Friday, December 6, 2019

Faux Furries in December


Some Faux Fur is More Faux Than Others:

It’s Faux Fur Friday
(The first Friday in December, according to the National Day Calendar)

I was thinking that we should have a napkin about upcoming December movies...the latest and much anticipate Star Wars saga finale is looming.... And then there is “Cats.” On the way to school in the morning, we squint in the glow of giant screens in the Union Square subway station,  playing clips from the Cats trailer.

When I suggested a furry team up of a Star Wars character and a Cats character, our younger son warned me that we would surely lose a lot of followers on Instagram.

That sounded like a challenge to me.

I picked Ian McKellen’s character, Gus, “the theater cat,” because Mr. McKellen has appeared in other movies the kids have seen. And his cat personage was perhaps not quite as disturbing as some of the others.

I always though Chewbacca’s lips were troubling.

But in this context, maybe not so much. 

(And, National “Kiss a Wookiee Day” is June 15th)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Ok Boomer Baby Heads


“Ok Boomer”

I have to admit that in my basic boomerishness, I did not initially understand the intense appeal of this phrase for my kids. 

They enjoyed using it on one another. And of course it can be gleefully applied to any older person (parent) who might be trying to tell you something useful or offering any implied criticism. 
It is a verbal eye roll...an offhand dismissal of age and authority.

Of course our kids have been dismissive since toddlerhood. Arguably, even since infancy. 
I am not sure how we managed to produce such bizarrely empowered  small people. 

(Though I do have my theories about the difficulties of parenting without fear or the threat of physical pain in the toolkit....and then there’s the genetics of it. My husband and I used to often joke about where on the chromosome was the default no setting?) 

When both kids were quite young, strangers and educators often remarked on each one’s abilities to say no to adults. 

One son told his nursery school teacher that he could not do what she asked because he was too “dehydrated.” On another occasion, he could not comply because he was “too depressed.” She was quite effectively derailed by these statements. 

And they have always been particularly good at saying no to their parents. I am not sure what the evolutionary advantage of constantly verbally antagonizing one’s parents might be while one is still totally dependent upon them even for basic toileting and nourishment, but there is it.

In one memorable incident, as my husband was haranguing our younger son, age three or less, for some terrible toddler crime, our son replied casually, “Oh, take a shower, old man.” “Ok boomer” is an improvement I guess.

(These are the kids’ infant heads on their teenager bodies, if that needs to be said. We don’t own the shirts, but there seem to be widely available online)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Baby Yoda Thanksgiving Parade Ballon


Baby Yoda Crushes it as Thanksgiving Balloon:

(There wasn’t one in the parade as far as I know...but certainly it is only a matter of time before the internet demands representation.)

To be completely honest, we did not even watch the broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV. Our kids have always been rather uninterested in this New York tradition. 

However, it was really, really windy this morning, so I did spend a good bit of time reading online about the various giant character balloon accidents that have happened over the many decades of the parade’s history.  While there was only one incident serious enough to put someone into a coma- the Cat In The Hat was the offender- there have been many more mishaps that resulted in damage to streetlights, lost bystander teeth, damaged character dignity, and general panic and distress. 

The parade proceeded today despite the winds, but I heard that they held the balloons very close to the ground, practically on top of their armies of handlers. 

Certainly Baby Yoda would never hurt the rope holders or specatators, would he?

Late and very hurried napkin, (had to spend much of the day making the whole kitchen sticky with sweet potatoes) but Happy Thanksgiving  nonetheless!

And, last but certainly not least, our younger son deserves the concept credit- I was just going to draw baby Yoda riding a wild turkey....much less appropriate!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

VSCO Guys


Since an article in the New York Times last week quoted a 12 year old girl saying that “VSCO is basically over,” I thought maybe I’d better hurry up and post this one. 

So you are either saying to yourself, “what is VSCO?” Or,  ugh, why is the napkin woman so late to this party? 

In case my mom missed the Times article, I will  briefly summarize that the term VSCO derived from a photo editing app, and is mostly favored by “VSCO girls” as a ostensibly easy-going, “beachy” aesthetic defined by several very specific consumer items: oversized t-shirts, shoes that are ugly/comfortable but specifically branded: checkerboard Vans, Crocks with charms or Birkenstock’s, pukka shell necklaces, Pura Vida bracelets, scrunchies, Fjallraven Kanken backpacks, and hydroflask drink bottles with metal straws. 

And mixed in with the brand consciousness is vague environmentalism expressed as a “save the turtles” slogan...mostly achieved by using metal straws. 

There’s some odd imported slang involved also, but I might refrain from mentioning that here to prevent my sons from writhing on the floor in torment. It seems that parental use of trendy slang is right up there in pain intensity with being doused in gasoline and set on fire.

At any rate, the VSCO trend seems to be to mostly just teenage girls being teenaged girls with the added commercial reach and reinforcement of social media. 

When I was twelve, horrifyingly enough, it was all about disco and Sasoon Jeans. Who among us remembers Sasoon Jeans? Anyone?

Moving on: 
It seemed to me that Deadpool and John Wick would appreciate a laid back surf aesthetic. Wade’s already halfway there with the Croc’s...though he does need some shoe charms.

But what do the sea turtles think about all this?

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.

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