Message of the day

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking. - Albert Einstein
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Sleep – The Final Frontier Part 1: Sleep Tips

Do You Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
I can’t sleep! I hear this from so many people. Has the entire world stopped sleeping? Often we think there is nothing we can do about it, or has sleep become less important? Some people seem to accept being relegated to being “one of those people” who can’t sleep. Others seem to live with the excuse that they “don’t need as much sleep as other people do”. While others just won’t accept that they have a sleep disorder. So I decided to see what the National Sleep Foundation had to say about getting a good night’s sleep.


Sleep Affects our Health

Sleep is important to our health. Our immune cells don’t work very well if you keep waking up in the middle of the night. Among other health issues poor sleep patterns increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Sleep also affects our moods, and when we are irritable it can even impair our relationships. Sleep deprivation can cause lack of mental alertness that not only affects our job performance, but it can also affect our judgment when driving. The inability to sleep can affect our weight as well, and sleep deprived individuals are more likely to become obese as they are more likely to crave foods that are higher in calories and carbohydrates.The cycle continues as this pattern in turn could lead to diabetes. While finally sleepless nights also affect our aging process, as our body’s restorative capacity becomes depleted.

Insomnia
Sometimes it just takes some concentration and slight behavioral changes to help you have a restful sleep. Some people may need a more aggressive approach, and while there are different kinds of sleep disorders, this article will focus on insomnia. Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep, have problems maintaining sleep or awaken too early unable to get back to sleep. Half the people with insomnia don’t even know they have an actual sleep disorder and many don’t believe anything can be done about it. There are many reasons for insomnia: among them would be stress, depression, perimenopause, and excessive consumption of caffeine.


Our Circadian Clock

One of the most important things you can do is to keep a regulated sleep schedule sticking to a regular bed and wake time. Although it might be difficult, try to keep the same bedtime even on the weekends, along with waking at your regular schedule. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a “circadian clock”. Nature points the way. When your biological rhythms are aligned with the rhythms of nature, your mind/body systems will be in a more positive state of health. It is recommended that you sleep 6 – 8 hours each night. The hours you sleep before midnight are the most rejuvenating. Optimally, if you can be in bed by 10 or 10:30 and sleep until six, you will feel better than if you went to bed at midnight and slept until 8.


Sleep and Addictions

A sleeping problem can be a risk factor for substance abuse or depression. You have probably heard advice saying that having a drink before bed helps people sleep. This may lead to dependency on alcohol and thus it becomes a risk factor for substance abuse.
People with addictions, especially to alcohol or drugs, have difficulty sleeping. Addicts and alcohol dependent people are often nighthawks and actually fight sleep. Just walking into their bedroom can cause anxiety and worry, knowing they will toss and turn all night. I used to be one of those people that was afraid to go to bed. I used wine to help me get to sleep. The problem with alcohol is that it may initially help get you to sleep, but it will disrupt your ability to stay asleep as the alcohol wears off and your body begins to feel its withdrawal.


More Sleep Tips

  • Don’t drink any alcohol before going to bed. Drinking interrupts the sleep cycle, therefore disrupting your sleep.
  • Adopt a new routine. If you are used to going to bed well after midnight, for the first week try stepping up your bedtime slowly by going to bed one half hour earlier at night; then the next week and additional half hour earlier again. Continue this pattern until you can be in bed by 10 or 10:30p.m.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both of these are stimulants and will most certainly add to your sleep dilemma. Choose milk or maybe a non-caffeinated herbal tea as your bedtime beverage. Smoking before going to bed also makes it more difficult to go to sleep as nicotine withdrawal can wake you up in the middle of the night. Yet another good reason to stop smoking.
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before retiring for the night. You’ll be more comfortable if you aren’t full. Avoid spicy foods that can cause heartburn. Don’t drink too much liquid before going to bed to avoid nighttime trips to the bathroom.
  • Exercise regularly. Including exercise in your daily routine can help make it easier to fall asleep. One mistake people make is to exercise too close to bedtime. Exercise increases body temperature and you want your body to have cooled down with enough time before turning in, in order to be able to fall asleep.
  • Create a nice environment for sleeping. Have your room cool, quiet and dark. Your body’s natural melatonin process works better if you’re in a dark environment. Also be sure to have a good mattress and comfortable pillow. Some of us are still using the same mattress we have had for years, not realizing the difference it can make.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. Keep your work out of the bedroom! Too often do we drag a laptop in the bedroom thinking it’s a matter of convenience where it is actually a source of over stimulation. Many experts also recommend that a television doesn’t belong here either, especially if you are over stimulated easily and have a sleep disorder.
  • Design a sleep ritual. A ritual will prepare your mind and body for sleep. Be sure to follow Part 2 of this series: Sleep-The Final Frontier to read more about sleep and bedtime rituals.

Sweet dreams!

Tis’ the Season…Part One to Help you Handle the Holidays

Holidays Can Be Difficult

Tis’ the season for holiday parties. If you are trying to be alcohol free, the big question many of us will face is should we attend the parties or should we stay home and avoid the situation entirely? It really depends on how you are feeling. If you are a little shaky about being around alcohol and feel that you may drink, then it is better not to attend. However, with a good plan in mind you can be prepared for most unexpected situations you may encounter.

If you have numerous parties to attend, just concentrate on one at a time. There are many types of parties, as different guests will attend different functions, so each party may require you to prepare for each one individually.

Visualization

Begin by imagining yourself at the first party. Picture the guests, the atmosphere, the crowds, the drinking, and the smells. Feel the excitement. Picture yourself having fun without alcohol. Allow the focus of your visualization to be about the fun. If you don’t know how to do that yet, picture everything but the alcohol; start there. In your mind, can you see anything that could trigger a craving for alcohol? Say for example that someone who you really don’t want to run into is at the party. Picture yourself handling that situation. See, that was easy. Using your imagination navigate through the entire evening.

Look Your Best

Now it’s time to dress up and look like a million bucks. Be proud of who you are and how great you look. There is nothing like sobriety to bring out rosy cheeks, sparkly eyes or a devilish grin. If you look good you will feel good and you will exude confidence. Even if you don’t feel confident–fake it. “Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you. To put it another way, fake it till you make it.”–Aaron Sorkin. If you look confident you might as well be confident.

Mingle

So you decided to go and now you’re at the party, what to do? Mingle! Don’t hide in a corner. It’s a party! Try and open yourself up to allow people in. You may just meet your next best friend, or you may find someone with the same interests that you have. It may be easier to be a good listener, than to do the talking and this can offer positive results for both you and the other person. Take a step outside your safety zone, as you may realize it may not be so safe. Allow yourself to be interested in the people around you, you will start to relax and have more fun. If the party has planned activities such as a live auction or karaoke, help out or join in. Don’t forget to dance.

No is a Complete Sentence

No is a complete sentence. Have you ever noticed that people feel compelled to give more information than they’re asked? Here’s a classic example: Q: “Do you know what time it is”; A: “Yes, it’s almost 10 o’clock.” Clearly the question was answered after saying “yes”, and although in this scenario it might be considered rude to not give a more elaborate answer, I think you get the point. It would seem that our need to explain everything may stem from our rationalizing the guilt we harbor. Yet you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You can refuse a drink and leave it at that.

If you feel that you need to excuse why you are not drinking, plan what you are going to say in advance. This will help you from feeling awkward or embarrassed. Some people have no problem telling friends that they have quit drinking. Believe me that they will be happy for you. Here are a few suggestions that you can utilize should you feel the need to offer an answer. You may choose to say that you want to look after your health. Or you may choose something more flippant and say, “I got all my drinking done in the past 20 years.” Another position to take is one that will not only give you a suitable answer, but put you in a proactive position, “I’m designated driver tonight, so I’m going to skip the drink tonight.” Who knows you may force someone else to think twice before they get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Regardless of the tone you choose, playing out scenarios ahead will help you feel more comfortable and secure with yourself.

Be Prepared

Another tip, is when you step up to the bar to order a non-alcoholic beverage, know what you are going to order in advance. Order something that you enjoy and ask the bartender to make it look festive. I like ginger ale and cranberry with a twist of lime in a fancy glass. My husband enjoys virgin Caesars that are made with clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce and spices. So get creative!

Tips to Remember

Consider these points before you head out:

  • Don’t arrive at a party hungry, thirsty, tired or angry. Any of these circumstances can trigger a craving. Once a craving is activated it will change the way you think. Some people call it “stinking thinking”. It’s when the alcohol identity tries to tell you that this time it will be different, and that this time you can drink without consequences like everyone else.
  • Hydrate throughout the day. Try and drink at least 8 glasses of water.
  • Grab some quiet time, and try to get some rest at some point in the day before you head out. Give the body and the brain a chance to slow down.
  • Make sure you eat something nutritious to level out your blood sugars. This will keep your moods from becoming erratic.
  • Avoid feeling angry. I wouldn’t recommend going to the party at all. Anger is another mask for craving, only slyer and more creative. Anger can get you drunk so fast you won’t even know what hit you. Almost as bad as the getting drunk is the anger, as we tend to personify anger validating it as a credible scapegoat.
  • Have your own vehicle, or have a plan so that you leave the party when you want and on your terms. It’s all well and good to car pool, but if you are on shaky ground with alcohol, you really want to be able to leave when you start to feel agitated or uncomfortable.
  • Always keep enough cash on you for a cab or other emergency. (I also like to keep another set of house keys hidden as well.)

Get Support

If you are really having trouble staying clean and sober, you may need support. I watched on The Biggest Loser where a participant said that he knew what he needed to do to lose weight, but was unable to do it. Now that he had a trainer, he did so much better and in fact wouldn’t have succeeded without that support. Sometimes all a person really needs is someone in their corner to help them through. If you have had your moment of clarity and really need to stop drinking, then get some help. Moments of clarity come at the most unexpected times. Whether it is Christmas, New Years, Easter, summer holidays, or other occasions; if you want to stop drinking get a coach or support system. Start enjoying your special moments without alcohol. Start enjoying yourself, it may take learning some new perspectives, but you’re so worth it.

After all that–get going to your party and have fun!

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The material on our website is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health-care provider. Read more...