Millions of working adults (nearly 1/3 of our population) in the U.S. are getting 6 or less hours of sleep according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Society accepts a caffeine-fueled, overworked, and technology-obsessed culture. A history of sleeping problems can have dangerous and fatal effects on your overall health and wellness. I came across a recent article that discussed 7 long term ill effects of sleep deprivation:
- Junk food cravings
- Skin issues
- Memory loss
- Sex drive
- Heart disease
- Brain damage
This past winter I read a New York Times article that addressed sleep, challenging readers to look at their history of sleep patterns. The author, David K. Randall, explains it is relatively recent that the norm has been to sleep eight hours straight. He cites research done by A. Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech, who had been studying the history of night time when he began to notice references to a sleep cycles which included a first and second sleep, each one lasting four hours.
Medical professionals who promote sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong about interrupted sleep cycles. A common result of this is something called “sleep anxiety.” This is the idea that we should be getting a good night’s sleep but feel we are doing something wrong if we don’t sleep through the night. These worries can result in medicated sleep, which reinforces a cycle that the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has called “the ironic processes of mental control.”
Sleep hygiene is something I think is very important. Promoting healthy sleep includes looking at a person’s bed time routine, tracking sleep patterns, sleep comfort, and how one feels when waking up in the morning. A list of questions that one can consider are:
- Do you sleep better cold or hot?
- Is white noise helpful or hurtful?
- Do you sleep in a room with a lot of electronics?
- Do you have a bed time routine?
- Do you try to go to bed at the same time every night?
- Do you keep a sleep journal?
- Are there other issues that keep you from sleeping?
I would love to talk to you more about your sleep hygiene. Feel free to contact me for more tips on sleep hygiene!
I am grateful to have entered my 8th month since my private practice opened. I’ve welcomed 15 clients to date and so appreciate the referrals from the community. My private practice hours now fall on Thursday evenings and Saturdays with a couple Skype clients I have added to other week day evenings. It’s hard to believe just a year ago I was finishing up my last month at the University of Southern California’s masters of social work program. The year of transitions has been both exciting and challenging.
Spring is here and several of my clients are using this time to look at their goals for this next year, tweaking some, while adding others, and also realizing what they’ve accomplished. The challenge then becomes to draw out the steps to those goals that become a part of a larger plan; and most importantly, to track the progress.
This month’s newsletter I am going to focus on facing addictions, tips on how to address feeling overwhelmed, and an inspiring story I’ve found that I feel depicts hope.
In April I read a blog post by Farnoosh Brock in which she names 10 addictions that can cause pain. What I like about her post is that she names addictions that harm the brain and physical body (alcohol, smoking, drugs, junk food and violence), but she also names addictions that harm the heart and mind (negative self-talk/self-sabotage/self-hatred, blaming the world for our problems, complaining about everything to everyone, berating and belittling others, and holding on to the victim mindset). She talks further about facing these addictions in order to be pain free.
It can be really difficult to give up these addictions, and it takes courage to face them. One of the things I’ve seen when trying to give up an addiction is that it has become a habit, second nature, and it can seem overwhelming to change something that has taken a hold of our life. Asking for help is the first step she talks about, and showing gratitude to the person who is going to help hold us accountable. Creating new habits can be difficult. It takes courage to both name the addiction and find strategies to take steps towards giving those addictions up.
These addictions have become engrained in our society and are often part of our cultural and familial history. One of my favorite professors who is in the addiction field, Margaret Fetting, has studied how we tend to whisper about someone’s active addiction and often judge it. We gossip about it, but we don’t really have meaningful conversations about the human need to get high. While she generally is referring to drugs and alcohol, I think we can extend that to the adrenaline highs we can get from our work place environments, relationships, and food.
Facing these things takes time, courage, and a plan. Writing out that plan, talking about the plan, and tracking progress will aid in reaching the overarching goal. Often letting go of these addictions can be enhanced by joining a support group or by reading and studying about how others have overcome their addictions. Generally, letting go always involves the support of individuals who can cheer us on, encourage us when we have doubts, and hold us accountable.
What does being overwhelmed look like to you? Perhaps it is a never ending to do list, too much work, not enough time to play, familial obligations, emotional exhaustion, or major life transitions that are throwing us out of our normal routine. Here are some tips on how to attempt to address those feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Look at what has to get done vs. what you’d like to get done. Think about what matters most.
- Set small goals and steps to achieve those goals.
- Consider what you have said yes to. Is it possible to assign a task to someone else? What are the consequences of not meeting what you’ve said yes to? Perhaps there’s some leeway in asking for an extension to get something done?
- Cut out distractions from social events that feel more like obligations rather than fun and time spent on social media, TV, or the internet.
- Find some quiet time to do something you love, time to relax, rest, think and feel.
- Nurture those relationships that are most meaningful to you. Find time to share what’s going on in your heart and mind.
- Focus on what’s going well in your life.
Molly Burke speaking for Me to We.
Molly Burke was 4 and a half years old when she was diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that eventually causes blindness. She was 13 years old when she could no longer see colors, and her vision continued to decrease. She started being bullied in school – other students would take her crutches, backpack and dignity, and she grew depressed. Things got difficult enough that in 9th grade she transferred to a school for the blind. Still, she found over time she started being bullied again. In 11th grade she decided to switch back to a sighted school. With the help of a vision itinerant (a teacher trained to help visually impaired) she was able to transition back to school. While Molly made friends at her new school, the bullying never stopped completely.
After Molly finished high school, she discovered an organization called Me to We and joined one of their youth trips to Kenya to build a school. She spoke at a local girls’ school and realized her new goal. Through Me to We she joined their speaker’s bureau and began to share her story about blindness and bullying. Molly is proud to say she has overcome her depression, has come to terms with her blindness, and now lives in her own apartment. Read more about her story.