sleep · winter

Waking to light instead of noise

Maybe it’s the Aikido influence but I think beginnings and endings really matter. This post focuses on beginnings. I am a fan of start as you mean to continue. I enjoy my mornings. I do some of my best writing in the morning. I love it when I have time to exercise in the morning. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love my bike ride to work. But as we move into darker days getting going can be a challenge.

I recently bought a lamp that’s meant to be useful in combatting seasonal affective disorder. I like it. But now the company is also marketing other things my way, like an alarm clock that works by simulating the morning light. I confess. I bought one. Also, I love it.

It’s much better than the Rock alarm clock. It’s much better than repeatedly hitting the snooze button on your phone alarm.

I love the gradual lightning of the room. I like the bright light at 6 am. If I’m well rested the light alone is enough to wake me. I wasn’t sure how it would work if I was not getting enough sleep. Answer: it didn’t really. Instead, I was woken up by the back up sound alarm. That was much less enjoyable but I’m glad it’s there.

fitness · sleep

Why is being well rested the privilege I’m too embarassed to talk about?

“I’m having a busy start of the university year and I rode my bike in a 100 km Gran Fondo on the weekend. I also slept 10 hours last night.”

I nearly posted that to Facebook in September after a busy weekend but I didn’t. It wasn’t the riding my bike that felt like boasting. It was the sleep!

I thought about all the blog followers and FB friends whose lives don’t allow 10 hours of sleep. I decided not to share.

These days I often go to bed early Sunday evening and begin the week pretty well rested, knowing that I can’t do it every night. I’ve got a lot of privilege in our society. I’ve got a lot of education and an amazing job. But the one privilege that I’m shy about admitting is that I’m often pretty well rested.

I don’t harp about my sleep habits mostly because I don’t want the late night Netflix watchers among you to think that I’m judgey. I’m not. I’m definitely not at all judgey about people with small kids, caring for elderly parents, or working long hard shifts. The thing is for me, I get tired in the evening and I have a hard time staying awake. If I put on Netflix I’d be “zzzzzz” within minutes. I joke that sleep is my super power. I get really tired in the evening and I feel like I can’t stay awake. We talk about the need to prioritize sleep but I often feel that I don’t have a choice.

I read this from the Nap Ministry about developing a sleep practise and I think the going to bed early on Sunday is definitely part of my sleep practice.

” Insight into your faithful Nap Bishop’s rest practice.
1. I do not rush or overbook my calendar. I view my calendar with intuition and I have never been lead astray by my intuition. Rest allows you to connect with what you really feel and know. Grinding keeps you in a cycle of trauma.
2. I will not argue or debate with anyone on social media. You will never worry me. Arguing takes away from time I can use to nap. It is a radical act for a black woman to decide and practice a “no arguing/debate” policy because most people use these platforms to argue and most people assume they have access to black women for this role. The theories of the Nap Ministry have close to 20 years of practice/research and 4 years of graduate studies in one of the top seminaries in country. If you wanna argue or don’t agree, don’t follow and go start your own organization and blog about it.
3. I rest everyday for at least 30 mins to an hour. I book my calendar so that it is possible. I may nap on the couch, stare out a window, rest my eyes while “

Photo of the Nap Bishop from their Facebook page

What’s your sleep practise look like? Do you have any commitments about sleep like the ones that Nap Bishop makes?

fitness · rest · sleep

No sleep for the homeless and fancy sleep for the rich? A quick update on luxury sleep

Recently (okay, yesterday) I blogged about the weirdness of high end, Manhattan napping classes. Luxurious guided naps for $22/hour in a fitness class context.

When I shared the story to Facebook, a friend reminded me of the drastic measures taken to stop homeless people from napping in public via hostile architrecture.

Here’s an example.

Metro stop bench is tilted so attempting to lay down ends up with you sliding off. From https://interestingengineering.com/15-examples-anti-homeless-hostile-architecture-that-you-probably-never-noticed-before?fbclid=IwAR2RZYPaQrG_de82–GKl8gViv03YjplUn-PPaemCZnq1mmGikDgi0MoqLc

I remember one time my partner Jeff tried unsuccessfully to spend the night in a park in Florida but was woken when sprinklers came on. They weren’t needed for watering. Their purpose just was keeping people from making the park their overnight home.

So for the rich there’s the privatization and commodification of sleep and for the poor, there’s the policing and forbidding of sleeping.

More than ever we need the Nap Ministry.

fitness · sleep

High end luxury fancy sleep

Sleep is getting strange. From the never sleep crowd to the sleep as personal revolution set, there’s a lot of talk these days about sleep. It even made the program of the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy conference we recently hosted at Guelph as the topic of one of the papers presented.

Feminist philosopher Cressida Heyes describes her feminist sleep project this way, “In 2017 I won a SSHRC Insight Grant for my new project, Sleep is the New Sex. Put simply, I hope to write the first feminist philosophy of sleep. This work continues Anaesthetics of Existence in its focus on liminal states of consciousness and their political consequences, but has a more obviously thematic focus and will be written in a more popular voice.”

Fascinating, right?

We blog about sleep a lot here too. I’ve got lots to say about sleep but the thing that weirds me out the the most is upscale sleep, expensive sleep, sleep with a price tag attached. Fancy sleep.

I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s note first that sleep tracks social privilege. For example, black Americans get a lot less sleep than white Americans. In fact, the difference in sleep quantity between the two groups may be enough to explain the difference in life expectancy between the two groups.

“The racial inequalities in the US are stark, but none are more damaging than the health gap between blacks and whites. On average, blacks die at a significantly younger age than whites.”

Here is a recent report on sleep differences between black and white Americans, Nobody Sleeps Better Than White People, Says Study. And here’s my response in a past blog post: Sleep and social privilege, or why rich white people like me should stop whining about how tired we all are

That important detail out of the way here’s three recent updates from the world of commodified sleep.

First, forget standing desks, napping desks are the next big thing.

Napping desk

Second, Toronto just got its first napping studio. The first adult nap room I encountered was for undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I was a new grad student and I knew that lots of the students, commuters all, led busy lives, taking classes and working, often in shifts that didn’t easily line up. I was happy to see that there was a nap room where you could sign in, nap, and be woken up when you needed to work or go to class. Now they even have nap pods.

Napping studio

Third, I just came back from a weekend in New York. While waiting for a friend, I spied this place, Inscape, a meditation studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that offers “deep rest” classes. You can read more about them here.

Here’s a photo of people in the “deep rest” class.

See also Sleep is the new status symbol.

I can’t imagine paying for napping classes. Spin classes, yes. Yoga, yes. Napping, no. Why does the latter strike me as incredibly privileged and so rich and wasteful while the former options do not? Would you take pricey nap classes?

I much prefer the activist, anti-consumerist approach of the Nap Ministry‘s public nap-ins. or collective nap experiences. “The 2nd Thursday of every month we will be at one of our favorite spaces with a FREE Pop-Up Rest Event. It is a perfect opportunity to experience our programming, meet the Nap Bishop, have a cup of tea, and curl up and rest with cozy yoga mats, pillows and blankets. You can drop in to catch a restorative cat nap or stay for a longer rest. We look forward to seeing you.” Their website includes advice for good places for public napping.

from https://thenapministry.app.rsvpify.com/ . A Nap Ministry Collective Napping Experience.
Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat’s still waiting to fall in love with her CPAP

About a year ago I went for a sleep study and got my results. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

You can read my original post here.

Seven months later I’ve gotten used to using the machine every night. I’m still waiting to fall in love with my CPAP.

Things that really helped me get through the first couple months was tapping into my social support network. I learned there were different types of masks and tried them. In the end the rabbit nose worked for me.

I learned I could use it without water or heat settings. Totally revolutionized my experience. I turned off the auto-on/off and ramp up features. Finally I told my device provider that it felt like trying to sleep with my face out of a car window. They contacted the prescribing doctor and they dropped my pressure 2 points. It made a big difference.

I’m not seeing big gains in feeling rested or a boost in my mood or metabolism. So much for that! I definitely no longer snore so my partner and my throat are much happier. My blood pressure dropped 5 points. So some gains.

I had a follow up sleep test that was less invasive due to some changes in equipment. Less wires and not being tethered to the wall made a big difference. Natalie’s unimpressed face stares at the camera with wires and tape attached.

Ya. My expression is accurate. I’m tolerating and complying but I wouldn’t even say I’m feeling neutral about it.

I’m accepting but, when I really take a moment, I resent the CPAP and strongly dislike it. I miss slipping into bed and cuddling to my sweetie, my forehead pressed into the nap of his neck.

I miss spontaneous sex and even just going to sleep without the whole mask donning production.

My many friends who use these types of breathing devices assure me with time I will love it. I hope so.

rest · sleep · traveling · yoga

Sam has a bad flight and is fighting jet lag

I often claim that sleep is my superpower! 

I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.

But right now I’m in Munich, speaking at a conference on Neglected Relationships.

” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.

My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.

I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!

My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.

Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.

Glass bowls of salad and dressing. Yum!
fitness · rest · sleep

#NapOrWorkout

Image description: White sleeveless t-shirt that reads “KINDA WANNA WORKOUT> KINDA WANNA TAKE A NAP.”

There’s a social media hashtag that amuses me, #NapOrWorkout.

Mostly the people who use it are sharing about their drive to overcome the desire to nap and make it to the gym. It’s presented as a struggle. And I get it.

But on Twitter there are a few people who are taking it literally, as an actual choice goal. Like when I was in grad school my roommate had this deal with herself each night she’d either floss or do sit-ups. So the Twitter person is treating nap or workout that way. Each day she pledges to either nap or workout. I kinda love it.

Lots of people think that naps are an essential part of self-care.

Have a look at Tracy’s latest post about the Nap Ministry.

Me, I’m online shopping/browsing for deck furniture. I thought about an outdoor desk for writing but then started looking at furniture for napping!

fitness · sleep

Can leaving the light or TV on at night make you gain weight? Shining light on the subject

This week in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers published an article analyzing the relationship between artificial light at night (which they call ALAN– hi, Alan!) and increased risk of weight gain among women (they used a large cohort of women for the study). They say that exposure to ALAN does increase the risk of weight gain, and “further prospective and interventional studies could help elucidate this association and clarify whether reducing exposure to ALAN can promote obesity prevention.”

In other words:

As you can imagine (or even saw), the popular press was all over this.

What should we make of this? Before reading the study (yes, I read through the original, so you don’t have to), I thought, “of course they’ll find an association between ALAN and weight gain. Light exposure disturbs and disrupts sleep, reduces quality and duration, etc. We know all this can contribute to weight gain.”

But, it turns out that their results are (as usual, in science) really complicated. Here are some of the complex results:

  • The association between ALAN and increased risk of weight gain was stronger for women with lower BMIs (< 25 and <30) than women with higher BMIs (>30);
  • The association between ALAN and increased risk of weight gain was stronger for women who ate healthier diets and for women with increased leisure-time physical activity;
  • Women who slept with no light in the room, who ate a less healthy diet and/or who did less leisure-time physical activity had increased risk for weight gain;

So women who weighed less or who ate more so-called healthy diets or who were more physically active were more at risk for weight gain from light sources while sleeping than those who weighed more, ate less so-called healthy diets, or who were less physically active. Could this be because the added factor of light pales, as it were, in comparison to other potential factors? Reading the details did not shed much light for me here. The researchers also didn’t offer an explanation.

Here’s a less surprising result from the article:

Women with greater exposure to ALAN had higher mean BMI… and were more likely to be non-Hispanic black. They were less likely to have consistent waking and bedtime patterns and more likely to have less sleep, take a longer time to fall asleep, wake up at night, and take naps. They also used less sleep medication.

How we sleep and how we eat are related in a bunch of ways. How we sleep and how our bodies respond are also related in a bunch of ways, which include socio-economic, geographic and other external features outside of individual eating and activity behaviors. Women who sleep less, have less control over their sleep schedules, have regular sleep disruption, but don’t take sleep medication are bound to experience increased stress and other behavioral effects. And we know that black women, according to many sources, are more likely to sleep less and also suffer from sleep disorders (like sleep apnea), even controlling for BMI.

The researchers know this, too, and admitted as much (although they focused on individual factors rather than the social determinants of health, which I think diminishes their analysis):

We were unable to disentangle the temporal relationship between exposure to ALAN and other factors, including unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and other sleep characteristics. Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility that the association between ALAN and obesity is not causal, despite multivariable adjustment and various sensitivity analyses.

So no, ALAN is not good for us (sorry, Alan!). But the reasons why we sleep with light vary a lot, depending on the constraints and realities of our lives. We may have control over some of these factors, and no control at all over others.

My main takeaway is this: sleeping in darkness is a necessity, but for many of us it’s a luxury we can’t have as often as we might need it. Here’s to blissful darkness for everyone.

Readers, do you sleep in darkness? Do you use a sleep mask? I do. Do you want light in your room when you sleep? Do you have to deal with light sources that you’d rather not? Do light sources provide comfort or company? I’m curious about what your habits are.

Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat gets cozy with her new CPAP

Fitness friends I do love talking about health, wellness and fitness as they intersect in my life.

Last fall I had gone to my family doctor about my snoring. I was referred to a sleep clinic. Both at no cost to me as I am a resident in Ontario, Canada. Go public health care!

I didn’t have a great time at the sleep clinic. The setting, the wires digging into my scalp and the pressure of the sensors on my throat triggered a series of panic attacks and migraines. Ya. It sucked.

Natalie lies in bed with over 12 wires and sensors attached to her face, scalp and neck. There are two sensors up her nose. Her head is on a pillow and we can see the trail of wires going out of shot.

The downside of public health care is it took 4 months to get my results. Despite only sleeping for just over 2 hours there was enough data to diagnose me with sleep apnea.

I had hoped it would be more of a manage my allergies type of solution to help reduce swelling in my airway.

The doctor recommended Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). I had a vague sense of what the machines were and was not prepared to take that on.

I asked about options. There’s a dental appliance that is more expensive and less effective. Surgery works in some cases 50% of the time. After a quick look at my nose and throat the specialist didn’t recommend surgery. Apparently the floppy throat bits they usually remove aren’t the ones causing my type of snoring. DAMNIT

The doctor outlined the dangers of sleep apnea both to help me understand why some intervention was required and to motivate me not to wait.

Friends, I have pretty serious sleep apnea, the kind that causes heart attacks in your fifties, and I was super upset. I was supposed to go into work after my appointment but ended up taking the day off and getting my CPAP.

The adjustment phase has been challenging. I’ve experienced every possible side effect from sinus infections, rashes on my face, condensation in the tube, swollen face, actually getting significantly less sleep. GAH!

Plus, the mask, is, well….not an invitation for spontaneous intimacy.

Natalie tried to smile with a five point harness that is holding a nose covering mask and a tube coming out of the middle.

I’m motivated to getting used to this therapy for my health. My partner is committed to learning more and helping me advocate for my health. He got me a Red Velvet Cake in celebration of taking a positive step for my health. Through the awesomeness of social media I have tapped into a deep well of peer support of friends who I never knew used CPAP.

I’m thinking back to how much mornings have truly sucked over the past decade and kicking myself for not seeking help sooner.

The sleep clinic doctor mentioned that the degree of sleep apnea I have is highly correlated to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. He explained that oxygen deprivation suppresses metabolic rates as well as reducing the energy you have to do the activities you love.

Headshot of Natalie looking very tired.
I get to be more tired before I get to feel rested.

So I’m committed to my health and I’m very fortunate that 75% of the cost of my machine is covered by my public health care. The remainder will be covered by my private insurance.

I had a twinge of ableist reaction to learning that sleep apnea is clustered under disability funding. I don’t feel disabled by my sleep apnea. I’m annoyed. I’m tired. I’m fortunate my daily activities weren’t drastically impacted.

The CPAP machine is a necessary assistive device in my life, like my night guard, my reading glasses, insoles and my blood pressure medication.

I’m hopeful that once I adjust to this change I’ll feel more rested and able to do more of the things I enjoy in life.

Currently I’m saving up to buy a portable power source so I can continue to enjoy off grid camping in the near future.

Tell me about your own CPAP adventures!

fitness · rest · self care · sleep

Sleep and other forms of rest

Image description: against a yellow background the words: “You are exhausted physically and spiritually because the pace created by this system isfor machines and not a magical and divine human being. You are enough. Rest. The Nap Ministry”

We blog about sleep and rest quite a bit around here. I’m keenly aware of this topic right now because I’m 10.5 time zones away from home, with disrupted sleep, and I’m taking a time out from my Around the Bay Training to go easy on my knee/IT band issue.

Approaching my trip to India last week I had an empty tank, a backlog of work I couldn’t get done even if I’d had no sleep, and my left knee was bothering me because of an IT issue from my long distance runs for Around the Bay training. The unsettled weather (freezing cold, then snow, then freezing rain, then rain) didn’t help. I hadn’t felt that run down since last winter. I literally couldn’t wait to get on the plane so I could zone out for the next 20 hours while enroute.

This is why the above message from the Nap Ministry speaks to me. The pace. It’s not human. And yet I can’t seem to slow down for any appreciable length of time unless I get sick, travel (and even then, it’s not always to a slower pace), or hit the wall in such a way that I get a case of the “eff-its.” India happened as a convergence of the second and third of these possibilities, with “sick” likely to follow soon if I hadn’t taken off.

What causes me (us?) to go go go like this when we know it’s too much? I know I fall prey to the idea that I have to do it or I’ll let people down/be a failure/reveal myself to be a pretender — pretending to be on top of things, pretending to be good at what she does, pretending to be smart and effective, pretending… I try to keep up so I won’t let people down and won’t let people see me down.

But we’re not machines. The Nap Ministry has reassured us that we are enough. We get to rest. And in that spirit, after a very long day of sight seeing yesterday that included the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, with a combined time of over four hours on our feet, I took a time out this morning to stay in my hotel room. Granted, I stayed in to do some work, but I also needed a bit of a retreat.

It felt self-nurturing and right to come back to my room after breakfast, read a few student papers, and then curl up under my covers for another hour before meeting up with people at 1:30.

My knee hasn’t bothered me since I left. I’ve had enough sleep the past couple of days. I’m still behind on work. But I’m feeling more rested today than I did the day I left. To me that’s a win.

Namaste.

Are your sleep and rest adequate? If so, what’s your secret? If not, what holds you back from getting enough?

Image description: Tracy walking towards the camera wearing low boots, slim fit pants, a black long sleeved jacket, two scarves, sunglasses, and carrying a camera. In the background Taj Mahal, blue sky, green grass, and throngs of people.