Thursday, October 31, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 31

Don’t Turn Into A Pumpkin

Inktober 2019 Day 31
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

The main problem with my sleep is of course my not going to bed early enough.

I was a major offender in the poor sleep hygiene category for most of my adult life. Let us be honest: for all of my life with the possible exception of the last three years. 

Unfortunately, I now find myself in the role of bedtime enforcer for teenagers who are just beginning to discover the delights of staying up too late. And unfortunately, they are my biological children also, so the words, ‘I’m tired, I think I am going to bed’ have never been spoken by either one. They are always pushing for later, no matter what, and are always ready to put up a spirited resistance. 

So, for Halloween, and the last day of Inktober 2019: here is a pumpkin portrait of my partners in sleep deprivation crime.

(I try to have a pumpkin related drawing for the last day of Inktober

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 30

Temperature Regulation of Various Parts

Inktober 2019 Day 30
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

It seems pretty clear that dropping the body temperature overnight is important for a successful night of restorative sleep.  But it helps to warm up first and then cool down to send the signal- Thus the efficacy of the pre-bedtime hot bath.  

And one final wrinkle: Counterintuitively, warming the feet, helps to cool the rest of the body.  Vasodilation in the feet allows more heat to escape. At least that’s what I hear.

I’ve discovered through quite unscientific experimentation over the last year, that cooking myself before bed and then sleeping in a 62 degree room does help quite a bit. 

I haven’t ever tried selectively warming my feet. 
But my head does like to be extra cold.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 29

Don’t Eat Too Much Too Close To Bedtime

Inktober 2019 Day 29
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I have trouble executing this simple piece of sleep advice. There is much evidence that sleep is improved by not eating for several hours before retiring. I have found embracing a “healthy” diet (beets! purple broccoli!) relatively easy, and I have proved I can engage in all sorts of repressive behaviors when it comes to food and the not eating thereof.

...but consistently making and eating dinner early, and then not eating anything else until bed, has this far truly been a bridge too far for me. 

This drawing is a reprise from Inktober 2016 when I drew a picture about the paleo vs vegan diet problem. I think I like that one better. But I’ve been reconsidered the questions of what is the appropriate diet several times since then...and haven’t come to any definite conclusions on what I should or should not be eating.  A couple of year ago, an allergy doctor told me I was reacting to malvin, the reddish blue pigment in foods everyone thinks are super healthy like blueberries...and beets and purple broccoli.

But there is strong evidence that one can eat garbage and pretty much get away with it, as long as it isn’t anywhere near bedtime. 

Oh well.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 28

This Is A Drawing About My Relationship With White Noise,
Can You Tell?

Inktober 2019 Day 28
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

I’ve been sleeping next to a white noise machine for many of the last 30 years. An otherwise ungratifying college boyfriend introduced me to what is now the old fashioned beige domed fan device. I believe it is caller the Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Sound Machine.  Still very popular on Amazon and at therapists’ offices.

Before we had a baby and I felt that I might need to be able to hear screaming and alarms, I often slept with the sound machine literally next to my head. The vibration was not good, but that was the only way I could achieve the necessary intensity.

But I’ve always had a very ambivalent relationship to white noise during sleep. I really hate it. It is an absolute delight to turn the thing off, akin to the end of a session of banging ones head against the wall. But nothing else blocks all the other sounds that keep me awake. 

And the soul crushing nature of the noise makes me go to sleep faster, perhaps as a defense mechanism.

I gave a lot of thought about what to draw for Inktober white noise day: TV snow screens, fans, waterfalls....  I had already drawn a waterfall poorly this month....and the other options seemed boring and inexpressive.

But the crushing aspect of shutting down ones senses seemed most evocative to me.....At least until I finished the drawing 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 27

The Talkative Jerks  Inside My Head Drawn Outside My Head....Including The One In The Center.

Inktober 2019 Day 27
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I used to listen to podcasts to help me fall asleep because it was definitely better than listening to myself blather on. (Also good for blocking snoring, but not that anyone here snores)

Who I am talking to anyway? I have already heard it all before many times. 

This is a bit less of a problem lately, but meditation still presents a problem.  If I am not really equivalent to the voices in my head, why do they have to be so annoying? and why can’t I stop judging them?

Got to go to bed. This is clearly not a fruitful train of thought. And drawing myself making silly expressive talking faces proved not to be as fun as I had hoped. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 26

Let Grass Grow Beneath Your Sleeping Feet:

Inktober 2019 Day 26
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

The benefits of grounding or earthing are a matter of some debate. It sounds plausible that using conductive contact with the ground to diminish an accumulated positive charge and associated free radicals and inflammation could improve health...and sleep. 

But the science is murky. There’s just not a lot  of financial incentives to do a double blind placebo controlled trial about whether something like walking on the beach barefoot improves ones health.  Obviously that would be a rather difficult study to create a placebo for anyway. 

But for those of us without opportunities to hang out seaside shoeless, there are things like grounding bedsheets. These conductive surfaces that plug into the ground in an electric outlet supposedly create the effect of being in contact with the earth. 

In my ongoing project to try everything that might help me sleep...and make me a less inflamed and cranky person, I have tried such a sleeping surface. 

Despite really giving the placebo effect a good go, I did not see an improvement during the month I spent sleeping with my feet on a slightly unpleasant rubbery conductive surface. (yes, I know I was supposed to put the sheet over it, for you grounding experts out there. I won’t go into the oddity of my sleeping arrangement right now)

In fact, my sleep got markedly worse. This may be due to other causes. It’s damn hard to run a controlled, one variable test on oneself even if you are not a person who is constantly tinkering with supplements and other interventions. 

However, I really like my rubber-sole-less (supposedly grounded) shoes. Though I do live in the New York metropolitan area which means I have to avoid stepping on manhole covers and the like when not protected by rubber soles. But maybe I just like the shoes for other reasons besides conductivity.

I will probably try the conductive sleep surface again. For the moment, I will imagine my sleeping feet are in a beautiful  landscape in south east Asia.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 25

Don’t Sleep Your Pets/Pests

Inktober 2019 Day 25
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

We’ve all read the alarming claims about dust mites and their droppings. I seem to remember reading that after five years of use a pillow is 50 percent dust mite poop by weight.  When I google now, the first result tells me that “Ten percent of the weight of a two year old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings” Well, I can’t verify that, but let’s just say one finds alarming information if one looks for it.

Things like dust mites as well as  pollen and airborne and sheet and pillow borne irritants are mostly invisible to the human eye....but perhaps not so unnoticed by the human immune system?

I’m trying to work on these invisible sleep disruptors: supposedly mite proof pillow covers, air purifiers that zap the microscopic contaminants, diligent washing of everything in very hot water... but everyone in the house still wakes up snuffling.  I recently argued with my spouse that it is not necessarily the natural human condition to wake up coughing with a stuffy nose every morning.

But is it the dust mites? Who knows. They probably aren’t helping.... but in five years, perhaps we will discover they are like dogs and cats- actually a boon to the immune system of the not already allergic.

We don’t have any pets, except the very small kind.  If dust mites were a few thousand times larger, they might not make cute domestic cohabitants, but at least we could see them.  And they are sort of amusing to draw.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 24

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed.
(Or You Can At Least Worry About it Much More Efficiently)

Inktober 2019 Day 24
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

Peter Drucker made the above statement in regard to business management, but that perspective often comes up in the contemporary health and wellness community.

Trying to improve sleep or health in general without recourse to pharmaceuticals is most often slow and requires diligence and  persistence.  It is hard to perceive  progress.  One gets accustomed gradually to the new normal, whether it is better or worse than the old normal.

Self quantification devices, like my personal favorite, the Ōura Ring, can be quite helpful in this regard. I have data about my sleep going back for more than a year. And it tells me that, at least by the yardsticks the ring captures, my sleep has improved more than I might have thought. 

But self quantification is, as they say, a double edged sword for the obsessives among us. There can be a strange sort of performance anxiety about sleep.  

The ring is quite motivating when it comes to overall time in bed- there is no deluding oneself  in hindsight that a bedtime wasn’t really so late.  But the less immediately controllable aspects: how much deep sleep, REM sleep, how many wake ups, can make it harder to parse cause and effect. 

I can only say that if I “do everything right” in regard to my health in general and go to bed on time...for a long period of nights....yes, my sleep will improve overall.

And it’s best not to dwell too much on the day to day glitches.
(And put the ring in airplane mode, particularly if you are sleeping with it pressed to your head)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 23

You Can’t Even See A Hand In Front of Your Face

Inktober 2019 Day 23
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

Every year during Inktober I feel compelled to try and draw something with way too many hands. The following images are from 2018,17 & 16. My hand drawing skills are maybe not improving.

I had some things to say about this one, about my changing relationship to darkness and sleep, but I am too tired to even bore myself tonight, so maybe we’ll just write this one off as a sad hand drawing exercise.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 22

Let Sleeping Tigers Lie.
Or Don’t Invite Tigers Into Your Bedroom.
(Maybe Just Learn to Meditate Already)

Inktober 2019 Day 22
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

When contemporary health experts talk about the mismatch between contemporary stress and human evolution, they almost always bring out a tiger: Humans evolved to run away from tigers: to respond to brief, intense stress that requires physical activity.

Apparently our limbic system mistakes contemporary chronic stressors like work deadlines, unfinished to do lists, annoying commutes, and disagreeable relatives and co workers as Tiger-like threats and keeps us stressed out for long periods of time.  

Much of this threat sensing system is hard wired and beyond conscious control. Once activated it can be a self perpetuating loop that is hard to shut off.  

These days I wake up in the middle of the night to contemplate catastrophe far less frequently than I used to. 

Dealing with the mistaken tigers in the daytime seems an essential step towards not waking up to find one in the bedroom. But this is definitely a ongoing challenge.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 21

Naps: Good For The Soul. 
Maybe Not So Good  For The Circadian Rhythm:

Inktober 2019 Day 21
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I think the research is fairly much in agreement that daytime napping is counterproductive for people who have trouble sleeping at night. 
But this is an easy bit of science for me to embrace, since I am a lousy napper. I haven’t really had more than a handful of intentional naps since the total sleep derangement of nursing and caring for babies. 
Granted, I was so extraordinarily sleep-deprived for most of my adult life that I could fall asleep on the subway, while standing, or doing practically anything besides riding a bike in traffic. (Thus my five years of biking the kids everywhere in New York)  But these were the “micro-sleeps,” the brief hypnagogic jerks of exhaustion. Not intentional, restful naps.

When I try to nap,  first I can’t fall asleep unless moderately ill...and god forbid I should succeed, because someone will immediately wake me up to help with math homework or to feed the starving, or to apply cream to the itchy. And on the rare occasion that I do actually sleep,  I wake up feeling worse, more disoriented, more peevish....more tired.

Therefore I am mostly a mildly disgruntled nap spectator. I don’t think it’s great for sleep hygiene, but that doesn’t stop me from being jealous of the capacity. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 20

Don’t Sleep in on the Weekends to Maintain Circadian Rhythm.
Or Do, and See if I Care.

Inktober 2019 Day 20
I’ll Sleep When I am Dead. Maybe.

I do believe the science that says that maintaining circadian rhythm is more important than total quantity of sleep on a given night.  But it is hard to live up to that premise and pull myself out of bed at 6:20 am on the weekends.  

And my kids are totally unconvinced.

The well known sleeping-in-on-the-weekend/ feeling-crappy-on-Monday-morning phenomenon is sometimes called “social jet lag” I guess presuming that you have been out late socializing on the weekends.  We just call it actual  jet lag: i.e., I say to the kid who just scraped himself out of bed at 11:30 am on Saturday, “You are now somewhere off the coast of California, heading towards Hawaii, and you have to make it back to New York by Monday morning.” 

But the bliss of sleeping on Californian time is awfully hard to pass up, even for a sleep nazi like myself.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 19

Alternative Sleep Surfaces

Inktober 2019 Day 19
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I discovered accidentally when driven out of a Italian hotel bed by noise, that I might sleep better on the floor.  

I expected that a night spent on a cold, hard marble floor with only a thin blanket and a bath towel (it was a very nice bath towel, though)  for padding would be an absolute disaster, but it was probably the best night of sleep  I’d had in a year. 

I’m not sure that it is just the hardness of the floor that is the selling point however. When I sleep on the floor, I often have to reposition myself every time I wake up....because, well, the floor is in fact hard and those pressure points that the mattress companies talk about are not totally fictional.  I often can track how late it is and how many times I have woken up by what position I am in. 

But we don’t live in a European hotel with  polished white marble floors...or fancy fluffy bath towels, so perhaps that is what my sleep is really missing.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 18

At Least He Didn’t Call You a Baboon:

Inktober 2019 Day 18
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

There are some scientists of human behavior that say we are exquisitely attuned to interpersonal stress because humans evolved to live in a group, and anyone who was aggravating enough to get kicked out of the safety of the Paleolithic tribe was likely to go hungry or maybe become another creature’s dinner.

Human conflict is at some level innately stressful, even if, say, you are just watching Gordon Ramsay yell at someone on TV to relax before your bedtime. 

You were wondering what this had to do with sleep.

Some experts advise against watching dramatic programs that feature human faces before bed. I’ve read some articles that suggest that nature shows with animals in them might be less stressful. I have trouble following this advice, I must admit.

In this drawing, I replaced Mr. Ramsay and his objects of abuse with a Mandrill and baboons.

I was thinking of how famous Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky studied social stress in a baboon troop. Some animals suffer similar problems to humans, but they don’t have television or social media.

And maybe, I just wanted to draw mandrill and baboon faces.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 17

Mental Exercise:

Inktober 2019 Day 17
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

There is strong evidence that early morning exercise is very good for establishing circadian rhythm and supporting sleep. Conversely, exercise late in the day can be a problem for getting ready for sleep at the appropriate time.

I am not having a lot of success with the early morning workout, unless we can count my accidental half mile sprint to the train. And I often don’t get around to trying to exercise until it is too late in the day, which is not helping my sleep or my supposed pursuit of fitness. 

I  don’t know what the solution here is. But I can say for sure that laying in bed thinking about the exercise that you should have done earlier is definitely counterproductive. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 16

Slow Metabolizer

Inktober 2019 Day 16
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I really like tea a lot. I particularly like green tea and black tea- the caffeinated varieties. While I have never developed a taste for coffee, I definitely used to lean on drinking caffeinated tea throughout the day to keep my self awake, engaged, and not totally repellent to others. And it’s so healthy! All those polyphenols and catechins.

But then I came to the point in my life when it seemed wise to sleep more than 4 hours a night, and I discovered that perhaps afternoon tea was not my friend. Not to mention, evening tea, which was assuredly my sleep enemy.

Among a lot of other genetic bad news was the information that my DNA says that I am officially a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine. Very slow.  Some portion of the caffeine in the green tea consumed at breakfast time is still hanging around at bedtime....and possibly even much later when I wake up at 4 am to contemplate existence and whether we paid the insurance bill.

I haven’t cut out green and black tea completely, but I try to only consume them first thing in the morning. 

And given the insanely compressed nature of my mornings, this generally means that I am awkwardly pouring most of the cup down my throat while heading out the door for a quick sprint to the subway.

This might defeat some of the health benefits of a leisurely cup of tea. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 15

Visualize A Calm Place in Your Head

Inktober 2019 Day 15
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I’m afraid visualizing waterfalls or beaches does not work for me. The places I imagine while trying to go back to sleep at 4 am are weird and counterintuitive. But maybe if I worked with travel brochure style waterfalls, I would be a more successful sleeper?

(And on a side note, it has already happened, I have been finding it really difficult to keep up with the one drawing a day Inktober mandate, and am posting things that I would never consider finished...or consider posting, for that matter. So, thank you Inktober & Jake Parker for pushing me out of my comfort zone! It should only result in something positive....other than just additional sleep deprivation)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 14

Sublingual Supplemental Sleep:

Inktober 2019 Day 14
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

We have a vast buffet of sleep promoting supplements in the cabinet. While I haven’t ever dipped into pharmaceutical or prescription sleep aids, I have sampled many of the “natural” and “sleep promoting” substances available. 

There are things that supposedly increase the body’s ability to make sleep supporting hormones and things that help turn down stress: Magnesium, phosphatidylserine, glycine, Passionflower, chamomile, California poppy, valerian, magnolia bark, ashwagandha, and for the more serious, melatonin and large doses of CBD. 

I find many of the most effective from the above list involve sublingual application.  This is probably as much psychosomatic as it is about the substance or the physical effectiveness of the delivery mechanism. 

I swallow a lot of capsules on any given day and rarely give the specific aim of the contents of one or another a lot of focused thought. 

But while I am waiting around for something to dissolve and absorb under my tongue, I am thinking about its desired  effect.

And I am not able to yell at my kids, so that might be helpful also.