Do We Really Need Sleep?

According to Harvard (sounds like a reputable source), we do, indeed, need sleep even if science doesn’t know why. Yet.

There are some theories on it, though.

Why do I care? Well, other than the sleepless nights of late, I have a certain character who is quite skilled with sword and shield that is about to lose a fight because of sleep deprivation. This seemed legitimate given how I’ve felt lately, but I wanted to know if the science backs me up on this.

Looks like it might.

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Most us feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. Better able to focus, we feel better, and we’re just in a better mood. The Harvard article relates eating to sleeping. We’re driven to eat by the powerful force of hunger. There’s a reason it’s the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We are also driven to sleep by being tired.

Sleep is also on the first level of needs.

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From Wiki Commons

Scientists have apparently tried all sorts of sleep deprivation studies to see what happens when humans and other animals don’t get sleep. Still no conclusive answers.

 They do have a couple of theories:

Inactivity Theory – This says that sleep was evolutionary to keep us inactive when we’re most likely to get eaten by a lion. Seems pretty bunk as it would be safer to be awake and hiding in your cave from the lion than asleep and unaware of the lion. I suppose it was a start, and that’s what science is all about.

 

Energy Conservation Theory – One upon a time, there was no such thing as an obesity epidemic. Food was scarce, and humans even had to adapt to eating meat to get all of the fuel our massive brains needed. This theory suggests that sleep reduces our body’s energy consumption during times when it’s least efficient to search for food. Research backs this up as we use as much as 10 percent less energy while asleep. Gotta be more to it, in my opinion, though, as many American are over nourished but still suffering from the ill effects of sleep deprivation.

 

           Restorative Theories – This basically says we sleep so that our brain and body can repair itself from all that we did to it while awake. Research is starting to back this up after a series of studies showed animals deprived entirely of sleep lose immune function and die in weeks. More research has shown us that certain major repair the body does like muscle growth, tissue repair, and the release of growth hormones occur mostly during sleep.

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Brain Plasticity Theory – Science is discovering that sleep is at least correlated (if not causal) to changes in the brain. Studies have given us more insight into this, showing us the link between sleep deprivation and the ability to learn or perform tasks. 

Ha! There we go! My scientific evidence that it’s harder to perform tasks when sleep deprived! Backs up my personal experience at any rate. And perhaps it would realistically slow my Knight enough to bring him to his knees.

 

How about you? Ever experience the downside of sleep deprivation? Maybe you don’t need as much sleep as the rest of us? Or maybe you need more? Could you believe a sleep-deprived character would have a hard time swinging his sword?

Six Things I’ve Learned from Strength Training

So, I’m a couple of weeks in on strength training. And, it reminds me that I’m not twenty-seven any more.

There are things I’ve struggled to do, things I’ve had to ease back on to avoid injury, and days where my body just aches.

I usually walk one-and-a-half miles a day with some pretty impressive hills, but strength training is very different. After being away from it for eight years, it’s reminding me of how very different. Here are some of the things it’s taught me so far.

1. The Hunger Eases – I was achingly hungry for a few days after my first session. But it eased, and it hasn’t really returned.

Now it’s like half a pizza.

2. Need for More Hydration Doesn’t – I never quite jumped on board the water-toting culture. Yes, I have a water bottle at my desk, but that’s more to keep me from spilling it all over. Still, after three weeks in, I am way more thirsty than I ever was before.

3. Sleep Hard – I put my head on the pillow these days, and I’m asleep in less than ten minutes. On an actual training day, usually less than two minutes. I also find myself waking up less at night, and even when I have horrifying dreams (the one the other night was about the onset of nuclear war being the diversion used for someone to abduct my children, and then me having to go through a nightmare fun house to get them back), I can get back to sleep.

4. Drawn to Healthier Foods –  I’ve actually found myself far more inclined to choose healthy foods. Like, it’s not an effort. And when DH mentioned going out to eat, I sort of shrugged. I’d rather a home-cooked meal I didn’t have to cook (let me know where you can find of those). I’ve wanted veggies and fruit. Meat cooked well without a lot of salt and sauces. We’ll see if this holds…

5. My Body Misses Exercising – I’ve seen this before with walking, so I wasn’t as surprised, but my body genuinely misses working out. I may not be much inclined some days, but when I don’t, I really feel it.

6. Not as Young as I Used to Be – This has really been brought home to me. Recovery time, at least at first, has been longer than it was eight years ago. I’ve also had to modify some exercises. I can’t apply weight to a bent wrist after an injury I sustained five years back. I have to be very careful of certain exercises like lunges on the foot I broke last year. My pride may feel a bit wounded, but better that than an injury.

 

How about you? Have you ever incorporated strength training into your exercise? Do you now? Do you like it? Hate it? Any thoughts for someone restarting it again?

 

My Legs Are Made Out of Jelly

I started strength training approximately ten years ago. Then, we decided to have children. Between issues with pregnancy and finally having a squalling if amazing baby, I quit lifting.

Yes, I know how important it is. For general wellness and doing things like spreading mulch, and but also to prevent osteoporosis. This disease is big deal in my family, made all the worse by where I’ve lived most of my life.

Per my endocrinologist, the closer to the equator you are, the less likely you are to develop it. Having lived in the north of the US most of my life has increased my likelihood of the disease quite a bit. Things like strength training can help decrease it.

Back before children, I went straight to the gym after work. Eventually, we put a home gym in, and I went to that as soon as I got home from work.

So, I tried that again. Simply coming home, throwing on my gear, and heading to the basement. But it was almost impossible to get there. My daughters wanted, needed, my attention. They hadn’t seen me all day and missed me. How could I possibly walk past my toddler holding her arms out to me with a grin on her face as she says, “Momma, momma, momma!”

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Don’t forget to add writing!

That leaves mornings before they get up and evenings after they go to bed. I am not much of a morning person, but I learned very quickly I don’t have enough energy left to start any kind of exercise after they are in bed.

Setting aside my lack of being a morning person, morning is doubly hard for strength training as you’re supposed to be awake for an hour before you start lifting to help prevent injury. I haven’t been in my indestructible twenties for a long time. Injury is most assuredly a thing that happens to people at my age.

So, I decided to tweak my work schedule and work on strength two days a week at lunch and one day on the weekend. I reviewed my old workout plan, modified a few things to take into account my current physical state, and implemented it.

After strength training for the first time in almost seven years, I’ve discovered just how hard stairs can be to climb.

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My legs feel like jelly and my arms don’t want to lift off the keyboard. I hadn’t thought I’d overdone the workout, but apparently even body-weight push-ups on an incline are hard after seven years. Really hard.

Beyond moving with the stiff gait of the walking dead, the other thing I noticed was how hungry I was.  I mean hungry. Not just in the it’s almost time for dinner hungry. But genuinely hungry. I had an apple in the afternoon and later a Kind bar. I was still hungry when I got home. I snacked on some fruit and a bit of beef jerky and devoured dinner. I was still hungry.

At this point, I was starting to feel like the very hungry caterpillar.

We normally don’t keep snacks in the house because if you don’t have them, it doesn’t take much willpower not to eat them. I was so hungry by eight o’clock that I had a headache.

I ended up finding my stash of frozen custard and plowed through it. I’d love to justify it by saying it was chocolate custard with raspberries in it, so clearly it couldn’t be so bad. But there’s no point. I knew how bad it was while I was eating it and didn’t care. I was hungry and this was finally helping me feel full.

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So, while strength training may help build some strength and some bones, I need to figure out a way to deal with this spike in hunger. I’m hoping it’s just temporary while my body gets used to the new demands being made on this desk jockey.

On the positive side, I had no trouble falling asleep. Literally, I don’t think my head was on the pillow for thirty seconds before I was sound asleep. I also slept the whole night, and when a nightmare woke me up, as they do, I rolled over and was back asleep in less than a minute.

 

How about you? Ever started a strength training routine? How’d it go? Any tips? Or maybe you over did some gardening or other work and paid for it the next morning? Any tips on how you coped?

Completely Derailed

After finally finding a groove in my writing again, the whole thing was derailed by a string of migraines. Five days in a row. For those of you that suffer from them, you know these as “boomerang” migraines. They are increasingly intense headaches as your treatments aren’t getting rid of the migraine. They’re merely making it angry.

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Several people asked me if I could just sleep them off. I wish. Migraines will wake you up and keep you rolled into a ball all night long not sleeping. They can also let you sleep, only to plow into you the moment you open your eyes.

I’ve known people who get migraines because they haven’t slept and then can’t sleep because of the migraine.

For me, they always start behind the same eye. I don’t get auras, but I do get pressure that means one is going to start. Time to take medicine or I will pay and pay dearly.

Taking medicine at the first sign of an impending migraine usually heads it off, or at the very least, reduces the symptoms. This can be the difference from making it through the day with a headache and curling up in a ball because sound makes you vomit.

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For the severity of the pain and the number of people migraines affect, we know very little.

  • They tend to run in families (thanks mom!), but don’t have to. We have yet to find a genetic marker.
  • They may be hormonal. Adult women are 2-3 times more like to get them than men, but in pre-adolescence, boys are slightly more likely to get them than girls.
  • Frequency and severity tends to reduce significantly for women after menopause.
  • Pregnant women usually see a decrease in them, unless you’re unlucky. Then, even some of the best narcotics on the planet can’t end them, though they’ll make you care a lot less about the pain (migraine medicine passes through the placenta to the baby and narcotics don’t).
  • They cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Someone once equated it to a really bad acid trip. I have no idea if it’s true.

It breaks my heart when pain shoots through my head just because my little ones are yelling my name in excitement when I come home from work. Not to mention, well, you know, pain bad enough to make you vomit. I do my best to keep them under control.

It just doesn’t always work.

I’m careful of personal migraine triggers. For me, diet soda is a huge one. I’ve cut anything with aspartame out of my diet completely.  I’ve often wondered if migraines can be triggered by institutional lighting. I’m far more likely to get them at work than at home. I don’t think it’s the computer screen as I don’t get them from reading on my Kindle.

Whatever the cause, this is not a modern problem. Migraines have been around for a long, long time. Earliest records we’ve found so far describing them are from Egypt around 1,500 BC.

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They are also widespread. Approximately one billion people suffer from migraines. Yeah, one billion. Most, though, don’t get them several times a month like I do. And even fewer get the ones that chain (where you get them successive days) or boomerang.

With so many people affected, it’s an expensive problem. Twenty-seven billion euros in Europe per year, plus an additional $17 billion in the US.

Despite all these sufferers, there is no cure for migraines. Just drugs to treat them. All I can say is thank goodness for the triptans. The aspirin, Tylenol, full-sugar coke cocktail I took in my youth has nothing on the triptans.

Before the advent of these drugs, I could fight a migraine for days on end. Any amount of light felt like daggers being poked through my eyes, and sound made me vomit. It was awful. And while I forced myself to go to work or school, the pain could be crippling, and it most assuredly made it harder for me to learn and made me less productive.

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Migraines are sneaky, and if you don’t treat them, they can steal your life. Not in the here one moment and gone the next way, but drip by drip. Night after night spent home hiding from light and sound rather than participating in and enjoying life.

I lost too much of my life to them. I’ve learned to fight back and fight back hard.

They may have knocked me off track from writing for the moment, but I will prevail. This has been a particularly nasty bout, but I haven’t let them win before and I won’t now.

 

How about you? Ever suffer from migraines? Maybe other headaches or recurring pain? How did/do you deal with it? Do you find it makes you less productive or enjoy life less? What do you do to push through it?