Insomnia – Lacking Some Z’s

Everyone struggles with an occasional night being unable to get to sleep, tossing and turning in bed, waiting in the dark for the moment when consciousness gives up the fight and you can get some rest.

This can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including food or drink, an unusual worry, an annoying neighbor…. Things that can be accounted for and avoided and cause maybe 1 night in 100 to slip away into the realm of lost sleep.

For some, however, the lost nights of sleep are more than occasional. It is a chronic, persistent problem that somehow must be addressed in order to continue to function in daily life without excuse. For example, these last two weeks, I climb into bed with the full intention of laying my head on my pillow and closing my eyes. I feel tired, almost to the point I can’t keep my eyes open. Yet, as soon as I turn the lights out, I feel fully awake, just lying there staring into the dimness. In the few weeks prior to this, I was waking up at 4 am for no apparent reason and unable to go back to sleep. This cycle of initial insomnia and terminal insomnia alternates back and for every few weeks. In either case, the result is a tired, cranky, achy me and no underlying cause is evident in order to make a change.

Why Sleep is Important

Those who regularly get a refreshing nodder every night might take for granted why sleep is an important psychological and physical requirement, hence their lack of sympathy for those humans who just can’t capture those elusive z’s. It’s easy for many and guess what – they feel great about it!

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well-being according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Sleep recharges our bodies and our brains and promotes our immune systems. Those who have healthy sleep patterns are better adjusted to stress and are less irritable.

In some ways, insomnia is viewed similarly to a mental illness: why can’t you just change the way you feel? Trying going to bed on time. Won’t that help? There is little sympathy for those who are plagued with sleepless nights for no clear reason. There are many tips and tricks purported by experts on how to beat insomnia. I’m going to take a realistic (and sometimes sarcastic) look at a few of these.insomnia-poster

Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. – This is great if you have no other responsibilities to anyone. In a house of four with shifting daily requirements, this is not always ideal. My intention is to go to bed may be interrupted by someone else’s upset stomach or urgent drink of water.

Avoid caffeine or alcohol late in the day. – I rarely drink caffeine at any point during the day, and alcohol less frequently. If anything, alcohol helps me go to sleep in small doses.

Follow a routine to help you relax before sleep – Again, this isn’t ideal in a busy house.

Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex. – I’ve tried this, but my bed is also home to kid snuggles, reading books, writing, and sometimes movie watching.

If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy. – I would gladly use this extra time for writing, but if I get out of bed, everyone else in the house is wondering what I’m up to. One day, we’ll finish the basement so I can hide there and not bother anyone.

For most people who suffer from occasional transient (a few days) or acute (short-term) insomnia, the underlying cause will eventually disappear after a reasonable time. That inkling of worry will clear up when the time comes. Your cold will work its way out in a few days. Or you’ll ask those pesky neighbors not to play basketball on their driveway at midnight on a week day. Eventually, a good night’s sleep will be had and you’ll start feeling better.

For chronic suffers, this is a different story. I can’t even figure out the reason why I can’t sleep. I just can’t. And once I find myself lying awake in bed, what am I going to do?

Modern Causes

The National Sleep Foundation notes several lifestyle habits that can lead to the body being out of synch with a healthy sleep pattern. I believe many can be attributed to our modern, technology-driven lifestyles.

Working at home – Work, as well as the lighted computer screen, stimulates the brain and upsets the natural clock. Since I work a corporate job during the day, I often work on my writing at home after dinner as well as try to keep up with laundry and housework. This could very well be a key component in my recent struggle.

Shift Work or irregular hours – these schedule changes upset the body’s routine. I can attest to this, as my worst sleep challenges occurred in my college days when I worked three jobs to pay for living expenses, each with whacky schedules that were always shifting, including overnight desk shifts at residences halls and late night data entry shifts.

Taking Naps – I wish I could have one right now.

Adopting unnatural sleep habits – This is my husband. In the summer, he sleeps in, then works on marching shows and lesson plans past midnight. He then has to shift his sleep habits back the other direction in order to rise at 5:30 am during school months.

The Brain

Some people are just biologically prone to insomnia. Chemical interactions in the brain may actually be interfering with sleep habits. So despite following any and all advice to reach restful and healthy sleep, some of us just can’t do it. Our own brains are working against us. There are even entire families that for some reason have inherited a nocturnal dispositions and must adapt themselves to living in a diurnal population, often to their own detriment.

The Negative Effects of Insomnia

Lack of sleep isn’t just a nuisance. It causes several detrimental effects on the human body that can cause damage not only to the sufferer, but to those around them.

Changes of mood, lack of energy, and irritability are just a few of the emotional and psychological effects of not getting enough sleep. In fact, I have believed for years that a major factor in road rage is the fact that so many people suffer from sleep deprivation, a growing problem supported by industry and commercialism and the social need to earn, shop, watch, and keep up with the Jones’. And there is a vicious cycle in feeling drowsy, which makes you feel tense and preoccupied, and the worry over the inability to sleep becomes a cause as well as a result.

The physical effects manifest themselves in an increased vulnerability to infections, increased aches and pains, and excessive sleepiness during waking hours.

Operating cars and machines while sleep-deprived is similar to doing the same while intoxicated. Your reaction time slows, as does your ability to problem-solve and adapt. There are studies that show that lack of sleep increases the risk of a variety of accidents, including motor vehicle accidents. According to reports from the National Highway Safety Administration in 2002, high-profile accidents can partly be attributed to people suffering from a severe lack of sleep, costing millions in damages and over 1500 lives.

Making Changes

Clocks – One thing I’ve done in hopes of relieving my insomnia is removing clocks. Now that we have smart phones with alarms (and every other tool possible), we no longer have glowing red clocks on our bedside tables. This prevents me from staring at the clock and worrying about how little sleep I’m going to get. It also removes a distracting source of light from the room.

Keeping things cool – At night, we drop the thermostat into the 60s, 68 during the summer so the AC will kick on and keep the air moving, and 63 in the winter so that the heater doesn’t kick on too much during the night. Keeping the bedrooms cool helps the entire family sleep more soundly, and we are less prone to waking from the discomfort of being too hot.

Turning off the lights – Because light signals affect nerve clusters in the brain and prompt the secretion of melatonin, darkening the house in the evening helps set up the body for better sleep. Because not all activity can cease just because the sun goes down (we’d never have clean clothes in the winter when it’s dark at 5:00 pm), reducing the amount of light provides a starting point for relaxation of the mind. It also helps reduce the electric bill.

Kids – I expect the best change will come when the children are old enough and responsible enough to get themselves to bed and get themselves up and ready for the day without my intervention. This would shave off an hour of our typical morning routine and probably another hour in the evening. Currently, they spend quite a bit of time realizing they haven’t played with each and every toy today and suddenly have twenty things to tell Mommy about before they can close their eyes. And I can send them to bed 15 times before they finally give up. Maybe it’s the kids who have insomnia and not me?

#NaNoWriMo Update – 2

Now that we’ve ended the second week – Day 14! – of NaNoWriMo 2014, I am proud that I’ve reached the 25,000 word mark right on schedule.

On Monday, I took a day off from other duties (day job, house cleaning, etc.) just to stay home and write. I poured out over 5000 new words, and then began to dig into old places where I had written down notes throughout the years, including my Facebook page, where I had written about Grandmother spider and the hospital, in order to further my memories.  I’m glad I made such notes, because the details I remember now have shifted from what I remembered then.

Throughout this journey so far, I’m amazed at the minute, almost trivial actions, expressions, and words that I can recall, while I flounder among my mental file cabinets to remember the details for moments that I know were important. I ponder if one day human memory will improve to be like that of a machine, with instant, exact recall–and I realize such enhanced brains would probably be plagued with viruses and operator errors that misplace those files from time to time.

I am also planning on inserting at least two of the poems I wrote last month during #OctPoWriMo. These poems will add texture to the work.DSCN2263

I jumped around quite a bit in the chapters, because as I write about one thing, I’m reminded of something before or after and hurry to get that written down. There is no chronological order to the flow of memory. Everything just exists together in the same space-time of my gray matter.

As I continue down the path of this non-fiction, I realize that there are many legal considerations I must work through. Unlike fiction, where everything is made up and therefore a lawsuit would be improbable for any libel or slander, a non-fiction story of this type is fraught with statements that could be seen to have a negative impact upon some local establishments. So, I am looking at my options on how to proceed once this reaches the publishing stage.

I am also searching for the best picture from our Sydney archive to grace the cover. Gladly, I took hundreds to help me remember. I haven’t looked at these in a while.

 

 

Poem-Empty Kettles

You do not see shades between
The black lines of your world
It’s either right
Or it’s a sin

Empty kettles
Make the most noisemotherearth
I’ve heard said
This is you

You shout your rules
You shame others
Those non-believers
Those opposers

Yet you turn tail and run
The moment challenge arises
Evidence gap exposed
“La-la-la I can’t hear you!”

Can you learn empathy
For your human brothers and sisters
Give them choices
Educate their minds without derision

Many rivers flow to the ocean
Sharing, mixing, churning elements
Let your empty kettle be filled
From the rivers of the world

 

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Photo Credit: Alice Popkorn

Flickr
Creative Commons License

 

Spotlight Author – Harmony Kent

Please welcome guest blogger Harmony Kent, a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and author of Elemental Earth (Book 1 of The Mysteries).

If you join Rave Reviews Book Club, please let them know you followed the link from this page. Thank you!

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Kent

Hi there! This is the eighth day of my RRBC Spotlight blog tour. You can find details of all my stops here.

 

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

— Agatha Christie

 

I love this quote—it says it all.

 

On my past tour stops, I have talked a lot about me. Just for a change, today, I would like to throw the spotlight onto Sarah, the main character in Elemental Earth. I’ve never done this before, so please bear with me!

 

This fifteen year old girl embodies the spirit of the above quote, and shows determination and grit. Sure, she’s confused and angry and let down and unsure, and all the rest of it. But, she keeps on trucking. She doesn’t give up, or waver in her resolve. Once she knows what she has to do, she gets on and does it. And, even though things don’t quite work out the way she would have wanted, she still keeps on trying, even when it looks like she has allowed herself to be beaten.

 

Time and again, when she discovers her trust has been misplaced, she still manages to find the courage and the strength to try again. She is brave enough to remain open, instead of turning her back on the world. Which is just as well, because I don’t think the ‘elemental’ beings who attach themselves to her would give her much say in the matter!

 

Trouble is, she isn’t really seeing her strengths. She’s just focusing on where she gets it wrong. Elemental Earth is as much about coming of age, as it is about magic. Sarah’s struggles to find her feet in the new dimension she ends up in, reflect the struggles of her own personal journey through typical teenage angst. Hindered by all the secrets and lies around her, she has to find out who she is and who she wants to be.

 

The end of the book isn’t as neat and tidy as some would like. However, I closed the book the way I did because I feel that the best art mirrors life, in all its complexities and uncertainties. Not everything is resolved exactly when we want it to be, in just the way we would like. It also gives Sarah a bit more space to get to grips with herself and her new-found abilities.

Sarah’s adventure continues in book two: Air-born, which I am working on now. This series is a first for me on two levels: One, I have not written for Young Adults before now, and two, I haven’t written a series until now. My first two books were both stand-alones. However, if you’ve been following my tour so far, you’ll know I don’t let a little thing like lack of experience stop me! In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that I might actually enjoy a challenge or two . . .

 

Elemental Earth (Book 1 of The Mysteries)

3D-Book cover Elemental EarthYoung Adult Fantasy Fiction

 

“You turned the god of gnomes into a garden ornament?”

Sarah looked closely, but couldn’t tell if her dad was annoyed or amused—perhaps he was both …

Whilst 15 year old Sarah may be struggling to regain her feet, after being ripped from her everyday mundane life and ending up in a whole new dimension, she still knows how to have a bit of fun along the way. The Earth Elemental isn’t the only one whose feathers she manages to ruffle, and it’s only been four days. Meanwhile, her best friend is missing, and big trouble is brewing. She soon has a lot more to worry about than what happened to her phone or iPod, or even how much of an idiot Caleb obviously thinks she is.

Elemental Earth is the first book in The Mysteries series, and is aimed at Young Adults. Even if you’ve already reached an age where the young ones might call you ‘old enough’, if you’re still young at heart then you’re bound to enjoy these books just as much as the next—err—younger adult.

Age aside, perhaps we should be more worried about what further havoc Sarah’s antics might be about to wreak on the universe as we know it? We’d probably all be sleeping a lot more soundly if she’d only stuck to applied maths and the odd pillow fight. But no, sadly the lure of the proverbial rabbit hole proved just a tad too much. And now she’s taken the plunge, there’s no turning back.

 

Look out for tweets @harmony_kent, and follow my blog: http://harmonykent.co.uk to keep up to date with new book releases, promos, cover reveals and sneak peeks. Feel free to connect—I’d love to hear from you.

 

Find out more at: http://www.harmonykent.co.uk

Twitter: @harmony_kent

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyKentOnline

4Wills Author Page: http://4willspublishing.wordpress.com/our-authors/author-harmony-kent/

 

 

 

 

Liebster Award – Discover New Bloggers

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Thank you Oakes57 (FeathertoOakes) for your nomination of the Liebster Award for Diary of a Writerbee. I appreciate your support!

If you have been nominated below, congratulations! I looked far and wide to find blogs I felt were worthy and met the criteria. It took me several weeks. I visited each one and read at least one post. I’ll be heading back to these to see what else you come up with.

THE RULES FOR ACCEPTING THE AWARD ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1) Post the award on your blog
2)Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to their blog
3)Write 11 random facts about yourself
4)Nominate 11 bloggers who you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 followers
5) Answer 11 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 11 questions.

11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME:

  1. I am the sixth of seven children born between 1951 and 1976 to the same two parents.
  2. Grocery shopping is my least favorite activity of all time.
  3. I don’t care for maple syrup, but I love maple-iced donuts.
  4. I love MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) because I can learn great stuff for free and feel like a student again.
  5. I was once going to be a music educator.
  6. I have a wide variety of friends of different backgrounds and beliefs and we can all get along.
  7. I am addicted to my smart phone.
  8. I love to draw.
  9. I hate carbonated beverages (soda, beer, sparkling anything).
  10. I can roast a tasty, juicy chicken.

NOMINATE 11 BLOGGERS:

QUESTIONS TO ME:

  1. What is your daily routine?  - Not really, I like to do things as they come to me.
  2. Do you have any superstitions?  – No. I don’t tend to tie causality to random events
  3. One thing absolutely no one knows about you. - Since I have a big mouth, I don’t think there is anything to fit this criteria.
  4. Cats or dogs? – Either. Currently, cats.
  5. If you could have anything in the world, what would it be, and why? - A rich benefactor so I could write more.
  6. Favorite TV show? - Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
  7. Favorite drink out with your friends. - Amaretto Sour
  8. Ideal date night. – Movie, popcorn, and dessert
  9. One thing off of your bucketlist. - See whales in person
  10. Favorite candle scent. - Unscented
  11. Let’s be friends? - Of course!

QUESTIONS TO YOU:

  1. What do you like more? Reading or writing?
  2. Which is your favorite story?
  3. Do you ever want to be someone else?
  4. What do think is your best quality?
  5. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  6. What is your dream?
  7. How do you perceive your world?
  8. Why do you blog?
  9. What’s your favorite bird?
  10. Have you traveled abroad?
  11. What is your favorite genre of music?

Laughter and Life

As I continue with my MOOC (Massive Open On-line Course) on Rhetorical Composition, the latest assignment was researching and “continuing a conversation” on a worthy topic. After a brief consultation with my sister, I sought out promoting the benefits of laughter, and I found out some interesting information that I wasn’t aware of.

 

Why Do We Want to Laugh?

What is it that makes us laugh? Why do we love laughing so much we might go to extremes to get a good laugh? We each understand innately that laughter makes us feel good inside. Creating a laugh lifts our spirits as well as physically lifting our shoulders, back, face, and other various body parts. After we laugh, we feel more relaxed and confident and safer within the environment, either within a new group of people or with ourselves.[1] When it comes to living and working in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog nature of the modern world, finding a way to laugh is an integral part to maintaining a positive outlook on life, especially when life may last eighty to ninety years.

According to Holisticonline.com, these things can be said about the act of laughing:

“Laughing is found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, increase muscle flexion, and boost immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.” [1]

With the beneficial and therapeutic attributes of laughter being what they are, it is no wonder that people strive to find a way to laugh. We make jokes, laugh at funny situations, and try to find humor even when the gods of misfortune find us. Each person uses different kinds of humor to obtain a good laugh, but not all forms are beneficial to the other party. In an article by Piotr Pluta, these four humor styles are listed as 1) Affiliative 2)Self-enhancing 3)Aggressive and 4) Self-defeating. [2]

Two of these are enhancing types of humor, used to help someone feel better, such as a benignly humorous ice-breaker during a conference or making an appropriate joke the first day on the job. An individual needing to cope with unpleasant circumstances might make light of the fact the minister presiding over her father’s funeral just told a story about a completely different person. Others might use humor to avoid burnout on the job, such as therapists and doctors finding a way to laugh despite their incredibly stressful day at work. Studies have demonstrated that “many MHTs [Mental Health Therapists] understand the benefits of maintaining a positive sense of humor in order to increase their longevity in the field.” [6] The same could be said of teachers, lawyers, and many other professionals where caring for the people and the outcomes of their work can cause burnout. Even the lowly Data Processor has to find humor in the daily grind or fall victim to the monotony.

“Humor is a universal language. It’s a contagious emotion and a natural diversion. It brings other people in and breaks down barriers. Best of all it is free and has no known side reactions.” [1]

The other two are detrimental or destructive forms of humor, meant to cause someone anguish at the expense of a laugh. Bullies often attempt to use aggressive humor to disparage or threaten and such types of humor do not aid in group cohesion. These forms may not provide the same benefits as positive forms of humor. After making a crass remark about someone’s choice of attire, you might actually feel worse than you did before you spoke, especially if you bring down that person self-esteem and create a negatively charged environment.

I myself fall into the category of the Self-enhancing humor [2]. Humor is a coping mechanism I use to make sure I don’t take events in my life too seriously, because most of things that happen are not the end of the world. And I’ve been through some pretty rough moments that would make some people crack. I find myself amused at how I end up hitting 10 red lights in a row when I’m trying to be on time to an appointment, or that attempting to get out of a traffic-tied construction zone, I end up in a worse zone. I grumble at first, but then look to humor to bring myself back down to the reality that it is what it is and getting red in the face isn’t going to fix the situation, but it will give me a stress headache. The anecdote of the funeral above—that’s me. My father’s funeral was a logistic catastrophe, with neither the body nor the ashes present, and a presiding minister who did not know my father and mispronounced fifty percent of the names in the family. On a side note, if you laugh at a funeral, you can do so in a way that everyone thinks you’re sobbing hysterically and no one will be offended.

It is being shown that positive types of humor are effective in dealing with patients of a variety of ailments, including but not limited to stress management[3], cancer[4], and diabetes[5]. Laughter reduces stress, prominent in patients with serious illnesses, by loosening muscle tone and tension. Laughter reduces blood pressure and boosts immunity factors. Laughter also produces aerobic reactions, “providing a workout for the diaphragm and increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen.”[1] As medicine continues to evolve, it becomes clearer that chemical and surgical medicine alone won’t cure the body. A positive outlook and a little laughter go a long way in increasing a patient’s rate of recovery. In situations where I have found myself in the hospital, for instance, I appreciate even the mediocre one-liners made by the nurses and social workers, and I am equally appreciative if they laugh at mine. Without these breaks in the tension, the course of any procedure becomes almost unbearable and quite depressing.

While many studies were conducted in the past for show the benefits of laughter, new studies are confirming the fact that laughter really is a great medicine for what ails you. A new study conducted with individuals of 60 and 70 years old reduced their stress levels and improved their short-term memory by laughing for 20 minutes. [9]

Laughter is infectious. Hospitals around the country are incorporating formal and informal laughter therapy programs into their therapeutic regimens. In countries such as India, laughing clubs — in which participants gather in the early morning for the sole purpose of laughing — are becoming as popular as Rotary Clubs in the United States.[1]

Improve Your Life With Laughter

Take a look at these benefits and think about how they appeal to you. [7]

* Laughter stimulates physical healing.
* Laughter enhances our creativity.
* Laughter is rejuvenating and regenerating.
* Laughter is sexy.
* Laughter is good for relationships.
* Laughter opens the heart.
* Laughter gives us a glimpse of freedom from the mind.

Pragito Dove suggests a Laughter Meditation [7] as soon as you wake up in the morning, stretching and stimulating every cell in your body and then laughing. Laugh for no reason at all other than to give yourself the benefits of a good laugh.  Melissa Breyer wrote an article in 2009 entitled “7 Laughter Exercises” which outlines how to boost your health with seven easy activities to finds laughter, including humorous movies and book, comic strips, or joining a laughter club. [8] All of these are great ways to put more laughter into your life and boost your health with the simple yet impressive benefits of a good laugh. I laugh at any joke my children tell me, even if I’ve heard it a dozen times before. Laughing together makes us stronger as a unit and improved their well-being.

Starting the day feeling positive will promote stronger confidence and help you find inner peace. Health and creativity will fall into line. Enjoying life will help you live a longer life. I plan on bringing more humor into my life and the lives of my family so that we can each enjoy less stress and more quality time.

 

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Referenced Materials:

[1]
Holisticonline.com

Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan
Loma Linda University
“Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter”
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_benefits.htm

[2]
The Psychology of Humor Blog
Piotr Pluta
“Different people, different ways of using humor – the Humor Styles Questionnaire”
http://www.psychologyofhumor.com/2013/10/24/different-people-different-ways-of-using-humor-the-humor-styles-questionnaire-2/

[3 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor Therapy”
http://www.holisticonline.com/stress/stress_humor.htm

[4 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor and Cancer”
adapted from the Courage to Laugh (Tarcher/Putnam) by Allen Klien, 1998
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_and_cancer.htm

[5 ]
Holisticonline.com
“Humor Therapy”

http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Diabetes/diabetes_humor.htm

[6 ]
Mental health Therapist’ Humor Styles, Trait Mindfulness, and Burnout: A Covariate Analysis
Margo D. Townley, MSW, MA
Dissertation (Preliminary)
Union Institute and University

[7]
“Laugh Your Way to Enlightenment!”
Pragito Dove
http://www.holisticonline.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy_laugh-your-way.htm

[8]
“7 Laughter Exercises”
Melissa Breyer
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-laughter-exercises.html
June 11, 2009

[9]
“A New Study Proves That Laughter Really is the Best Medicine”
Huffington Post
Yagana Shaw
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.htmlAugust 22, 2014