Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep – A Review

Night SchoolAfter reading The Whole Health Life I have decided to look into specific areas of my health in more depth, one at a time, at the moment it’s insomnia. One book recommended by Shannon Harvey is Night School: Wake up to the Power of Sleep by Richard Wiseman.

The research on sleep is fascinating. Based on answers around when we like to go to bed, get up and do our best work there is a table to sort us into chronotypes – larks or owls, (p41) I’m a “moderate lark”. Apparently larks are more likely to be introverted, logical and reliable while owls are likely to be extroverted, emotionally stable, hedonistic and creative. These would mostly hold true of my husband (an owl) and I.

What is also interesting is that I appear to follow the usual circadian rhythm, my body will start waking up at 7am, peak at 11am, decline to the lowest point by 3, climb and peak again around 7 with my body seeking sleep from 9. So I assume I just have slightly weaker ability to wake and sleep than others, while still following the natural pattern. I’ve filed this away for future follow up!

Another issue of timing is “social jetlag” for example during the week the owls will be tired from getting to work while their body wants to be sleeping. On the weekend (or any night for me!) When my owl of a husband wants to socialise I’m ready for bed. Causing each chronotype to suffer fatigue.

Wiseman references a lot of research. For example, in 2006 it was “estimated that around sixty million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder” (p57) and approximately a third of Americans now get less than seven hours of sleep per night. In a British study more than 30% of participants had insomnia or another serious sleep problem. With this setting the scene, Wiseman goes on to explain what happens when you don’t get enough sleep – spoiler alert, nothing good.

“Belenskys’s study reveals the highly pernicious nature of even a small amount of sleep deprivation. Just a few nights sleeping for seven hours or less and your brain goes into slow motion. To make matters worse you will continue to feel fine and so don’t make allowances for your sluggish mind. Within just a couple of days this level of sleep deprivation transforms you into an accident waiting to happen.” (P67)

After all the bad news around not sleeping enough, Wiseman shares his secrets of super sleep and they include include:

1. Create a bat cave
Dark and silent room, right temperature, safe, only sleep and sex in the bedroom.

2. Set up during the day
Nap right, exercise but not too close to bed time unless it’s gentle yoga, use your brain and energy, know when you’re tired (don’t ignore sleep cues, unless you are tired all day, then don’t ignore your bedtime).

3. Prepare for bedtime
Warm shower/bath, write out your worries, snack right, lavender (unless it gives you a headache!).

4. At bedtime
Counting sheep, happy thoughts, fake a yawn, try to stay awake (reverse psychology on your brain!), set up some sleep cues (I have an eye mask, the dark and gentle pressure on my eyes now cues me to rest).

5. In the night
Get up (unless you physically can’t), don’t panic – apparently we get more sleep than we think, relaxing in bed is good rest and the closest the list comes to recommending meditation is to suggest progressive relaxation (I do a body scan meditation when I wake).

Nothing here is new to me, but it is presented in easily actionable chunks, if you want a list of sleep hygiene to follow, this is a good one. I would add meditation, I can’t nap and even if I do it’s only after a long time of trying and I feel gross afterward. So I meditate. Sometimes, if all the stars align, after a 20-30 minute meditation I’ll nod off for 5-10 minutes and wake up feeling nicely rested (very unusual). I use guided meditation during the day, at bedtime and in the night I do a body scan meditation (I visualise each body part individually relaxing, sometimes I’ll imagine it’s warm and tingly and relaxed, other times I’ll just imagine each part in turn).

Again as I delve into the research around sleep I am flummoxed at the lack of worry the doctors I have come into contact with have shown for my sleep. They should know how desperately humans need it, let alone people with chronic pain and fatigue already. I’ll keep you updated if I find anything useful in my research and experiments.

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A Tricky Parenting Secret

Do you want to know a tricky wee parenting secret? After three years of being a mama with a chronic illness, it’s just dawned on me…A Tricky Parenting Secret

It doesn’t take as much as you think to make a nice day for your kids.

Take a day recently as an example, I’m exhausted and my pain levels have been creeping up thanks to the baby waking up to six times a night. We went to church (with a baby and a three year old, it’s not so peaceful anymore) got frustrated with Nu not being quiet. We’re not crazy, we know he can’t sit quietly for just over an hour. But not yelling would be great.

Back at home, he was frustrating us, we were feeling cabin fever but also the weight of the incomplete housework (sorry our bathroom gets cleaned fortnightly now eek). Baby wasn’t playing ball with the napping. I was so tired I felt sick.

But we decided to go out. I wanted to be tired and sore out, instead of tired and sore at home. So we bundled into the car, drove half an hour, of which the baby slept 25 minutes (he’s a chronic catnapper) and visited a nice beach with a park. Parking was difficult, we got a 30 minute park, unbundled and faced the cold but beautiful scene. Nu happily rode his scooter up and down the beach, baby watched. On the way home we stopped for chocolate sundaes at a special chocolate cafe.

Nu was difficult to keep occupied as we waited for our order. He was loud on the drive home.

But at the end of the day, as I remembered how frustrating it was to wrangle Nu and the overtired baby and my own issues. While admitting I had a nice time. Nu remembered a great day. He had fun. He remembered the scooter, the birds, the swing, the chocolate sundaes. And our photos look so great.

All it took was a park and a treat. And I managed to give that to him (granted, with Husband’s help) despite pain levels of 5/10 and fatigue levels up the whop.

It is a timely reminder as I worry about my lack of energy and time. As I worry that I don’t have enough to split between two kids. But I do. I continually find reserves I didn’t know I had, for their sakes. And my little efforts to keep Nu occupied pay off.

On days where we’re housebound by baby and pain levels, Nu is just as happy to bake (he loves to stir!) and colour, an ride his digger (as long as I’m watching!) and snuggle while watching a movie.

So now my definition of a successful day is when I ask Nu, “did you have a nice day?” And he responds with an emphatic yes!

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Nu loved his chocolate sundae!

New Name, Same Mission

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I have spent a long time thinking over the name of this blog. I don’t claim ownership over the Fibromyalgia. It is not mine. I will never say “my” before Fibromyalgia. However, when you name a blog, people need to know what it is about in order to find it.

So here it is, Melissa vs Fibromyalgia. This encapsulates my mission perfectly. I am fighting Fibromyalgia. Not just for myself, but for my two beautiful, busy boys and the love of my life (Husband).

This site is the compilation of my learning from my own journey and from my research.

Here’s a post that I wrote about: The Whole of Life Change Anniversary

Here’s where I write about What it’s Really Like to Live With Fibromyalgia

Here’s a recent post of what other bloggers and I have found to help with fighting Fibromyalgia: What Works: A Roundup

I am trying to come to terms with the idea that this could be a progressive illness. I cannot give up that nugget of hope that I will find some measure of relief one day.

Welcome to the continuation of my journey.

2014, Some Resolutions & Thank You

2014 has been an amazing year of truly terrifying highs and some dips.

On paper, it sounds like a magical year – in practice, with the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, it’s been tough.

The sort of tough that pays off.

I married the love of my life, met the joy of my life (my baby), made huge strides in my lifelong journey of self discovery, progressed in my career (amazingly) and made some (mostly mental) breakthroughs with my health.

There were some spectacularly hard moments, but man have I been happy.

As I look forward to 2015 and make a list of hopes and dreams I have been reflecting on everything in my life. I have been seeing the silver linings and taking the time to appreciate them.

My hope for 2015 is that I continue to grow, love and strive to succeed.
My goals are:
*to learn something
*to keep experimenting with my health
*to enjoy my husband and baby
*to arrange my business/work so that I maintain my work/life balance and have enough energy to be the mama I want to be

Pretty simple!

I also hope to keep writing this blog, I hope it helps people. My little dream is to produce an ebook of tips and encouragements for mamas journeying with fibro/chronic fatigue/related illness.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to everyone who shared comments. It’s so nice to connect with others who are in the fight.

Melissa x