Insomnia, Book Club, and Survivor (not all in one night)

Monday’s Workout:  cycle – interval

Tuesday’s Workout:  run 2.5 m

So, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about insomnia lately.  Not sure what’s going on but it seems to come up at least once a day recently.  There must be a lot of tired folks around here!  I have personal experience with insomnia myself.  I went through about two years of pretty consistent lack of sleep and it was NOT fun.  In hindsight, I can look back and attribute it to what I believe to be a slight depression, but certainly that’s not the case for everybody.  In that two years, I did lots of reading on insomnia, including various causes and ways to beat it.  I thought the info I retained might be useful to some of my readers, so I’m gonna share.  🙂

There are lots of theories about why people have a hard time sleeping.  They range from anxiety and depression to seasonal lack of sunlight throwing off our biorhythms.  I’m sure any of them could be true for any one person.  The trick is figuring out which applies to you and then how to address it.  More often than not, insomnia is usually linked to having something on your mind, sometimes even subconsciously.  That’s the first thing I always ask myself:  what could be bugging me??  I have found that getting up and writing things down REALLY helps in that situation.  I’ll lie awake in bed forever thinking about something, or, I can get up, put it on a piece of paper, and go back to bed without giving it another thought.  I don’t know why that works so well; maybe it’s just a way of unloading it literally off your brain and onto a piece of paper.  Sort of a de-cluttering, if you will.

Another thing that helped:  regular exercise (tell me you saw that coming).  I could write a mile-long post on how regular exercise has helped improve my life, and sleeping is right up there at the top of the list.  It affects me now when I don’t work out – I really have a hard time sleeping on a night that I’ve had to skip exercising.  It gets your body into a pattern of activity – rest -activity – rest.  Our bodies love patterns and predictability!  One of the most recommended remedies for insomnia is to set a regular wake time and bed time, and don’t alter it on the weekends.  This falls right in line with those all important patterns, or habits.  Another helpful idea – establish a regular bedtime routine.  It gets your brain ready for rest.  This could be something as easy as a warm bath/shower, a cup of tea (decaffeinated!), or doing some gentle stretching.  As long as it’s the same thing, at the same time, each night.

There are also some obvious (and some not-so-obvious) things NOT to do.  Obviously, don’t drink caffeine close to your bedtime.  For some (uh, me), that means no caffeine after about noon.  I seriously have found that if I drink caffeine much beyond that, I don’t sleep.  I actually don’t drink it beyond my one cup in the mornings, which usually is gone by 9:30 or so.  Try avoiding all caffeine starting at a much earlier time than you think you need to.  I bet you’ll sleep better.

Also, as great as it is, working out too close to your bedtime actually amps your body up to the point that it’s hard to settle in for a good night’s rest.  Try to have your physical activity complete at least four hours prior to turning out the light.

Here’s another thing to avoid:  the computer or TV!  I know some of you hop right on Facebook to entertain yourselves when insomnia strikes…don’t lie.  😉  I see it in your status updates.  😛  Don’t worry, I’m not judging.  But in all seriousness, the blue light emitted from TV and computer screens has a stimulating effect on your brain, thereby making it difficult to return to sawing those Zs.

Another thing I came across in my reading:  don’t read in bed if you have trouble sleeping.  Research says that if you’re prone to insomnia, it’s important to ONLY associate the bed with sleeping.  If you read in bed a lot, you tend to associate the bed with being a place to stay awake, so you have a harder time convincing your brain that it’s supposed to shut off.

Finally, there are several supplements you can take that may help.  Valerian, skullcap, chamomile, and melatonin have been reported as helpful to some.  Just be sure you’re taking them as indicated on the labels.  Some you take right before bed, some you take daily to regulate your body.  If none of the above suggestions or supplements are helpful, see your medical professional.  I highly recommend acupuncture for a medical intervention for insomnia.  It addresses imbalances in your system and can help re-balance things so that you are functioning in a more…uh….balanced way (sorry, that’s just what acupuncture does and there’s no other way to say it! 🙂 ).  I have had huge success with acupuncture in my life – it was my only form of medical care for a few years and I never felt better.  I’ll do a separate post on it soon.

There are pharmaceutical options for addressing insomnia as well, and I don’t think they’re a bad thing if you’ve tried everything else.  I just worry about forming a dependence on sleep aids, and then you get into increased tolerance issues and needing higher doses to achieve the same effect (i.e. SLEEP!).  In my opinion, I would use those as a last resort.

So, enough about sleeping.  Are you still awake?  😀  On to food recaps.

Breakfast yesterday was a mango lassi and a fig bran muffin.  Yes, mangoes were on special again.  And this time, I had plain yogurt on hand.  No sour cream smoothies here!  😉

Lunch was the second half of the quesadilla from Monday night, unpictured.

Dinner was with the ladies at book club. Hostess Kerry made a spinach/artichoke filo pie and we filled in with appetizers, bread, and salad for a delicious meal.

I brought the last of the Rustic Roasted Salsa combined with some black beans to round it out.

There was also a cherry- and pecan-topped cream cheese bar with crackers…yum.

Here’s my plate – and I ate every bit of it.  It was SO GOOD.  The salad had greens, strawberries, and goat cheese, with a sweet poppy seed dressing.  And that there’s what we call a “cross-section” of the spinach/artichoke pie.  I also missed the passed bread the first go-round, but ended up eating at least one piece after I took this shot.  Maybe more than one. 😳

And of course, what respectable book club doesn’t have dessert at the end??  We had several selections to choose from, all from our Whole Foods store.  Carrot cake, some sort of chocolate cheesecake deliciousness, and a raspberry cake.  I took small samples of the carrot and chocolate varieties, and, yep, they were to die for.

Clearly I was hungry this morning.  Almost forgot to take a picture of my egg sandwich before I inhaled it.

Accompanied by another grapefruit half.  I bought a bag of them at the grocery, trying to get through them all before they go bad!

Mid-morning snack/lunch (I ate all of this at the same time) was a small bowl of blueberries, strawberries, plain Greek yogurt, and granola…along with…

…a salad with spinach, chicken, black beans, red kidney beans, avocado, and toasted pumpkin seeds, all drizzled with my home made balsamic vinaigrette.  I sometimes like to buy a whole rotisserie chicken and pick off of it during the week for lunches and dinners.  This was yet another by-product of my complete lack of meal planning for the week.  😳  But it works.

Dinner tonight will be with friends…the new season of Survivor (!) starts tonight and we have a dinner club around that.  Yeah, it’s pretty funny. We’ve been doing it for at least five years…I’ll fill you in on another post.  It’s a great time and a great excuse to get together for potluck meals and wine.  You know you’re jealous.  😎

Have you ever struggled with insomnia?  What have you found to be helpful?

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2 Responses to Insomnia, Book Club, and Survivor (not all in one night)

  1. Emily says:

    Thanks for the insomnia tips Kat! Too bad I am using the computer at 10pm…I will have to keep your suggestions in mind for the future.

    • Kat says:

      You’re welcome, Emily! Hope some of them are helpful. I seriously have been amazed at how many conversations about insomnia I’ve overheard in the last few weeks…you are not alone! The full moon tomorrow night might have something to do with more recent complaints…

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