Outsourcing our dream-time?

I am researching sleep this week as part of a project contract. I finished Dr. Rubin Naiman’s book Healing Night and it really got me thinking about the hazards of our dream-deprived (REM state) sleep habits. 

Recent CDC reports indicate that over a third of U.S. adults receive less than the 7 hour minimum recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. As a matter of fact, that range is actually more like 7-9 hours and is highly individualized. So I suspect probably over half of the population is not regularly receiving a necessary component of a healthy life.

Unfortunately, much of the science focuses on quantity and not always on quality of sleep that people are receiving. I get it. I like numbers. I actually track the sleep I receive every night in an attempt to understand what influences and affects it. Generally I know I want more of it, and feel fabulous when I get at least 8 hours.

But quality matters too, and when we do not receive enough deep sleep, which allows us to get into the REM (rapid eye movement or dream) state of sleep at least a 2-3 times in a night, we become dream-deprived. This is a state that can lead to depression when prolonged and also has links to cancer. 

Further, it can interfere with our creativity and vitality in life. Ironically enough we have myriad entertainment options outside us, “Dream Works” and other sources of artificial dreams that we indulge in to escape our lives.

I started to wonder: 

Would we need to escape our lives if we felt refreshed and allowed for our proper “dream time” at night? Would we need to rely on external entertainment if we felt our creativity were not drained from sleepiness and fatigue? 

To me it is a troubling proposition, but all too often a reality if we feel our lives are over-scheduled and that we must sacrifice some sleep in order to attend to our “to do” lists. My advice: get your sleep if you can. Do not sacrifice your precious dream time, or outsource it to the entertainment sources. It is all yours, it is necessary and it is sacred. 

I shall write more about the topic this week. It is on my mind, and I am an even stronger believer after doing more research. I hope to convince you as well if you are not there yet. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Healing Night

This weekend I am reading a book that is related to the writing contract I have on the topic of sleep. I am still incredulous that the universe saw fit to send me paid work on a topic that fascinates me. I am embracing it, and really letting myself delve fully into the topic.

I finished the first phase of the work yesterday, the preliminary reference list. This week I ordered this book by Rubin Naiman, PhD because it has been on my “wish list.” Since it was directly related to this writing contract, I splurged and went for it, despite trying to be mindful of my book budget. 

I am so happy I did. What a beautiful book. I look forward to finishing it this weekend. But I shall try not to stay up late reading as I did last night (ironically enough). Here’s my favorite quote in the book so far: 

If God, angels, or extraterrestrials were indeed monitoring us from above, the most profound change they would have witnessed on this planet since it’s creation is the metastatic illumination of our nights. We have responded to this quieting offer of night with an innervating program of excessive artificial illumination. 

From Chapter 1 of Rubin Naiman’s Healing Night

Yes. Naiman’s main argument is that we undervalue our nights and our night consciousness. This has in turn impaired our sleep and our dreaming, to the detriment of our physical and spiritual health. I am so intrigued and fascinated because this resonates for me. Night and shadow are part of our rhythms as humans. We ignore them at our peril.

Have a fine weekend, friends. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of rest. Savor your sleep. Enjoy that beautiful process of snuggling down into a warm bed at night. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Accessing your dreams

Lately I have been getting more regular and deeper sleep. I have made a commitment to allow my subconscious to work on things for me while I am in dreamland.

It can be a very incredible thing to write down my dreams, and consider what they are telling me. Since I no longer use an alarm to wake up, and tend to drift awake naturally, I remember my dreams so much more often. I am pretty convinced I am accessing a more intuitive part of my consciousness. It is really fascinating. But some of them need a little more processing before I share them here. 😉

Do you write down your dreams? What are they telling you? 

imagine and dream.jpg

Happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – morning light baths

Hello Friends,

It is Wednesday and this is a post to encourage you to get outside early in the day for some light. For those of us in Minnesota, we enjoyed a gloriously sunny day yesterday, a welcome change from the cloudy gloom of last week.

I got out for a run, but a walk is just as good. Getting out in the fresh air is good for your soul, your body and your mind. Absorbing some natural light, especially in the morning or early in the day is especially helpful for setting your body’s natural “clock” of waking and sleeping.

As it gets a bit darker earlier this time of year, it can be challenging to get out for some natural light. I like taking a break over the lunch hour for a little walk if possible, especially if I have been at my desk or not moving in the morning.

Philips goLite BLU
This is the Philips light I use.

For those of us who struggle with winter blues a bit, augmenting our natural light for the day may be necessary with light therapy. I use a Philips goLite BLU device for only 15 minutes in the mornings and it seems to help. Very important not to use these devices late in the day though, as they can disrupt natural melatonin production.

Equally important in the evening is to indulge in some natural darkness and not to expose yourself to much artificial light. Put the phone away an hour or two before bed. Log off of the laptop. Read an old-fashioned book. Dim the lights at home if you can and relax into the space before bedtime.

There is more darkness than light this time of year in Minnesota. I like to be mindful of the seasons and allow for more rest, respecting the rhythm of nature.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – overnight travel

Hello Friends,

Tonight begins our trip to London Heathrow airport from MSP.  I will write on the necessity of having a plan when you travel on overnight flights. It can be difficult to stay healthy and balanced when you are throwing your body out of its normal rhythm. But as a frequent flyer I have experimented with a few strategies that make it less painful.

The first bit of advice is this: If you can, try to go to bed early (1 hour at least) for a few days before your trip. Even if you do not drop off to sleep right away, you are allowing your body and brain to relax and get more rest. Stay off your electronics at night. Try reading an old-fashioned paper book, or taking a shower or bath before bed to help transition to sleep.

Getting extra sleep and rest before a trip helps you know that, even if you only get 3-4 hours of sleep (which I would consider a “good” amount for me), you have allowed yourself some quality rest in your own bed.

sleepytime.JPG
Celestial Seasonings

I like to bring some herbal tea on board when I travel overnight. I like Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea, since it is a nice blend of chamomile, spearmint, lemongress, etc. Generally airlines seem to offer coffee and tea, but they do not always have non-caffeinated options, so I bring my own, and they supply the hot water.

I have noticed that you are often served meals high in carbohydrates, flour and sugar. While partaking in a small quantity may be fine for you, I always bring little bags of mixed nuts with me in my backpack or purse. Protein and fat help you have less ups and downs in your insulin levels. I get less cranky when I have my own healthy snacks.

Airlines typically feed you at least every 2-3 hours, with maybe a 4-5 hour break during overnight flights. This can feel obnoxious if you want to go to sleep right away, and don’t feel the need to graze like a cow for the whole flight. It serves as a distraction for the passengers. My theory is the extra carbs put people into kind of a “spacey, dreamy” state that makes it easier for flight attendants to keep us calm.

I used to drink white wine with my dinner on the flight. But I realized it did not help my quality of sleep and I felt too groggy upon waking up dehydrated. If it helps you relax or you are a nervous flyer, it may okay. But be sure to drink lots of water or something else that hydrates you.  Alcohol has a dehydrating effect and planes dehydrate you more than you might expect. There is a reason flight attendants make a few extra rounds with water during the flight.

I pack my supplements of magnesium with me that I take daily anyway. For me, 400-600 mg of magnesium calms my nervous system and helps my sleep in general, so I am sure to pack supplements in a place I can access easily on the flight.

plane screens
Photo credit link

On the newer fancier planes, you will often find advanced video screens with a plethora of offerings of movies, t.v. shows, music and entertainment. While I often enjoy a t.v. show or movie while I am eating my dinner, I try not to overindulge on electronic things at night. Using an eye mask and ear plugs while others are staring zombie-like in front of their screens can be helpful when you want to wind down.

My final bit of advice if you want to wind down and calm your nervous system is to meditate. Nowadays you can find apps for this even on planes, or you can just sit quietly with eyes closed, relax your body and watch your thoughts. Notice the sounds around you, without judging them. I often practice loving kindness meditation. I offer kindness especially to myself and to strangers. “May you have ease of being” is a nice mantra.

Being kind and compassionate on flights, with yourself and others, goes a long way toward diffusing any frustration or impatience you may feel. Happy trails!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – cooling the brain

Happy Wednesday! It is time to focus on wellness and I shall return to a topic near and dear to my heart – sleep!

I started listening to a course recently on Insight Timer by Jennifer Piercy called “Your Guide to Deeper Sleep.” I really like how she describes sleep as a “cooling” of the inflammation in our body and brain. Getting good sleep is fundamental to healing and vitality in our lives. More research is being published all the time showing lack of sleep is connected to conditions such as diabetes.

I have struggled with insomnia in the past periodically. I am getting better in that regard but every now and then, typically in response to stress, I do struggle to get my zz’s. When that happens I know I need to cut back on my caffeine and/or cut back on my media consumption, which tends to churn the brain. I also find that I need to avoid any “weighty” topics of discussion just before bed.

Sleep amounts can vary naturally based on the season, and we typically expect to get slightly less during months where we have more sunlight. I have embraced the idea of early sleep on winter nights, snuggling with a book before bedtime and making sure my devices are powered down at least an hour before lights out. I actually have an alarm that goes off before bedtime to remind me to wind down, in case I am too absorbed in an activity to realize it is time.

sleeping puppies
Photo credit link

Yoga nidra is a practice I have recently discovered which can help me drop off into deeper sleep. I have used some guided meditations in order to let go of tension in the body and allow for mindful relaxation.

On the days after I sleep a nice, juicy 8-9 hours I notice that I have more consistent energy all day. I make decisions faster and with less agonizing. It also has an added benefit of allowing for greater weight loss as it reduces cortisol levels int he body. Who knew you could rest more AND take off extra weight?!?

The most important factor in getting restful sleep seems to be a good wind-down routine at night. Ariana Huffington explains her book The Sleep Revolution that she has a ritual of taking a bath or shower, escorting her devices outside the bedroom, and perhaps using lavender to create an atmosphere of relaxation.

Jennifer Piercy challenges the notion that when we nap, we compromise the quality of our sleep at night. Sleep has been domesticated in the service of “industrial life” and policed with an alarm clock (summary of quote). Dr. Sarah Mednick’s book Take a Nap! Change Your Life helps us understand that our state of being overtired can make us to wired to fall asleep effectively. So napping can be almost a “dress rehearsal” for sleep.

So, if you have the flexibility in your schedule to take a rest in the afternoon, consider a nap rather than fighting your post-lunch sleepiness. This multi-phasic sleep is actually quite natural, so embrace your body’s call to rest when you feel tired, especially between 1-3 p.m, when it could be especially nourishing.

When we treat sleep as a treasured event rather than a drag, we are more likely to enjoy the process and settle in a little deeper. We dream more when we sleep deeply, as it happens, and that can be an adventure as well.

What are your favorite sleep rituals? Do you make sure to get adequate rest every night? How often do you nap?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Pausing, resting and noticing

On Thursday this week I opted to sleep in instead of blogging. Since I’d had some insomnia on Sunday (slept 2 hours) and Tuesday (slept 4 hours) it felt really good to get 10.5 hours of sleep. It was really good, juicy sleep. I know that I dreamed, but I did not write down my dreams right away, so they faded quickly. But the sleep felt cleansing and nourishing, so I know my psyche was working out whatever needed processing.

I was fortunate to be able to work at home so I had some “think time” in between my conference calls. I took a little extra time to meditate, and to work on planning during my quiet time. I wrote in my journal. It is a handwritten, old-fashioned sort of practice for me. It is a way I slow down my brain long enough to process thoughts and feelings, to pay attention to what is going on in my body.

compass
Photo credit link

Our bodies can provide a necessary “compass” for the messages in our soul, but so often we forget to observe our reactions as a visceral process. We are in go-go-go mode, always trying to learn something new, read another book, listen to another podcast or audio book. I certainly love to indulge in all of these “treats” as I think of them. But then I need to allow for it all to settle, and for my personal truths to emerge.

As I tuned into my body’s messages today, I discovered I do not want to go to Boston in May for a trip to a conference that is typically an annual event for managers on my clinical research team. The week after that trip I am scheduled to travel to Belgium for another meeting. Then I am planning a trip the week after that to Mexico, to work with a colleague to help orient and train a new team member.

First off: three trips in 3 weeks is an easy NO for my body. More like a “shit NO!” if you pardon my French…  Is it that Boston trip itself causing the objection, or just the idea of traveling 3 weeks in a row?

I’m not wild about the Belgium trip honestly (even though I have enjoyed past work trips to Europe). But since I am on a “farewell tour” of sorts in my current role, that trip is part of my closure process in orienting a team member who may be taking on some parts of my role after I leave.

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Photo credit link

I am breathing through this decision and validating it by noticing the lightness I feel when I imagine skipping that trip. While I enjoy travel, I have come to appreciate sleep and a certain “life rhythm” in living well throughout my days and weeks. To be my most energetic and authentic self, I must respect that rhythm and notice when my body sends me these signals. When I ignore them, and press on, things tend not to go well.

In all honesty, there is no real reason I need to go to Boston for that conference. I have been to Boston before, and I enjoyed it, but I have no desire to go this time. My boss knows my career path is leading me to a new role. I have been upfront with him about that. He may not understand that my personal deadline of August is regardless of whether I have a job lined up specifically, or if I will simply take a break before my next gig.

I will honor that amazing compass of internal wisdom. It never leads me astray. Time to write the email to let him know my decision on this one…

Cheers & happy weekend, amigos!