Today I wanted to talk to you about the importance of sleep. Now I’m sure you’ve all been lectured time and time again about that the modern human does not get enough of it, and that teenagers need more than adults. High school and middle school classes talked about it incessantly, but I never noticed how consequential it was to my well being until I became ill with POTS. It became apparent since I was tired constantly and yet could not sleep. Once diagnosed they assured me it was a common symptom of POTS. I’m sure many of you have to deal with this on a regular basis.
Insomnia is a nuisance, plain and simple. And it is dreadfully misunderstood by the general populace. Everyone has slightly different sleep requirements, the statistics are just averages. I personally need 9-10 hours which seems excessive, even to me. I can function on 8, even though it’s a risk, and by 7 I begin to look like a Teddy Zombie. Not to mention if I don’t get enough sleep for a few nights I will probably come down with an infection of some kind.
There are many brilliant medications that you can take to help you sleep. But, let’s be honest, most of us are on enough already. Plus, they sometimes counteract each other or give us a brilliant belly-ache. So I’m going to discuss the natural methods first.
One thing that many specialists recommend is to have a set routine every night. This is hard and I can’t actually ever accomplish this, but it’s a good idea. If you go to bed at the same time every night eventually your body will get the hint and become sleepy at that time.
So my favorite nightly ritual is some warm milk and honey. Milk has Tryptophan in it, an amino acid that helps you sleep. And if you put a little bit of honey in it the glucose relaxes you (so I’m told). This isn’t an old wives tale, it actually works. I add a few drops of vanilla extract and some cinnamon as well. The smell of it once it is mixed is really really splendid, and the taste is even better. Make sure you add the vanilla after you heat it up or you won’t be able to smell it as well.
Here are some things that prevent you from sleeping:
Sugars (esp. CHOCOLATE)
Meat/ Anything high in Protein blocks production of Serotonin
Alcohol Drugs/Cigarettes (because they are nuerostimulants)
Refined Carbs (*cough* white bread) because it drains B Vitamins
If you have trouble sleeping you probably spend a very long time awake in bed. Everyone has a favorite position, but I change it night to night. So if you’re spending hours tossing and turning, you sure as heck better be comfortable. This is more of a personal preference than anything, but I have a love affair with flannel. I have flannel sheets on my bed all year long, regardless of the weather. If you find it too warm, crack a window or put on a fan. Trust me, it’s soft enough to be well worth it. I also wear flannel pajamas, so it’s like a softness overload.
Ok, so don’t roll your eyes at this one. Exercise is pretty key to sleep and the lack thereof. Because POTS kids need to exercise every day anyways, this should be easy. Just make sure it’s well before you go to bed (at least two hours before) so your body has plenty of time to relax. If you don’t work out, walk, or run because your brain doesn’t make enough serotonin. If you feel dizzy and weak all day the biggest temptation is to stay put in your chair. But for the good of falling asleep, exercise! It will help over time. And working toward the goal of health is something we should all strive for. We will get better. I think I sometimes forget that. I doubt I’m the only one.
Aromatherapy has been used for a very long time to help induce sleep. Lavender is used especially. I adore the scent personally, but there are other herbs that work as well. Put roses in your room or rosemary. Sweet smelling sheets, pillows, or pajamas all help signal your body for sleep. I put a little satchel of it in my drawers. A friend of mine puts lavender in her pillow at night. So, try it. It can’t hurt to have a room that smells like a garden.
So I said I’m not going to recommend any drugs to you. We really do take quite enough of them including all the multi-vitamins. But a great deal of sleep is chemical. There are some supplements that are pretty safe to take. I am not a doctor, so ask yours before adding any of these to your diet. (I am a doctor’s kid though, so medical stuff is a common household subject) Melatonin is completely natural and works in very small doses. I take one or two milligrams a night one half hour before I go to bed. They’re over the counter and have no side effects. As weird as that sounds, it happens to be true. Another odd sleep inducer is calcium. Calcium, especially when contained in food, has a sedative effect on the body. A calcium deficiency in the body causes restlessness and wakefulness. Magnesium, can help induce sleep. Magnesium deficiency is responsible for nervousness that prevents sleep.
Speaking of food, don’t eat right before you go to bed. Eat your last meal a few hours before bedtime. That is all.
Several of these tips include not doing anything rigorous before bed. A summery of them is to not exercise, eat, or use the computer for very long. The bright screen messes up your body’s signal that it is night time. Many people read before going to bed (that stimulates my mind, it doesn’t make me sleepy. But some people can fall asleep to a perfectly good book ( Who wouldda thunk it). Listening to music helps me. Do things that lower your heart rate (so no push ups or sit ups). Just calm the heck down! I get stressed easily about things I need to accomplish. So one thing that I do is to write a list of all the things I need to do. This sounds boring and vaguely old lady-ish, but somehow writing down what you need to do makes it seem much more finite and manageable. So try that.
None of these recommendations are guaranteed to work for everyone. A common problem for POTS kids is to fall asleep at night so there really isn’t one quick fix. But all of these have helped me. So maybe, just maybe, they will make you sleepy. I know this post was rather boring, but I want to talk to you guys about helpful matter just as much as I want to talk about silly things. Speaking of silly things, Pie had some awesome quotes today. We were cleaning out our closet today and trying on old clothes.
Pie: “Teddy, how am I a sexy hippy?”
Pie: (I’m trying on a sweater). “Is that made of alfredo fur?”
Teddy’s Response: “I think you mean alpaca fur. And no.”
And a friend of mine showed me a video I think you will enjoy. Her little brother is singing a sped up version of an Avril Lavigne song, it is hysterical. Little boys do the silliest things, I can’t wait until they’re old enough to be teased about it. So without further ado, here is the video.
Have a great week guys! My goal for the summer is to write to you every Tuesday, so hold me to it.