Sleeping by the Cycle

It’s tough trying to be healthy all the time. Every now and then I succumb to magnum brownie ice-cream, donuts, scrumptious mud brownies with vanilla ice cream or any kind of spaghetti from pesto to carbonara. On weekends there are delicious buffets ranging from dim sum to Korean bbq to international buffets. Bangkok is a food lover’s paradise. Then there’s Games of Thrones and Da Vinci’s demons on DVD which had me staying up way past my bedtime on weeknights, anticipating what happens next. (Thank goodness am done until the next season.) I end up sleeping late, eating a lot (more often than I should) and lack the energy to go workout. I find excuses.  It’s a terrible vicious cycle. I gain weight, I get sluggish, I get moody. I wake up not feeling “fresh” as I should even though I still slept my seven or eight hours.

To improve the quality of our sleep (and our health), this past week Alex and I have been experimenting. We’ve been sleeping according to the sleep cycle and it feels amazing! We wake up refreshed and even awaken before the alarm clock goes off. There’s no grogginess or wanting to snooze in bed. The body wakes up naturally.

So what’s the thinking behind this? As you probably all know, we go through roughly four stages of sleep. In short, it begins with NREM (Non-rapid eye movement) with us in a stage of between sleep and wakefulness. Our eyes roll slowly, opening and closing. Then we start becoming harder and harder to awaken until we reach a stage where we are less responsive to the environment and do not react to what’s happening around us. The final stage is when we are in the REM (Rapid-eye movement) stage. We are in such a deep sleep that most of our muscles are paralysed. Interestingly, this is the most important stage in our sleep and important in helping us learn complex tasks.   It takes us roughly 90 minutes to finish a sleep cycle.

To avoid waking up in the middle of our dream stage or the REM stage, Alex and I determined the time we have to wake up and worked back five cycles to determine our bedtime. We made a conscious effort to make sure we were in bed and ready to doze off.  It has paid off and reminded us of the importance of quality sleep. We awaken feeling fresh and energised. It’s a wonderful feeling, and the best part? It results in my having less cravings for unhealthy foods.

Quality sleep = good health

Have a good weekend everyone and wish you all some quality sleep! Let me know if it works for you 🙂

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Be human

Sometimes things happen when you least expect it.  Life brings along its paths many experiences and opportunities yet it is your decision whether to grab the opportunity, make something of it and live the experience, or just simply go with the flow.  If you spend your days pondering the consequences of your possible actions and do nothing, debating the pros and the cons, then the one thing you can be sure is this:  nothing will get done.  Life will go on as it does and pass by.  To be happy, as in many other things, depend on your own actions.

This morning I listened to a youtube video on Happiness 101 by Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar.  I loved it.

Many of the things he said are things I’ve been pondering about in life as I am sure have many people.   What is it that makes one happy?  Is it money? Is it wealth? The answer isn’t.

Happiness depends mainly on your own actions. To be happy, requires participation and devotion.  You are responsible for your own happiness. No one else is.

Remind yourself of how blessed you are.  Remind yourself of the things that you are grateful for in life.  Think positive.  Exercise.  Take time to be with your family and the people you love.  Allow yourself to be human.  No one is perfect.

Sleep.

Simple isn’t it? Easier said than done.  Good night my dear readers. Be happy.

Sleep is good.

I need my sleep but sometimes I wonder, why do we sleep? Do I really need to sleep? If I didn’t sleep I could spend more waking hours doing a million more things.

Why we sleep though is a question that has been asked for centuries and still no one really knows the answer. I do not know why I sleep, but I know that if I do not get enough sleep, the next day becomes a waste of a day. I get headaches, feel groggy and my concentration level is low. This lack of sleep is what scientists have been studying for centuries in an attempt to better understand why we sleep.

Scientists study these various effects of sleep defiency to better understand sleep. Without it, our cognitive skills would be harmed and brain development probably affected. If you think humans sleep to save energy, the BBC article “The Science of Sleep” mentions that for eight hours of sleep, we only save about 50kCal which is very minimal. One piece of my Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie is already 60KCal. A cup of non-fat yogurt is 80KCal. I suppose we don’t sleep to save energy.

According to the article, continued lack of sleep will result in a shut down of part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time. Actually going 17 hours without sleep decreases your performance to the equivalent level of if you had drank two glasses of wine.

No wonder my brain feels tired after a long day. Judgements are not as good and people respond slower to situations.

The article also mentions that lack of sleep is detrimental for emotional and physical health. I agree. On days where I did not get enough sleep the previous night, I am more emotional. If I’ve been sleeping little, I also find that my weight gain is faster. This is because hormones and chemicals that control appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.

As the clock is now ticking, I think I shall have to end here and get a good nights sleep. Have a good night dear friends. Enough sleep for a person is “when it is enough not to make you sleepy during the day time”. Some need 4 hours, some need 8 hours. How much do you need? Do you know?

Sleep Well, Sleep Tight, Sleep Early

Since it was just the New Years in Thailand and New Years is not only a time for celebration but also of resolutions, I made one more this past week.  It’s something I’ve been working on for the past month but I keep getting drawn back into this vicious cycle of sleeping late, waking up late, feeling groggy, lacking energy and so forth.  It’s a horrible cycle to be in.  I feel exhausted but its so hard to get out of.

I therefore have a new resolution to sleep early, latest by 22.30hrs.  

It might sound a bit early to most, but to me it makes a big difference.  The past two days I’ve managed to get myself to bed early and the result is a much more energetic, happier and fresher me.  My brain is clearer and I find myself more focused at work.  I run better and I am not as out of breath. I work better when I’ve had good quality sleep.

This is even though I sleep the same amount of hours as if I went to sleep at midnight or 1am, but I think the quality of sleep I get from sleeping early makes all the difference.

I remember reading a study awhile back about how during 22.00hours to 5.00hrs your body has finished digesting food, your organs start to rest and the darkness outside sets your body clock to sleep.  Of course with lights, we can stay up all night if we want to,  but our bodies know the difference.

From my experience,  I think it’s the sunrise that affects my sleep.  As the lights peak in through the curtains, my sleep probably isn’t as deep as if it were pitch black outside.  You start hearing soft murmus of chirping birds through the windows and the sounds of life awakening all around.  All this you hear much more clearly when you are sleeping.  Any little noise seems to be on high volume when I am trying to sleep.

The hardest part of this resolution though is trying to get everything done by my dedicated bedtime.  There are always a million things I want to do when all is quiet at night.  The list is endless. 

What time do you sleep?  Does sleeping early make you feel more fresh? 🙂 Please share your opinions.

“Good night” my dear readers, sleep well and sleep tight until tomorrow 🙂

The Trumpet of Health

Ever since I’ve moved house earlier this year, I’ve had the opportunity to see another part of life I had never previously seen.  I now live next to a military base that is also open to the public. Cars pass through in and out to get to the main road on the other side of the base.  Most mornings and evenings that’s the route I’d take.  Unexpectedly though, on a quiet day you can be most certain to hear the sounds of soldiers in training.  Just half an hour ago as I lay on my bed relaxing, a beautiful sound came through the window.  It was the sound of trumpets playing a tune that reminds me of war movies.

It was 9pm.  Like an alarm clock, every evening and not a minute late,  the sound of trumpets playing a tune will echo through the air and flow through all the houses in the surrounding area.  It sounds magical.  If you wake up early, you’re hear the same tunes being played at the wake of dawn.  5am.  These are the times the soldiers wake up each morning and go to bed each evening. 

I have to admit its a healthy lifestyle.  8 hours of sleep everyday.  I wish I could always give myself that, but not being very disciplined, I’m always staying up later than I should.  Not only do these healthy soldiers sleep early and wake up early, they exercise and train all day.

During the mornings, I see troops running and exercising whilst I am just groggily going off to work.   In the late afternoon,  you can hear them march with synchronized shouts of “1,2” in Thai.  It feels and sounds powerful.

Watching and witnessing all this around me, I realize how healthy these soldiers must be to protect our country.  They have to be alert, bodies in top shape.  If not, an out of shape soldier would be hard to imagine running around.

Healthy, is how we all should be.  Of course, most of us probably won’t be able to afford spending all day exercising and training, but if we just slept earlier, woke up a little earlier, and did a little more exercise, how good life would be.  I have yet to sleep by the sound of the trumpet and wake up to its tune.  I wonder though how it will be.  Must be refreshing.  I’d also have an extra hour to go exercise before going to work.   Now my 7am workout is sometimes too close for call.