Welcome back from the long Labor Day weekend! I hope you had a great holiday and enjoyed some fun and relaxation with friends and family.
So, I have completed now two weeks of the Shuti.com sleep program. This last week was the week I was required to manage sleep restriction and my sleep window was set from 12:10am until 5:30am. I never imagined just how hard it would be to stay up until after midnight every single night. It was particularly challenging because my husband goes to bed around 10pm and so I had to find things to do on my own every night and keep occupied until it was time to go to bed.
The program also emphasizes that the time you MAY go to bed is not necessarily the time you MUST go to sleep. They say that if you do not feel sleepy, do not go to bed until you do. It has been great as I have gotten some projects done for the holiday and am now working on a new crafting project and some new recipes for the blog. It’s a great time to dust the house and do some household chores that don’t make too much noise so my productivity level has increased during this past week because of my sleep restriction! Always looking for that silver lining.
Today began the next core of the Shuti.com program is called the Behaviors Core. This core talks about what kinds of behaviors your should be doing prior to your scheduled bed time. It includes things like no activity in the bedroom except for sleep and sex (no television, electronics or even reading); creating a bed time routine (taking the dogs out, turning off lights and on the alarm, brushing your teeth and taking a hot bath, etc. The program wants you to get into the habit of basically the same routine every night before bed to get your brain into the “sleep is coming” mode.
The interesting development is that, since my last post, I remembered that when we moved to Houston, my husband and I switched the side of the bed we had been sleeping on. Prior to moving, I slept on the left and after we moved to Texas, I slept on the right side to be closer to where our blind dog would need to go during the night to find water and potty pads. Since I am a light sleeper, I would hear him get up and would know if he needed help finding his way around the new house. A year later, I had still been sleeping on the right side of the bed. I thought it may be good to try going back to the left side of the bed to sleep again and, guess what, it has made a difference. I have been falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly (in the time I do sleep) on my old side of the bed. This may be one of the culprits of my insomnia as well. That we will follow up on again later.
Also interesting is that we went out of town for the Labor Day weekend. We stayed in a darling B&B called the Fredericksburg Herb Farm in Texas Hill Country. It was a small, private cottage in an herb farm setting. Nice and dark at night and very quiet. The cottage and the most amazing bedding package and pillows that were to die for! I actually slept both nights we were there for at least 6 hours a night! That is the most I have slept in more than 6 months! I’m starting to see some patterns here that are helping me get a handle on the sleep issues.
So, that is the update for this week. I am interested to start this new Behavior Core and will stick to my sleep restriction and a pre-sleep routine every day for the next week. We shall see what comes of it. In the meantime, if you are searching for some amazing bed pillow, check out Pacific Coast Pillows. Sleep well!
It’s Monday morning, the start of a fun and exciting week for me (it’s my 2nd wedding anniversary and a long holiday weekend…bonus!) and I woke up this morning, again, feeling exhausted. Why? I am one of the roughly 60 million Americans who suffer with chronic insomnia. Makes me crazy because I want to enjoy this week and feel refreshed and excited to celebrate with my husband and enjoy a little road trip this weekend.
I’ve always been a light sleeper but in the last six months or so, my sleep patterns have been, well, dismal at best. I started tracking my sleep about two months ago and I am averaging between 3.5 and 4.5 hours of sleep per night. The average person my age should get between 7-9 hours of sleep (those 18-64 years of age). So, needless to say, I am nowhere near the recommended amount needed to function like a normal person each day. It has become a source of frustration and irritation and the more upset I get about not sleeping, the harder I find it to get to sleep. Sound familiar?
You may have heard or read about Arianna Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post and best-selling author) had an experience several years ago where she was burning the candle at both ends and was so exhausted that she passed out and fell, hitting her face on the desk and she broke her cheekbone. Pretty drastic. She then made it her mission to share with others the importance of sleep. She asserts, in her book, Sleep Revolution, that what the world needs is nothing short of a sleep revolution. Even more than that, she shows that it is not just vital for our health but it is also a critical part of being able to actually reach our goals and be successful…smart lady.
What makes me even more crazy about not sleeping is that I teach my clients that that very thing, that sleep is one of the most important things they can give their body to be healthy. I believe that in my heart of hearts, yet I cannot seem to get my own body to sleep the way it should. The effect that it has had on me is that I am always tired and fatigued, my cognitive function is not nearly as sharp or accurate as it normally is and it makes me a bit short-tempered and crabby which is really not like me.
Taking matters into my own health coaching hands, I set out to put in practice all of the holistic things I share with my clients to help them sleep. Make sure to have the atmosphere and temperature in your room set to be cool, wear a sleep mask to help keep the room dark, use a diffuser with lavender essential oils next to my bed to help induce relaxation, etc. Nothing for me has worked, until now.
After meeting with two sleep specialists here in Houston, I finally found one that got it. She talked with me for nearly an hour to determine what had been going on in my life that may have changed my sleep patterns. Together, we eliminated sleep apnea or any kind of obstructive disorder. We then determined that my issue is not being able to turn my brain off at night when it’s time to sleep. I am against taking any kind of sleep medications as a solution as they addictive and downright dangerous long-term. We’ll get into that more later.
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Sleep Summit with a plethora of experts in health, nutrition and sleep. I was curious as to why there were so many nutritional experts on the schedule, but now it all makes sense. Your sleep is directly related to, not only your environmental influences but also nutritional ones. Sleep will never be completely effective and beneficial unless both components are working together.
So, I am now participating in a program called Shuti.com. It is an online program for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. What is that you ask? Well, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. I was very excited to find a solution that does not include medications and one that I can do from my home.
What does the program entail? Well, it is a six week course that helps to track your daily sleep with sleep diaries. Once a week of diaries is completed, it then analyzes the amount of sleep you average per night, what time you got in to bed, what time you fell asleep, how often/how long you woke up during the night and then what time you way up in the morning. The average number of hours of sleep you get that first week then determines your program for Week 2 which is to restrict sleep to the average number of hours from Week 1 and then use that to determine your time to bed and time to wake. For example, I averaged 5 hours per night in Week 1 and I wake up (normally and without an alarm) every morning at 5:30am. So, I now cannot go to sleep before 12:30am! Holy crap. The adjustment to stay up until 12:30am when I normally get into bed at 10:00pm is challenging but I am sticking with it.
The theory is that by limiting the time you spend in bed, you will train your brain to really sleep during those 5 hours instead of tossing and turning between 10:00pm and 12:30am trying to fall asleep. It’s an interesting theory and, over the course of the next six weeks, I will update you as to my progress and how the program works.
I wanted to share all of this with you as I know that so many people struggle with sleep and sleeping well. As I go through this process, I will share the different tips and tricks that I learn to help you and others learn to sleep better. You’ll learn about how gut health relates to better sleep, how environmental issues like proximity to electrical currents can impact your sleep and that the notion of sleep deprivation is a “badge of honor” proving to the world that you are working harder than anyone else really is counter-productive.
Please share your stories with me about your experience with sleep deprivation or insomnia. If I can provide any particular ideas or solutions for you, I’d love to be able to do so. For now, I am a student working toward a full night of sleep. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will graduate to an eight hour night of zzzz’s!