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.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 13


When Choosing a Sleep Position, Consider Your Internal Organs.
Or, Perhaps, Don’t.

Inktober 2019 Day 13
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

While opinions are mixed, many “health experts” agree with traditional Ayurvedic  advice that it is best for the internal organs (liver, digestive system, and lymphatic drainage) to sleep on the left side. 

I won’t unpack the specifics here (though I could, really, I could) but I do consider this sort of question when arranging myself before sleep. 

But while I like to imagine that I can cultivate a positive relationship with my internal organs (as opposed to, say, “damn you intestines, why are you producing so much gas?”) it might be best for me not to explicitly think about my organs in a graphic, anatomical way.

It’s probably most restful for me not to focus on my liver or large intestine.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 12


Participate in Relaxing Activities Before Bed:

Inktober 2019 Day 12
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

We are always keen to get the kids off their screens before bed so they can do something low tech. So relaxing for the whole family.

(That’s a rubber knife, in case you are wondering. But still, not exactly calming for the observer or the participants.)

I’m posting this close to midnight, so you can see that I am no example of sleep virtue today. There were some very extenuating circumstances...and I am wearing my red glasses....

Friday, October 11, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 11


Artificial Shut Eye:

Inktober 2019 Day 11
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

Health experts recommend sleeping in a completely dark room. Apparently, according to research, even brief exposure of the back of ones’ knee to light at night is sufficient to interfere with melatonin production and sleep. 

I was not a fan of bright street lights and annoying digital clocks long before my present obsession with sleep and health, but a completely dark room is harder to make happen than one might think....Particularly when you live with kids who have seen too many horror movie clips on YouTube. 

The sleep mask is an obvious if not attractive solution.  Pair the mask with some mouth tape and you may never need to worry about contraceptives again. 

Of course, my real life mask does not have squinched-closed eyes on it, but that is the feeling that putting the mask on gives me: Something like, “I’m going to bed right now, God damn it! I don’t care if you want to stay up/ your homework is not done/ your nose is bleeding/ etc. I can’t see you! My eyes are closed!” 

And I end up pathetically wearing the sleep mask at night when awake. There have to be night lights around so that people who have seen clips of “Alien” can still go to the bathroom. So I wear my mask as I stumble down the hall, trying to not deplete my depleted melatonin any further.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 10


Who Let The Monkeys Out?

Inktober 2019 Day 10
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

I do have some “Monkey Mind” problems during daylight hours, but I am much more concerned with a having brain full of hyperactive simians at 4 am.

Thankfully, this happens less often than it did in years past. (Could that be due to all of my attention to sleep? I don’t dare hope) I used to listen to boring podcasts in the middle of the night to block out my own obsessive internal monologue. 

I still occasionally snap awake in the small hours determined to compulsively worry about whether the liability insurance has been renewed on time, but it happens more rarely. 

I decided to draw Colombian Night Monkeys since they are nocturnal.  I was originally planning to draw sleeping monkeys - the accompanying sleep advice being to not wake up the monkey mind in the middle of the night. 
But I’m afraid my mental monkeys are always hanging around waiting for me to wake up enough for them to go to work. And I’m not sure I have any specific technique to avoid this situation....except boring podcasts.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 9


Oxytocin Supplementation:

Inktober 2019 Day 9
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

Apparently sleep can be enhanced by boosting one’s endogenous hormone production...particularly of oxytocin, the cuddling hormone.  Oxytocin opposes the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated cortisol in the evening, say after yelling at your kids about not getting ready for bed, definitely messes up sleep. 
While my sons are usually not too concerned about my spiking cortisol levels, (Mom!!! Don’t turn off the WiFi!!!) they can also help me relax by hugging me....though often it  appears that there might be an alternative agenda at work.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 8


Low EMF, Warm, and Crinkly:

Inktober 2019 Day 8
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

No, I don’t actually sleep with my head wrapped in foil, but I do joke about the wearing of tinfoil hats frequently enough to annoy my friends and relatives.

I find myself the perpetual electronic killjoy in our household: turning off the WIFI, endlessly picking on my poor children for carrying their non-airplane-mode cellphones in their pockets or for reclining next to the router.  

And yes, I am particularly concerned about electric, radio and magnetic fields in regard to sleep. 

But maybe it’s mostly my concern that is keeping me awake. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 7


Aspirational Smiling

Inktober 2019 Day 7
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

Have you heard that gratitude and smiling (even if you don’t actually want to be grateful or smile)can make you sleep better and be more healthy overall? 
While I don’t dispute the potential of these interventions, imposed attitude adjustment is definitely more challenging for me than, say taking melatonin, or drinking valerian tea. I’m not having much success with the advice to “smile a genuine smile” first thing upon waking and just before going to sleep. 
I would definitely like to be that person...but the person I am now is a little dubious about the smiling version of me.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 6


The Sleep of Reason Does Not Produce Lucid Dreams:

Inktober 2019 Day 6
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe.

In my ongoing attempts to sleep better, I have tried some reverse psychology: Instead of being annoyed that I always wake up multiple times a night, perhaps I should instead be grateful for the opportunity to work on lucid dreaming.

Most lucid dreaming (trying to become conscious within a dream to control, question or analyze the dream and/or the right hemisphere of the brain) techniques suggest waking oneself up to try and move in and out of the dreaming state repeatedly. 

I’ve not had much success with the lucid dreaming...or with the reverse psychology. 

I have been keeping a dream journal, trying to send my subconscious mind the message that I am paying attention. So I am remembering many more of my dreams for the first time in years.

But so far all of my dreams are remarkably banal. They feature things lifted from whatever tv program I have viewed most recently...or dead pets whose litter boxes I have forgotten to clean...for so long that I can’t even remember the last time...and crying babies, lost dogs, lost homework...and unfortunately, many, many large, burrowing rodents. 

I had one random lucid dream that involved a lot of vomiting of black dental floss and some bad sculpture. 

It was sort of exciting, but not exactly a success. And definitely not a boon to my sleep.

(This drawing is not finished...but perhaps that is for the best)

Inktober 2019 Day 5


Mindfulness?

Inktober 2019 Day 5
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

I do believe that mindfulness and other forms of meditation could help me sleep better and generally be a less annoyed and annoying person...but it’s the consistent application that really matters.

And this evening I should have been meditating rather than making this drawing.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 4


Imaginary Soothing Companions:

Inktober 2019 Day 4
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

In the quest for at least minimally acceptable amounts of sleep, I have tried various forms of meditation, mindfulness, and breath work.  There is sadly more to come on this topic, but since I was tired of drawing my own increasingly jowly face, I thought I would move on to my problems with visualization and the generation of positive mind states.

Several meditation or self-regulation techniques invite you to imagine a positive or soothing situation- say that you are with someone you love.  I have tried the perhaps most idiotically concrete implementation of this concept: imagining holding one of my sons as a sleeping infant or napping with my long-departed dead cat. 

But of course, both kids were epically terrible sleepers as infants who preferred to nap almost exclusively while being carried by a walking adult...and would then go off like car alarms the moment they were transferred to a non mobile surface...or a mobile surface that was not their mother, for that matter. 

My cat was rarely a snuggly lap pet and was also a rather opinionated individual who did not exactly prioritize my needs for emotional support....or for sleep. He was more interested, for instance, in catching a mouse in the middle of the night and then carefully pushing it up against my neck so he could play with it in my bed.

I really need to focus and visualize that rarest of infant or feline naps, carefully refraining from letting my mind wander to the other 99.9% of our interactions involving sleep.

Perhaps this is an extra mindfulness challenge that will pay off someday.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Inktober 2019 Day 3


And It Makes It Harder To Yell At Your Kids. (Though you might be surprised)

Inktober 2019 Day 3
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. Maybe

Continuing onward on my Inktober theme of hapless attempts to improve my sleep: we arrive at a more troubling intervention: mouth taping.

If you are horrified at the idea of taping your mouth shut at night, and consider me a crazy zealot, google it. I may well be trafficking in zealous craziness, but you will discover that I have a lot of company and that there is an annoying army of wellness experts and bloggers happy to describe the benefits in exhaustive detail. 
There is no doubt it is weird, inconvenient, and more than a bit demeaning: look at me, I can’t even keep my own mouth shut. And I have ripped the skin off my lips more than once.

The taping practice hasn’t fixed my sleep or my health in general, but it has definitely kept things from getting worse in several departments. It does have all those benefits. I don’t like to sleep without my tape. Ever. Really.

But when your mouth is taped close, it is challenging to yell at the teenager who has just opened your bedroom door to tell you something you did not need to know while you were sleeping, and then has left the door ajar, revealing that he has also left all the lights in the apartment on. 
But as suggested above, I have learned ventriloquist-like skills, (another benefit!) though there is reason that the tape in the drawing is puckered and crumpled. (Of course, there is the possibility that not yelling at all might be more beneficial for sleep...but more on that question later.) 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Inktober Day 2


How Not to Follow Your Own Advice:

Inktober 2019 Day 2
(Sleep Tips from a Person Who Sleeps Very Poorly)

Common sense would suggest that refraining from excessive drinking of water before bed would be wise if one does not enjoy visiting the bathroom at 1 am, and at 3 am, and so on.  

And practically every health and wellness expert now extols the virtues of drinking a big glass of water upon waking. (You become dehydrated in your sleep, really. Particularly after all the trips to the bathroom.)

But here’s the thing: I am really thirsty before bed. A large glass of water looks pretty compelling to me late in the evening. But conversely, downing any liquid first thing in the morning beyond a small cup of tea is a repellent chore.

So I might not be following the water intake advice quite as rigorously as I should. 

Maybe once every few months, I make it through a night without getting out of bed to deal with the excess liquid. Remarkably, last night was one of those rare ones when I got to stay in bed (in anticipation of this post perhaps) 

But I had a long annoying dream early this morning about endlessly searching for, and then waiting in an equally endless line for, a restroom.

So perhaps it was not really a sleep success. 

#inktober2019 #dailynapkinsbutnotanapkin #watercolor #ink #sleephacks #healthandwellness #sleep #unflatteringselfportraits