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SLEEP LOSS AND HEALTH ISSUES

AM I DEPARTING FROM MY NICHE TOPICS?

Perhaps somewhat, but let me state my case for why I consider this very relevant. This is very personal. For the last several weeks, I have had very little energy for my daily workouts. I had essentially stopped working out.

I was waking up with dull headaches and a listless attitude about most things. My headboard in my sleigh bed was giving me difficulty. So were my pillows. It was difficult to get comfortable and I was only sleeping about 5-6 hours. I could not decide which side to sleep on and sleeping on my back did not seem to work. Even my small amount of sleep was interrupted several times during the evening.

It was no consolation for me to remember that Thomas Edison adamantly considered sleep to be a “waste of time”.

It quickly became apparent that my immune system was being adversely affected. I had been aware that sleep deprivation affected alertness and memory, but had not researched the topic.

About 9 years ago, I thought I had developed sleep apnea. I was tested for this and learned that I indeed had a minor condition of sleep apnea. The test was no picnic. I was wired all over my body and this discomfort itself made sleep very difficult. Weight is an issue with sleep apnea and I am encouraged by significant weight loss since then. Those who may have slept nearby since then have not mentioned anything about my snoring, which is an issue with sleep apnea.

I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in wearing a mask every night to be better able to breathe.

IMMEDIATE PLANS

I have had better sleep quality the past couple of days and am encouraged by a bit more energy. Hopefully, I will continue to feel better. If not, I will make an appointment with a sleep specialist and have another sleep study.

In the meantime, I have decided to continue my workouts, with a significant decrease in intensity. I will do only 6 sets of resistance training and 20 minutes on my treadmill until I feel more energetic. The 6 sets will include 5 sets for chest / back / arms and one for abdominals. This will alternate daily with 6 sets of abdominals only, always finishing with 20 minutes on my treadmill.

This is my “better than nothing” workout. One of my motivating quotes applies here: “No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch”.

An update: the “better than nothing” workout is working quite well and I am less dispirited. After 3 days, my blood pressure has improved and is now consistently good. I have lost 3 pounds. Only a minimal exercise program is making a big difference already. This should be encouraging to anyone. Everyone (hopefully) has 30 minutes a day to devote to fitness and better health. We can build upon this as soon as we are ready.

A corollary benefit, at least for me, has been that an organized workout plan, no matter how small, has led to more careful eating and a more systematic lifestyle.

In my “maintenance” workout”, I am using the following equipment:

Resistance cords – see a reasonably priced set here. This set includes all accessories needed.

Dumbbellsthis is an adjustable set with weight up to 105 lbs. By Amazon. Check all other options when you click the link.

My treadmill is shown below. The current equivalent is shown here. This is my primary cardio source.

Bullworker products – I use the Steel Bow and Bow Classic. See these items and the Bullworker website here. The Bullworker Steel Bow is shown below. A manual of workout programs, a carrying case and a non – slip pad are included. 3 separate springs are also included to provide options for resistance levels.

RESEARCH ON SLEEP ISSUES

At this point, I have “read up” on the subject and have also conferred with a sleep specialist. These are some of my findings:

  • Over 100 million Americans have sleep problems, occasionally or otherwise
  • Sleeping pills can worsen insomnia after withdrawal
  • Sleeping pills can also slow down respiration
  • Sleep loss can accumulate into a large sleep debt, which makes us more vulnerable to infection
  • Our sleep needs vary, as do our shoe sizes and the like
  • Insomniacs are those who are impaired in the daytime, regardless of amount of sleep
  • Trying to sleep does not work. Actually, I have known this for years
  • As we age, the quality of sleep deteriorates – becomes lighter, more restless, less efficient
  • REM (rapid eye movement) is sleep with dreams. This happens about every 90 minutes during the night.
  • Most dreams are forgotten. The exception is when we wake up from the dream
  • In NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep, there is some simple and fragmented thinking
  • Longer sleepers generally have more REM time, thus more dreaming
  • Heart and respiratory rates may fluctuate wildly during dreams. This may account for strokes and heart attacks often occurring during sleep.
  • Heavy meals may upset your sleep. A large breakfast, moderate lunch and light dinner are recommended
  • It is important to go to bed only when you are sleepy
  • Bottom line: lack of sleep may have a direct effect upon quality of life – on our immune system, likelihood of accidents and productivity.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

It naturally follows that relaxation promotes better sleep. It is important that we not try hard to relax. We must be passive and let it happen. Here are some techniques that may be useful:

  • Go limp. Stand with legs apart. Loosely shake arms and hands. Shrug shoulders. Let your head hang. Do this for a few minutes.
  • Tilt head. With shoulders down, tilt left ear to the left shoulder a few times. Then tilt right ear to right shoulder.
  • Head massage. With eyes closed, massage head and neck in small circles. This works better with a partner, but D.I.Y. works okay.
  • Stretch back. On your back in bed, push spine into mattress and pull in your abdomen. Release, go limp and take deep breaths. Repeat.
  • Count backward from 100. Do this very slowly and try to visualize the numbers.
  • Create pleasant scenes. Imagine being at the beach with the warm sun at your back, your toes in the sand and a breeze blowing on your skin. A bird is singing.
  • Float. Imagine that you are floating on a cloud or in the water on an air mattress.

CONCLUSIONS

It has struck me that understanding sleep patterns is of huge value to our health. Just as striking is the apparent lack of information on this subject. But I see this quickly changing.

I will most likely agree to another sleep study. In the meantime, I have learned quite a bit by simply reading.

Here are some books on sleep that are available from Amazon. Note that the “lack of information” I just cited is definitely becoming a thing of the past.

Why We Sleep. Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”

“The Nocturnal Brain. Nightmares, Neuroscience and the Secret World of Sleep”

“The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night”

“Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep:…………….”

“The Effortless Sleep Method:…….”

“Eat to Sleep.……”

“How to Sleep Well”

It is probably apparent that I wrote this article over a period of several days. Also, I have learned more about the importance of sleep during this time and have much more to learn. If I go ahead with the sleep study, I will write another article with more specific details.

My more minimal workouts are continuing and this brings me to another point. After years of structured exercise, a layoff is not really a negative, as long as we rebound, even slowly.

Please leave any comments or questions in the “Comments” box below. Or email me, richard@myworkoutathome.com.

Be well….and sleep well!

Richard

10 Comments

  1. Hi!  I suffer from insomnia so this was an interesting article. My insomnia is secondary to other issues, namely anxiety and back pain.  I myself don’t like sleeping pills, not because of withdrawal because I don’t take them until I actually really need them, but because I don’t like most of the ‘safe’ ones doctors believe are not habit-forming.  They make it so I cannot function if say, I had to get up in the middle of the night for a horse emergency or something.  They will literally knock me out.  Not good.  The ones that actually help the sleep process are considered habit-forming since if you take them regularly, your body won’t sleep normally.  Crazy, right?  Thanks for the article!

  2. This is wonderful, and the topic is very important.  There was a lot to learn and very natural to read.  Thank You.  Also, you are very knowledgeable about the topic too.  It is a good motivator, knowing other people also have these sleep problems and that there is a solution.  Many of your solutions work for me also.  Keep up the great ideas.  All the Best, Krista

  3. This is a very informative article I must say. Glad to know that a little workout can go a long way in determining your overall health. I believe we all have a few minutes to spare for a work-out. Just that we like to spare it on nothing. I am one person that plans in my head but fails to implement an exercise routine. Thanks for sharing the statistics you found on sleep issues. I like the relaxation techniques you have pointed out. Will be implementing this immediately.May youto continue  feel better and have the required amount of sleep.

  4. Thank you Richard! Sleep is always relevant to anything that has to do with working out in addition to the rest of life. I totally disagree with Thomas Edison, and I can’t believe that he said sleep would be a waste of time. Sleep is very important and I’m sure that he had to sleep to. It’s sad that such a smart person was not able to see the value of sleep. Thomas Edison might have been right about some things, but he was definitely wrong about sleep.

    I had a lot of sleep issues in the last couple years. Lately I have been consistently able to sleep, but still don’t feel 100% rested. I am no expert on the solution to the Sleep issues but I wish you the best in finding what works for you in terms of sleep.

    Although it is by no means a final answer on sleep, I have liked the talks by Dr. Rubin Naiman which are available on YouTube. He says a great deal on the value of sleep and the ways in which we live our day-to-day lives affecting our Sleep quality. 

    thanks for this article Richard and I wish you the best in your sleep quality.

  5. I know a few people who are affected by sleep deprivation and it’s never pretty. Contrary to Mr. Edison’s take on it, sleep is very important. When considering sleep, I sometimes like to take a page out of Benjamin Franklin’s book…early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Anyway, I’m sorry to hear that you are having difficulty sleeping, though I appreciate you stepping away from your niche to provide awareness to this very important topic. You have provided some excellent resources here by way of exercise equipment and books, so I will definitely be looking at your links further, as well as passing your post along to a few people who would certainly benefit. Thank you for a great post. I look forward to reading more, and good luck with your sleep!

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