Consider Sleep as a Symptom of Brain Health

English: Lou Ruvo Brain Institute

English: Lou Ruvo Brain Institute (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the brain gets sick, what does it look like?  Do we grow warts, or turn purple or loose our thumbs?  How does our brain say,

Help!

Through emotions and behaviors.  That’s how.

If we were an internist, a primary care physician, we would look at the vital signs.  We’d put our fingers on the wrist, count beats of the heart and breathing, and measure the pressure in the blood filled arteries.  This would tell us some of the story, the introduction to the body.

A church secretary came in complaining of indigestion times two weeks….

Or,

In a far off land, there once was a young maiden who by chance came to a magic filled glade…

Smile.

How does one do this in psychiatry though?  We start with the vital sign of SLEEP.

A farmer in the vast expanse of corn fields went each night to his bed with determination, gritted teeth and racing thoughts.  He worried over things that others thought were insignificant.  He ruminated and chewed over information.  Making decisions followed him around as if each were a crisis life balanced on.  The farmer was awake in the night for hours before his mind turned off.  And when he awakened, he was not refreshed….

Question:  Are you comfortable with considering sleep as a symptom of brain health?  When do you decide to look for medical reasons for poor sleep verses adjustment issues?  Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip:  Get to know your story to know better about your health.

Sleep Related Blog Posts – A Reference Guide

Sleeping German Shepherd

Sleeping German Shepherd (Photo credit: rightsandwrongs)

Organizing the “shelves” 🙂

  1. Sleep.  Be a Friend to Yourself.

  2. Sleep Hygiene – My Version

  3. Self-Care Does NOT Always Mean Doing What You Want

  4. Draw Sleep Hygiene Into Your Culture

  5. Sleep Is The Vital Sign Of Psychiatry

  6. Just Go To Sleep

  7. Good Sleep

  8. You Can’t Barter With It.  Sleep.

  9. Keep It Simple

  10. Regardless The Reasons Not To, Go Get Your Sleep

  11. Sleep Does Not Lose As Gracefully As He Lets Us Think

Fighting For Brain Health Is At The Core Of Being A Friend To Yourself

Nose-picking in progress.

Image via Wikipedia

Demanding what we cannot give is a cruel relationship with ourselves.  It is cruel that we must have insight to pursue health treatment for the brain whose variety of illness destroys our capacity to see into ourselves.

It’s one thing for us to choose not to do what we see is to be done.  We all choose not to take care of ourselves by degrees.  We all make choices against information and sight;

Smoking, exercise, sugar intake, sleep hygiene, working more hours, avoiding interpersonal connections, soda, driving fast, jay-walking, hand-washing, self-medication, self-injury, brushing hair from the top down, splashing our soup, flossing, nose-picking and eating with our mouth open.

Insight is there and we choose not to.

Even so, it is arrogant to presume insight into our own human condition and the more I know, the more I agree with the humility of any great teacher – there is so much out there that we don’t see into.  However this is critically different from the inability to see into and that is the cruel irony of requiring a decision that our brain is unable to be informed about.

There are a number of these.  I’m wondering if you can tell us about your own story of what healing has done for your ability to “see?”  It’s a service to many to know that fighting for brain health is at the core of being a friend to yourself.

Self-Care Tip – Fight for brain health – it is at the core of being a friend to yourself.

Good Sleep

Naruto Sleeping

Image by lyk3_0n3_tym3 via Flickr

When our day feels out of control, perhaps our night doesn’t have to be.

During sleep, our body replenishes hormones and chemical messengers that it needs so badly to cope with the many physical and emotional stressors throughout our day.  If we don’t sleep well, we can’t cope as well.  It is during sleep that our memory consolidates and we can see where that might affect us.  Poor sleep means poor day time memory, concentration and focus.

Focus on the part of sleep that we can influence.  This is called sleep hygiene.  Possibly we can choose what time to go to bed, what time to wake up, what is in our bedroom and what we do before bed.

Any parent knows that there are times when these things are not in our control but they also know that without a good nights rest, parenting during the day is much harder.  Pick any one of those things to start with, such as getting to bed at the same time every night, at a time that allows us to sleep a good 7+ hours for the night.  Chart our sleep in a sleep journal for a week to get a better sense of our own sleep train and the areas we can take control over.

Taking care of others means taking care of ourself.  “You can’t give what you don’t have.”  And without sleep, we have a lot less to give to ourself and others.

Self Care Tip – get good sleep.  Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  What does it offer you to know that the night doesn’t have to be another place of chaos in your life?  How has that improved your ability to be your own friend.

Become a Better Friend To Yourself In and With Your Culture

"Energy Crisis!" ...

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

A barrier to getting friendly with ourselves might be our culture.  The inverse of course could also be true.  ‘Takes culture to design the flavor of our homes and habits, our communities and the energy between us and them.  Think, TV in the bedroom, alcohol tasters offered to children, books or the absence of books on the floor and shelves.  Think religion and diet, family meals or take-out.  The way we deal with shame.  Culture is a gate-keeper for many of us.

We could call our culture, the way we live together at home, the balance between each family member and the flavor of emotions there.  Culture might be layered, wrapping us from one balance of energy into another into another creating our own galaxy between each point of light.  In any room, if we look we can find culture.  In any space outside, there is a flavor telling us how to maintain the balance between me and thee.

I don’t know if sociologists look at culture this way yet, but I hope they will.  With all that observing, data gathered and surmising, I hope they study how the individual can be a better friend to herself in “this” culture.  And then I hope they tell us.

Becoming an active designer of your culture is not always easy.  But it is friendly.

Questions:  How has your culture introduced you to your friend, “Me?”  How have you been able to develop a more friendly culture for Me to live in and grow in?  What’s still keeping you?  Please tell me your story.

Draw Sleep Hygiene Into Your Culture

hbofamily.com

Thomas didn’t want to organize his life.  It wasn’t fun when things were predictable.  Lately however, that was the problem.  He wasn’t having fun anyways.  Thank God for work.  It was the one firm construct in his life.  Wake up, shower, drive and work until he drove home.  It was like Harold and his purple crayon had drawn this into place but forgot to draw up the rest.  When to go to bed?  When to eat?  When to play?

“Harold!  Get back here.”  

Before, Thomas had resented any imposed restrictions on him.  He liked to graze.  Now, with bewildering awareness of his unhappiness and unbounded self, he wanted help.  If help meant medication and the opinion of others, then so be it.  At least until he found out what happened him.

When Thomas came in to see me, he said he had lost himself.  His personality had changed and he was suffering.  We approached things from the biopsychosocial model.  We ran labs, got him in to see his primary doctor for a physical, considered life-stressors and his support structure.  We started medication and we introduced sleep hygiene.  I almost lost Thomas there.  Changing his sleep was changing his culture and he had enough recollection of his identity to know that he had liked to stay up at night.

Out came the sleep journal.  Thomas turned his body away and looked at me sideways.  We agreed to try improving Thomas’ field of knowledge on sleep and see if he would buy into this for himself.  We set a time-frame for his research and decision.  If he didn’t do the work to get informed, than he’d go with my recommendations until his brain illness improved enough to allow him to do more for himself.  We’d work together with our purple crayon and drawing in some lines.

Sleep hygiene is one of those purple lines in our life that help us know a better sense of who we are.  It does this for many many reasons you can read more about in previous posts listed below if you like – but it does do it.  Regardless of our temperament, if we like to graze or run to the barn, we all need solid refreshing sleep.

Self-Care Tip – Use sleep hygiene as a tool to get friendly with yourself.  Don’t be afraid.

Questions – Do you consider sleep hygiene as a useful tool in your life?  Does it come naturally or do you have to work at it?  How do you draw your lines in?  Please tell me your story.

Related Articles:

Sleep Is The Vital Sign Of Psychiatry

Yesterdays brief post, Just Go To Sleep, provoked and inspired many of us.  Perhaps it was its brevity, it’s mostly blank canvas in other words, that allowed for such freedom.  The comments ranged from major depressive disorder hypersomnia type, to insomnia related to anxiety.  We covered medication induced sleep, to parasomnias.  Some of us have to fight hard for our sleep time and others of us fight to get away from sleep.

I’ve covered a bit already on sleep in previous posts you can read if you want to review:

What I haven’t done is organize for you, as you did so well for me in your comments yesterday, the different reasons we sleep the way we do.  This isn’t a quick flick to show you but I will touch on Carl D’Agostino‘s question when talking about depression with increased sleep,

“Is our brain allowing us to escape the depression this way?”

English: Monitor of vital signs in intensive c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love this question because it discloses simply by inquiry the full body involvement in the disease process of major depressive disorder.  Sleep is known as the vital signs of psychiatry.  It reflects what’s happening in the whole system, the whole person even down to a sore on your foot to the ravages of post traumatic stress disorder in your hypothalamus.  When sleep changes, we know to look into things.  There’s an investigation to be done.

 

 

We can, each of us, be part of the investigation:

  1. Maintain sleep hygiene.  Don’t indulge when we don’t want to go to bed.
  2. Observe our nights – is our sleep solid?
  3. If yes, is it restful?  Do we feel refreshed in the morning?  How is our day time energy?
  4. If not refreshing, why?  For example, do we snore?
  5. When do we have the most trouble – falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling back to sleep if we awaken?

When our sleep deteriorates, if nothing else has yet, we can bet it will soon if we don’t get our sleep restored.  Not everyone knows that during sleep, we heel, our hormones replenish and our memories consolidate.  Marie from blog-site, livingvictoriously, told us yesterday about her day time inattention after poor sleep,

“I have had nights with very little sleep that have left me feeling like I am unable to concentrate well the following day.” 

We all become a little drunk, disinhibited, inattentive and impulsive when we get little sleep.  Or opposite, as Carl described, with too much sleep we feel,

“vapid and uneventful.”  (Good word Carl, vapid.)

One of the sad times for me in clinic is when I meet a new patient who has suffered with insomnia for a long time along with another one or more combined brain illnesses and I fall into the, “what if’s?”  Knowing how much healing they would have gotten so long ago simply by getting sleep gets to me and I have to push it down and be grateful for the now, when I know they will find some relief.

Don’t minimize the role of sleep in our life.  Don’t minimize any changes in our sleep.  Take sleep seriously.  More serious than the rest of the stuff we usually ruminate over, like offenses taken, our appearance and the weight of our road bike.  If sleep changes, get a professional consultation.  If it doesn’t resolve, get another consultation and push and fight for your sleep.  It may be that health and lifestyle changes must happen.  Whatever it is, do it.  It is a friendly thing to do.

Questions:  What have you noticed about your whole body’s relationship to brain illness?  Has sleep been a part of it?  Did sleep harold any other important changes in your medical/emotional health?  Please tell us about it.

Self-Care Tip – Forget about sleep.  Just kidding.  Sleep well my friends.