Saturday, August 05, 2006

[health and spirit] sleep or die, folks

CEOs, ordinary mortals, doesn’t matter who - - your existence is built around four pillars:

1. Diet
2. Exercise
3. Sleep
4. Spiritual calm and being positively valued by others.

My take is that if you religiously practise the first four, the fifth will often suggest itself to you anyway. I’m not a guru – it stands to reason. I have a day job, which is varied. Basically I give consultations, a pompous way of saying that I natter on about things and get paid for it.

This blogging though – it’s taking it out of me. I need sleep and that’s what this is all about today:

Sleep ...

One of the tricks is to schedule rest and sleep. There are enough stats on the web not to clog up the blog with these but in a nutshell, what it comes down to is that a scheduled 20 minute nap in the middle of the day is the best, followed by adequate sleep at night at home. Sleeps during the day are right out!

How to schedule it? That’s easy – you have a meeting with Mrs Jones at that time, can’t be disturbed under any circumstances [mobile off] and the office door is locked. Poontang with the secretary is one thing but a 20 minute snooze, not a deep sleep, is the best.

But it’s not enough to schedule sleep and this takes enough aggressive planning in itself. It’s being able to wind down that’s difficult. Right now I leapt out of bed, via a short prayer, to the computer keyboard, repaired my Microsoft Word which broke down, reinstalled Windows which broke down and changed the valve on the faucet which broke down then sat down to write and wash the clothes and fix breakfast.

Hyped up – that’s the problem. OK, so it comes down to temperament, you say. Some of us are more sanguine than others. Yes, what you say is very true and the Sherlock Holmes thing about his mind being a train ,running wildly out of control and running off the tracks if it’s not connected up with the work for which it was designed, holds water - but stop!

Holmes had his breakdowns as well and I’m sure as hell not going to hit the opium. Sleep. At night. Diet and the others we’ll touch on next time.

Don’t ask me to attribute this next quote, as it’s lost in the mists of time but I've kept these words on stress:

Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings.

As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Whoa! You thought we were talking about sleep? We were. I also quoted Douglas Adams in a recent post about the ‘fundamental interconnectedness of all things’ a repackaging of an old truism.

So let’s become more scholarly and quote:

A report released by VicHealth yesterday shows that workplace stress is directly linked to up to a third of cases of cardiovascular disease in men and a third ___ depression cases in women.
But it is not only individuals who are paying the price. Businesses are hit by increased absenteeism and employee turnover, the report says.

"Workplace stress costs the entire community dearly in terms of human suffering and lost productivity," VicHealth chief Rob Moodie said.

The report reviewed 90 international studies, assessed exposure to stress in more than 1000 workers, and interviewed public and private employers, employer groups and trade unions.
Professor LaMontagne said exposure to stress at least doubled the risks of leading chronic diseases, including depression, cardiovascular disease and anxiety, and was therefore a significant contributor to the overall burden of disease in society.

[Melbourne Age, By Chantal Rumble, May 26th, 2006]

Suggested solution?

Flexible work schedules, improved communications, family-friendly practices and adequate compensation were key features ___ a less-stressful work environment, he said.
"The first thing all companies can do is communicate ___ their employees and work together in redesigning jobs to reduce workload and give them greater say or control ___ how their work gets done."

And one of the most quoted aspects of stress – was it sleep? Was it heck – most people don’t even consider it a risk. Oh, I only need three hours and a cup of coffee. Rubbish. Bet if I followed you round and did a time ad motion on you, I’d find plenty of examples of how your body was fighting back.

Also, in my neck of the woods over here, stressing out is seen as a badge of honour – a sign of a man who’s making money hand over fist. Retire to Sanitori for two weeks and Bob’s your uncle. Except that he’s not and the overall effect is cumulative and then we finally arrive at that pseudo-scientific syndrome – being burnt out.

Robert Roberts, MD, director of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says:

During sleep, blood pressure and heart rate have a chance to rest, and adrenaline quiets down. "That's good not only for the cardiovascular system but also for tissue repair. However, let's remember that the major risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol and smoking," he says. "And certainly the biggest one today is obesity, which induces diabetes and increased blood pressure. The fact that sleep reduces blood pressure is reason enough to get more sleep."

[Jeanie Davis, Sleep, Less and More, Linked to Heart Disease, reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD on Monday, January 27, 2003, WebMD Medical News: Too Much or Too Little Sleep Can Raise Blood Pressure, Stress Hormones]

And don’t forget sleep apnea:

With each apnea, the brain receives a signal to arouse the person from sleep in order to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

People with untreated sleep apnea are generally not even aware of the awakenings but only of being extremely sleepy during the day. They may, however, realize that they snore or gasp for air during sleep. Loud snoring, punctuated with periods of silence (the apneas), is typical but is not always present, especially in children.

Consequences of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. People with untreated sleep apnea may also complain of falling asleep inappropriately, morning headaches, memory problems, feelings of depression, reflux, nocturia (a need to use the bathroom frequently at night), and impotence.

Sleep apnea is treatable but it’s my guess that if you have it, you’re so stressed out already that you’ll not stop long enough to go out and fix it. Check these boxes:

Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
 Yes  No

Do you feel tired and groggy on awakening?
 Yes  No

Are you often sleepy during waking hours and/or can you fall asleep quickly?
 Yes  No

Are you overweight and/or do you have a large neck?
 Yes  No

Have you been observed to choke, gasp, or hold your breath during sleep?
 Yes  No

[The American Sleep Apnea Association, 1424 K Street NW, Suite 302, Washington, DC 20005, phone: 202/293-3650, Fax: 202/293-3656,]

Another one:

"We found that ... six ... hours of sleep is not optimal [when compared with eight]," Alexandros N. Vgontzas, MD, tells WebMD. "Two hours of sleep deprivation per night for one week is associated with increased sleepiness, decreased performance, and activation of the inflammatory system." Vgontzas, a professor of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, is the author of a study on the effects of sleep deprivation.

In other words - fatigue.

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, exhaustion, or lack of energy. You may feel mildly fatigued because of overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise.

Any illness, such as a cold or the flu, may cause fatigue, which usually goes away as the illness clears up. Most of the time, mild fatigue occurs with a health problem that will improve with home treatment and does not require a visit to a health professional.

A stressful emotional situation may also cause fatigue. This type of fatigue usually clears up when the stress is relieved.

Many prescription and nonprescription medications can cause weakness or fatigue. The use or abuse of alcohol, caffeine, or illegal drugs can cause fatigue.

A visit to a health professional usually is needed when fatigue occurs along with more serious symptoms, such as increased breathing difficulties, signs of a serious illness, abnormal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss or gain.

Fatigue that lasts longer than 2 weeks usually requires a visit to a health professional. This type of fatigue may be caused by a more serious health problem, such as:

A decrease in the amount of oxygen-carrying substance (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells (anemia).

Problems with the heart, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure, that limit the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle or the rest of the body.

Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, in which sugar (glucose) remains in the blood rather than entering the body’s cells to be used for energy.

Problems with the thyroid gland, which regulates the way the body uses energy.

A low thyroid level (hypothyroidism) can cause fatigue, weakness, lethargy, weight gain, depression, memory problems, constipation, dry skin, intolerance to cold, coarse and thinning hair, brittle nails, or a yellowish tint to the skin.

A high thyroid level (hyperthyroidism) can cause fatigue, weight loss, increased heart rate, intolerance to heat, sweating, irritability, anxiety, muscle weakness, and thyroid enlargement.

Kidney disease and liver disease, which cause fatigue when the concentration of certain chemicals in the blood builds up to toxic levels.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an uncommon cause of severe, persistent fatigue.

If fatigue occurs without an obvious cause, it is important to evaluate your mental health. Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. Fatigue and depression may become so severe that you may consider suicide as a way to end your pain. If you think your fatigue may be caused by a mental health problem, see your health professional.

[Healthwise, Incorporated, P.O. Box 1989, Boise, ID 83701, 2003]

Back to the question of winding down, which is all in the mind and to do with your pre-set character pattern. I find whisky and one’s woman helps immensely but be careful with the latter remedy – a woman can cause the opposite, stressing out, as well. And that’s another story too – mutual stress reduction of two willing partners. Sigh. What an idyll.

So how to wind down? It takes great willpower. You MUST schedule time in your ‘graphic’ for the week. It’s as simple as that. Then, when you get there, it all depends ifyou have a good secretary or not. If you do, then you can trust her not to allow ANYBODY through that door or onto that phone. If you know your 20 minutes is yours – all yours – then that’s a huge boost to be going on with. The next part you can do yourself.

The next article on sleep will deal with Professor Chris Idzikowski’s ‘sleep positions’ – a fascinating study in itself.

And people – I’m deadly serious – schedule some sleep and wind down.

For those who are interested, my archived postings on the rich and the dead [1&2] also addresses this matter. Johnathan Pearce, over at Samizdata knows exactly what I’m saying here.


Tracy Falck said...

Wow! Thank you for doing the research for us. Putting those very important chunks of information in one read is highly effective. Now it is up all of the folks out there constantly redirecting their thoughts to rationalizations of why not today. The only way out of that is to read and educate yourself, then take action!
Over the last year I have realized that doctors in America are doing us a disservice by not being more vigilant in getting to the root cause of the illnesses they are treating. I am sure they'd argue there's not enough time for that. Not enough time to have their patients complete a self-test for sleep apnea while they wait...AND wait in the exam room?! So, they scribble orders for a sleep study alone with routine labs if they suspect OSA. Are they afraid insurance may not reimburse? I am looking for any reason other than the ugly one I suspect.

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Thanks, Tracy and you've inspired me to run it again today - it's an old post this.