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Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 in Health, Medicine, Mental Health | 15 comments

SLEEP … The Underused Secret Weapon to Maintain and Improve Health


By Dr. Kevin Purcell, DC

Over decades I have find when I begin to experience a loss of motivation I am usually tired. Not traditionally tired; I mean deep Central Nervous System (CNS) fatigue.

Our brains have built in survival and protective mechanisms that will attempt to over ride ‘things’ when it needs to. Survival takes precedent when it comes to the CNS. This is as true for world class athletes as it is for us mature folks.

If you don’t feel right consider a bit more sleep.

Recall, there are limits to human endurance. Be kind to yourself. Avoid making “forced rest” the only time you get enough rest. Think ahead. Perhaps you have an objective advisor who can share objective advice before you lose choice.

Many of us would benefit trying to find another thirty minutes of sleep each day. It’s been my experience that when I suffer from sleep deprivation I am not just a worse athlete and less healthy, I am less capable.

Possible sleep aides:

Darkness (curtains).

No TV in your bedroom.

No phone.

Limit caffeine.

Routine; go to bed and get up as part of a routine.

There is a saying; NAPSRULE.

I have never been able to do master planned naps. When I nap I am already in deep trouble: like this image of my four year old driving home from a day at Disneyland twenty five years ago!

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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • Sleep is one of the first things I ask about doing a psychological assessment. Improving sleep is usually part of any intervention.

    • KP

      Thanks for your valued professional opinion.

      I have found that patients reporting sleep is a bit like patients reporting alcohol use. They mostly say I am okay … I can get by on 6hrs a night.

      As you know, some medical studies suggest that only 3% of the population has the sleep gene that allows them to sleep more deeply than others (more efficiently) and get by on 6hrs sleep. Others need 7-8 or more.

  • Bob Munck

    I sleep on a traditional hippy waterbed — a big bag of water at exactly 81°F — with two thick comforters covering me head to toe. Air is supplied by the CPAP which eliminates my sleep apnea. It’s comfortable, dark, and quiet (white noise from the CPAP). 6-7 hours/night, usually 3am to 10am. Some people think this is a tad abnormal.

    • KP

      I slept on a big bubble water bed from 1974 to about ’88. No bevels. Lots of air in there as well as bleach. Incense and macramé on the side.

      It leaked at times but that copper coil kept it warm (I still hear the waves). When heat did go out it was similar to sleeping in board shorts on a chase lounge in the Bahamas or in a bag certified warm down to 17F while on Mt Kilimanjaro. COLD.

      Like you, KEY for me is routine, white noise and dark. That and My Pillow(s).

    • JSpencer

      My doc wants me to have an overnight sleep test since the at home version indicated moderate sleep apnea. I guess if I need a CPAP the white noise will help my tinnitus too. 😉 Ah well… the joys of aging. Beats the alternative..

      • KP

        On the sleep apnea:

        It can be hard or even very hard on the body, beyond lack of good sleep. My brother was having about 50 interruptions an hour; 30x is considered very high. He would wake up soaking wet because his body was working so hard to survive. He is now down to the 5-7x an hour range when using his unit and feels significant improvement in overall well being.

        A couple other factoids not directed at you but may be helpful to other readers:

        1) weight gain usually increases sleep apnea
        2) alcohol increases sleep apnea
        3) alcohol may increase weight gain
        4) alcohol and weight gain increase blood pressure
        5) blood pressure seems to worsen tinnitus (among other things)

        Like you say, the joys of aging 🙂

        • Bob Munck

          I was dozing off while driving 75 mph on I-66 at rush hour. That could have been tremendously hard on my body, and others too. JS, have the test done; apnea is bad for your heart and pretty much everything else. Also for anyone sleeping with or near you.

          The morning after the first night I used a CPAP was like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where it changes from B&W to full Technicolor. Unfortunately some people just can’t use the machine, and have to resort to more serious things like surgery.

          Why does Brownies girl’s description of her sleeping environment remind me of Elwood’s apartment in The Blues Brothers? Watch out for Lela.

          One similarity: the thing that generally wakes me up is a cat jumping on the lump that is I, wanting food and RIGHT NOW! They know I’m in there.

        • JSpencer

          Many thanks Kevin, Bob, and Dr. E. I’m definitely going to get the test. Only waiting until my snowbird friend is here for the summer (arriving mid-May) to take care of the animals while I’m off getting wired up! I would welcome a return of more energy during the days…

          • Bob Munck

            It’s not a big deal. The sleep lab was in the local hospital. I went in about 10pm expecting to be there all night. They wired me up, I drifted off, and they woke me about 15 minutes later by unwiring me, saying they had all the information they needed. I was home by midnight. I guess I had/have a fairly severe case, although no one ever quantified it.

            (I’m never sure if I should use present or past tense when I talk about my sleep apnea. The CPAP completely cures it, so I haven’t had any of the symptoms for 21 years, but I’m sure that without the CPAP I would.)

            BTW, my first CPAP, a big clunky thing, lasted about 16 years, an amazing lifetime for a machine with moving parts. It cost $1600, paid for by insurance. My current one is much smaller and only cost $200. I had a previous small one for travel that cost about $500 but it was in a bag that was stolen in Barcelona.

          • KP

            Thanks for the testimony, Bob. Like JSpencer I plan to have the testing done as well. If there is an issue, I want to have it quantified while I am relatively unfit after a couple surgeries; then re-test when I am lean and quite fit. I’d like to use myself (n-1) as an example that simply altering body composition is often enough to eradicate sleep apnea. That has been my experience without testing. If I lose 10% of my body weight (220lbs to 200lbs) I feel free of symptoms and my wife hears ‘nada’.

      • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

        JSpencer, let us know when you have that test.Like soon, ok? You mean a lot to us all here. And the lessening of struggle to breath should you get what nowadays are very small cpaps will definitely help with tinnitus, as will, if need be, losing even 5 pounds. Things press on things when we are at winter weight, you know?

    • Brownies girl

      If you’re used to 3-10 am, and that’s your schedule, it doesn’t sound all that abnormal to me. Six to 8 hours is what I need and usually get. Doesn’t have to be totally dark, I sleep with the windows open/cracked during all seasons, streetcars rolling past all night 20 feet away (I live downtown on one of the major traffic streets in this city), ambulances, fire trucks, both with sirens – I sleep right through it. Except if the dogs whine and need to be let out — somehow that wakens me. I could fall asleep standing up in a corner, if I was tired enough and the company was boring. Plain old (new two years ago) medium foam mattress and a light duvet — fresh sheets from off the clothesline out back. Guess I’m grateful for being one of the 3% KP was talking about. I tried sleeping on a waterbed like you described, one time – I literally got seasick. Glad it works for you!

  • I feel my best after getting 8 hours of sleep. I am part of the 97% 🙂

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks Dr. P for this article. I hope you will write another and say more about heart issues that come from lack of sleep. Also, with regard to making the ‘nest’… Should be just as each persons likes. No reason to shortcut on pillows, certain kinds of blankies, or down or hypoallergenics or mattress soft or firm, which way bed faces, ease of reaching lamp, etc. Have it your way. So much so that when you think of the nest you think mmmm and ahhhh

    • JSpencer

      Another thanks to the doc! Speaking of the “nest”, I started using a pillow between my knees a few years back and it makes an amazing difference. Also I give my cats their last feeding late at night or they’ll start waking me up earlier than I want. Who needs an alarm clock when you have cats? 😉 One other thing, I have a window close to my head, which I always open a bit whenever the weather permits it. Nothing like fresh O2! I had to curtail that practice temporarily a few years back when a wren commandeered the territory and would start singing it’s heart out at first light and continue all morning. A lovely song, but even the best music wears thin with endless repetition. 🙂

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