A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Food and Sleep

Two very basic necessities which are inexorably linked.

I’ve had insomnia for as long as I can remember. As a child, my mother would creep upstairs with laundry baskets at midnight trying not to wake anyone only to find me reading in bed, or before I could read just looking at the pictures.

I attribute my sleeplessness most often to a busy head; I have too many thoughts to fall asleep. When it’s time for rest, my imagination would far rather play – usually with happy things but as I grew older and matured that imaginative trait would turn into cruel worry more often than not.

Sometimes, I simply don’t want to sleep; because life is too short and I have too much else I’d rather be doing.

Sometimes the very concept of sleep kind of freaks me out. I mean – think about it, when you’re focusing on falling asleep you can’t. So when does that strange twilight moment happen when your brain distracts itself enough to not be paying attention to… well… anything? And then you loose consciousness. I mean if you really really think about it, sleep is a very strange thing.

Thinking about that will keep you up at night.

There’s also the fact that I don’t ever sleep peacefully; I have nightmares. When I’m not having nightmares I have very vivid dreams. Sometimes they’re a lot of fun, but sometimes they’re confusing or I wake up wondering; is someone trying to tell me something? Sometimes I dream things that happen later. Could be pure coincidence or just the natural trait of thinking about and thus dreaming about things that my conscious mind knows are probably going to occur – it all depends on what you really believe about sleep.

But my metaphysical dream journeying aside, I have at varying points in my life had no less than four separate conditions that doctors classify as ‘sleep disorders’. Insomnia is the chief one, but in addition to that I have woken up in places other than where I fell asleep (very disconcerting), had mind scrambling nightmares and also suffered something called ‘sleep paralysis’; where the conscious brain wakes but can’t make the connection to the body, causing me to suffer a paralyzed state until I could shake it off. That one is easily the least pleasant. Back in medieval times they used to refer to it as ‘having a hag on your chest’; they believed it to be a supernatural attack of some sorts by a nasty critter.

And speaking of nasty critters I often wake up with what appear to be fingernail scratches all over me. The logical conclusion would be that I’m scratching myself in my sleep, except they frequently appear on my back where I cannot possibly reach. Again, looking forward to waking up with claw marks all over me is yet another in a long list of things that make me less than thrilled with the prospect of closing my eyes at night.

I also sometimes dream ‘lucid’ meaning that I’m aware of being asleep and control the dream state. That one is actually pretty fun, so I don’t classify it among my disorders.

So how does this connect to diet? According to most of the learned researchers I’ve been able to read, an average person trying to be healthy needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night. A person trying to loose weight needs that even MORE. Apparently there’s some kind of stress hormone that builds up when you don’t rest that causes your body to hold onto fat more tightly. And then there’s just the obvious; the more you’re asleep the less time you have to wander the house Midnight snacking.

I average five hours of sleep per night. When in vehicles I fall asleep almost instantly because I’m so exhausted all the time that the moment I’m still and undistracted I’m out like a light. Plus I guess I like the soothing sound of a car, or something like that.

Somehow I need to make peace with my personal sleep-demons… because this constant deficit of tiredness is making my long road seem that much more like a slow, upward incline.

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