know what your reasons are.  So let’s follow up on that.

Acknowledgement and Compassion

The next question is, “Have you really acknowledged all of those things that are making if difficult for you to sleep well?  Really acknowledged them?  Like a wonderful friend would do if you actually told them all of the things you are contending with on your path to sleep?  They’d say something like, “Wow!  That’s really a lot!  That sounds really tough!”  They wouldn’t say, “Buck up and deal with it!”  But I bet you are telling yourself that.  Or perhaps you fluctuate between, “Buck up and deal with it,” and “Oh, there’s no hope; it’ll never change; I’ll never get more sleep!”  If so, just tell yourself, “Oh, that’s right.  I’m human.  I forgot for a while there.”

That’s the kind of compassion I’m talking about.  The kind that recognizes that you do indeed have your challenges and that you are indeed doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that

You deserve compassion and TLC.

Just because.  Just because you’re human, not to mention that we all function more effectively with a bit of compassion.  So, perhaps you could offer yourself some, or ask a dear friend to listen and let you cry on their shoulder because it’s been really hard…  Having that compassion can give you a bit of relief and can often help you towards figuring out what it is that you might need to do to get more sleep.

If you just jump to making a change, it doesn’t always stick.  Why not?  Lots of reasons, but one is that it’s important to make sure that you

clearly appreciate and understand the problem

so that you have a chance of

choosing the best solution for you!

What works well for me may not work well for you and vice versa.  In 12-Step meetings there’s a reminder to practice

1) Awareness

2) Acceptance

3) Action

They’re in that order for a good reason!  You first need to be aware of a problem before you can come to some acceptance of it before you can take appropriate action, not just any action, but action that is appropriate for you and for your situation!

Next week I’ll take a look at possible slumber strategies. Perhaps this week you might practice awareness or acceptance of your sleep issues so that you are one step closer to taking the action that is appropriate for you to get more of the sleep that you may be dreaming of!

A Teenager Can Motivate You Towards Self-Care…

Well, well, well…  Look at these thoughts I scribbled down a few weeks ago for a draft of an article.  How ironic that today they are a perfect reminder of what I need to do to get back to a steadier place of self-care, so that I am giving myself a decent chance to be other than a crazed parent of a teenager!  Here’s what I wrote.

“The wonderful thing about self-care is that it builds on itself.  Progress in eating healthier food helps you feel better.  Getting enough sleep allows you to feel more rested and be more focused.  De-cluttering and getting organized can not only give you a sense of relief but also more energy and clarity.  And engaging in stress-management or relaxation practices has positive physical, mental and emotional benefits!”

By giving you an intimate look at my current state of self-care, you may be inspired to look at your own self-care and maybe even consider making a small, doable change that can have that positive domino effect!

This week I’m focusing on the nutritional part of my current self-care checklist.

Am I eating mostly nutritious foods?

Well, I am on both sides of the fence on this one.

  • Fruit?  I do love and eat fruit on a reasonably consistent basis.  Check.
  • Veggies?  Well, I love and eat spinach and tomatoes frequently and throw in other veggies here and there, but I am sure that I am not eating the recommended three servings of a variety of veggies most days.  Maybe half a check.
  • Whole grains?  I love the Nine Grain bread that one of our local restaurants makes.  I also buy whole wheat bread.  But I also love English muffins, the plain old white kind.  Maybe three-quarters of a check.
  • Dairy?  Probably only drinking a cup of milk a day.  I do love cheese, however.  Good for dairy requirements but not so good for low-fat fare.   I take Vitamin D and Calcium supplements to round out this category.  Close enough to a check.
  • Protein?  I love deli turkey, tuna and smoked salmon.  So far so good.  Also love sausage and bacon.  Good for protein.  Not so good for the high fat content.  Love beans also.  They help to add some substance to this category, plus beans are great for getting in some fiber!  Some days I skimp on the protein, but overall I do OK.  Giving myself a check here.
  • Fat?  Oops!  Probably more than I need.  Love half-and-half in my coffee.  Also love margarine on my toast and lots of mayo on my sandwiches and in my tuna salad.  Also love peanut butter and nuts, which are called good fats because of their high nutritional content.  This is a category for careful attention and for flexibility.  If I’ve had a ton of margarine at breakfast, then, instead of tuna salad with lots of mayo at lunch, it’s better to go for a spinach salad with mandarin oranges and a few walnuts for lunch, which I also love!
  • Fat and Sugar?  It’s not actually a category per se, but it seems important to mention if I’m taking an honest inventory, right?  I love chocolate.  And I love an occasional cookie.  For some reason, I have developed a particular love for chocolate-covered cherries lately.  Depending on the day, I may eat none of these, or I may indulge in a few cookies or chocolate-covered cherries.  It’s not really a category to check or not, but to be aware of and notice what’s going on if I’m indulging too much or too frequently.

Overall, I’m doing reasonably well in the nutrition area.  I do need to be watchful of the fat and sugar combos and also be careful to eat small healthy snacks in between meals so I don’t get too hungry or tired or spacey from not having the energy I need to function at my best!  I love dried fruit and nuts or a single serving of yogurt for those snack times.  Delicious, and I feel better!

What Works For Me

For this part of “beefing up” my self-care, I’m doing OK.  It could be argued that I’m doing really well, or it could be argued that I’m doing terribly.  That’s OK.  It’s all a matter of perspective.   At this point in my life, I know what kind of eating makes a difference in my energy and mood.  For me, I always do better if I add food, rather than attempting to tell myself that I can’t have this or that.  Denying myself particular foods only results in me craving them more.  If I am really determined to banish a particular food from my diet, that’s a whole different ball of wax.  For now, I am interested in balance and making small changes that can add up to a big difference, like making sure that I have nuts and dried fruit on hand to eat between meals so that my energy stays more steady.

Then I have a chance to use that steadiness to be a calmer, loving parent.

Next week we’ll peek into a different area of my self-care to see how I’m doing and decide whether another small change might be helpful.  Then you can use those questions to determine how you’re doing with your self-care!

“I DON’T WANT TO!”

Is Your Inner Child in Your Face?

Mine has been lately…

"I DON'T WANT TO!"

Very adult-like (I thought), I set out to make some changes…

“AAAAAAAAUGH!” screamed that little person inside my head, followed by “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

This response didn’t happen right away, and honestly, the words in my head weren’t exactly those, but they do quite succinctly summarize the feelings behind my adult response to the challenge of change.  In my head it sounded more like, “I don’t really need that much sleep…” or “I will just be on the computer a few more minutes…”  (Yeah, right…)

I have been attempting to get more sleep by cutting myself off from the computer past a certain time.  I have tried to use 9:00 p.m. as my cut-off time.  Sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it?  (Well, not for some of you who I know are awake at 10 or 11 p.m. and are on Facebook or writing emails!)  All that I have read about getting enough sleep and getting quality sleep (including those deep sleep stages when your body is doing important repair work for you) — says that it is important to disconnect from electronics for a period of time before you go to sleep so that your brain can slow down and sleep well.

Knowing vs. Doing

Well, I know what they say to do, but can I DO what they say?!  “Simple but not easy” the saying goes.  Very simple to understand what needs to happen, but another story to follow through with what I know.  When I pay attention to what I am doing, (like heading back to the computer or just staying on the computer past my 9 p.m. time), I hear myself trying to justify what I am doing, in an attempt to make it OK to continue with my old habit.  If I were only two or three years old, it would probably sound more like “I DON’T WANT TO!”  Really so much more honest and straightforward, but the more I learned that it might not be OK to say, “I DON’T WANT TO!” when an adult asked me to do something (and the better my verbal skills became), the more I learned to justify and rationalize my behavior.

I don’t want to totally knock justifying and rationalizing.  Sometimes we do really want someone else to understand the bigger picture of what’s going on with us.  Or we want to understand it.  But in cases like this, I’m just throwing in extra obstacles for myself to deal with.  It can be helpful to ask, “What is going on here?”  It is more productive to ask when I’m not trying to justify why I’m currently heading to the computer, by asking at a time that is more neutral, when I am actually receptive to my own answers.  And, it is SO important to ask in a way that is compassionate, like I am asking a dear friend.  Otherwise, I’m just setting myself up for unproductive, defensive answers.

Food for Thought

1) What is going on here?                                                                                   

2) Why am I wanting so much to be on the computer?

3) What is it that I like about being on the computer?

4) Is there something I am avoiding?

5) Is there something I am afraid of?

Kind Questions, Not Mean Ones!

1) Are there other ways to be on the computer that work better in the long run?

Perhaps I could be proactive and conscious about computer time and actually give myself the computer time I want by consciously putting it in my day somewhere?  I think that part of what is at play here is a “I’ll do what I WANT!” mentality.  By proactively giving myself what I want, I “take the wind out the sails” of that toddler mentality because I’m going about it in a way that is more reflective and aware, instead of in a mind-less way that is so easily a part of computer use!)

2) If there is something that I am avoiding, what is that?  Is there a way of handling that thing I’m avoiding differently?  Do I need support?  Do I need to look at it from a more detached perspective and see if there is something missing for me?  Would it help to talk to a compassionate friend?  Do I need some “down” time?  (Probably.)

3) If there is something that I am afraid of doing, who or what might be helpful?  Could I offer myself some compassion?  Is there perchance some kind of resource I need to shrink my fear so that it is more manageable?  Maybe I just need more information.  Or maybe I just need to know that other people have similar fears.  (You can be assured this is so, no matter the fear!)

What is important is to    being mindless and to   being judgmental!  Then I have a chance to practice being objective, to practice viewing myself and my habits from a more detached, compassionate perspective, as if I were a wise master studying her student and wondering how best to help.

Just this shift will go a very long way.  Compassionate viewing of something creates a shift and just enough of a change to create space for a little more change…

As for my own computer time and trying to get more sleep, a wise friend suggested that I ask my 13-year-old what I might do differently.  What a great idea!  The willingness to consider other perspectives is what allows us to keep growing and changing.

Self-Care

As I have crossed the threshold of a decade birthday, I have been giving self-care a lot of thought.  It seems so ho-hum a topic, as in “Yeah, yeah, I know, eat “right,” exercise, get enough sleep…blah, blah, blah.”  Well, yes and no.  That is what makes self-care so tricky.  It’s sounds so easy, and you’ve heard what you should do, but many of us only give ourselves the attention we need in an inconsistent way or not at all until we’re presented with some medical crisis or diagnosis.  Or perhaps reality snuck up on us, and all of a sudden we notice (not very compassionately) that we’ve gained more pounds than we realized or we’re out of breath so easily.  The consequences of ignoring self-care are quite noticeable, particularly as we get older…

Self-care is important for everyone (who wants to enjoy life or have a body that works well and lasts a long time.)  However, for someone with AD/HD, self-care is absolutely essential … because, guess what?  Without it, your symptoms are going to be in-your-face.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not so fond of my symptoms being that glaring, to me and to those around me.  The symptoms of AD/HD are exaggerated without self-care.  That means that, minimally, life is more difficult.  At the other end, it can mean that life feels like it’s spinning out of control and that there’s no hope.  It is very hard to “do” daily life like that, much less enjoy it.

The good news is that, just as much as a lack of self-care can have such a negative impact on AD/HD, even a tiny change or two can have a very positive impact, which is often all we need to continue down the path where life feels better.  What might that tiny change be for you?  As a friend once pointed out, instead of trying to get in all five servings of fruits and veggies every day (when you’re only getting maybe one or two), what about just committing to eating an apple every day?  (Or whatever fruit most appeals to you.  I like bananas because they require nothing but pulling back the peel.  Easy!  And if I add some peanut butter, then I’m getting in a bit of protein to help keep my blood sugar steady and energy at a more even keel.)

With the weather finally getting warmer again and the days getting longer, what about just going for a walk around the block?  Or what about committing to shutting off your computer, iPod, cell phone, etc. by a certain time at night to give your brain a chance to wind down and get enough sleep?  (That’s my current challenge.)  You know your challenges.  We all have some area that could receive some needed attention.  What is yours?  No, not “I will start eating all five servings of fruits and veggies and exercising for an hour every day and going to bed at 9:00 every night and …”  No, not all of those.  Not even one of those!

Your goal is to start small.  Very tiny baby steps.  Think about the way that a baby walks.  That toddler take little steps because, if they step too big, they fall!  Let’s learn from the babes and take tiny steps so that we can keep our balance and improve our self-care!

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