health · sleep

Christine Goes Medieval On Her Sleep

When my kids were babies, they never quite got the knack of sleeping. For 5 years of my life, I was awake every 90 minutes (or less) until they both were finally (mostly) sleeping through the night.* Ever since then, it takes only the smallest interruption in my sleep pattern to throw my mind back to that time when I was doing the best I could, managing on very little sleep, and just feeling a little out of it all the time. Even a single night of weird sleep sends some part of my brain into a spin about getting stuck in that situation again.

A few years ago, I was having trouble sleeping and I figured out that using a sleep mask was the solution to getting better sleep and feeling more rested. I’m still using a sleep mask but I’ve been through a few different ones since then. My current favourite is an Alaska Bear sleep mask which is not shaped like a bear, covered in a bear print, or made of bear fur and it neither transports me to Alaska nor does it turn me into a bear but it does, despite all of that, it help me sleep.

I’ve been having a good go of it with my sleep since the sleep mask discovery. The occasional bad night, like everyone has, but no recurring issues. Until the last month or so when an external factor has been weighing in.

A gif of Dean from the TV show Supernatural leaning in between two people having a conversation and asking ‘Am I interrupting something?’​
A gif of Dean from the TV show Supernatural leaning in between two people having a conversation and asking ‘Am I interrupting something?’

The Situation

One of my family members semi-regularly needs my help with a minor but persistent health issue at some point between 1am and 2am. It’s not every night but it may be a few nights in a row, or every second night for a while, or a couple of times in a week. You get the idea.

Technically, I *could* let them deal with it on their own and just get my sleep. But it’s really important to me to be able to support the person who needs my help. And the whole thing is temporary so I’d really rather be there to help and just figure out how to minimize the effects on my sleep until the situation passes.

Solution Attempt #1

Since, under normal circumstances, I go to bed at 11:30 or 12, I tried just staying up later and just managing with less sleep.

That was not ideal.

A GIF of a baby sitting on a pink couch, the baby falls asleep and tips forward to ​land on their face on the cushion. (There is an adult next to them, don’t panic!) text at the bottom reads ‘I’m sooo sleepy.’
A GIF of a baby sitting on a pink couch, the baby falls asleep and tips forward to land on their face on the cushion. (There is an adult next to them, don’t panic!) text at the bottom reads ‘I’m sooo sleepy.’

Apparently, I need at least 7 hours sleep to be relatively human the next day and for my ADHD meds to work the way they should. My meds do make things better even when I am sleepy but the sleepiness is an added obstacle that I do not need while I am trying to focus on the work of the day.

Solution Attempt #2

Then I tried taking what I was calling ‘a nap’ from 10:30 or 11:00pm and getting my family member to wake me when they needed me.

This worked a lot better. I was getting enough sleep overall but I was finding it challenging to get back to sleep once I was up. (I think this is a carry-over from when the kids were small. 99% of the time, once I am up for more than a few minutes, I am AWAKE and I could stay up for hours.)

A GIF of a lemur (or marmoset?) with huge eyes who is chewing on a snack while facing the camera. Text beneath reads ‘WIDE AWAKE.’​
A GIF of a lemur (or marmoset?) with huge eyes who is chewing on a snack while facing the camera. Text beneath reads ‘WIDE AWAKE.’

Even with being fully awake shortly after going to sleep, it was still better than staying up extra late. And I figured out how to optimize that nap – doing some of my before bed routines earlier in the evening so I could shorten the time between ‘I should go to bed’ and actually lying down, making sure that I had the right weight and texture blankets, using my mask but leaving a small light on so I slept well but not too deeply and so on.

Basically, I was using one of my most useful skills – making the best of a tricky situation – and applying it to a temporary challenge.

All The Feelings, Damn It

But, I was still finding it a bit tricky. I didn’t love the fact that, when I settled in at 10:30 or so, I was going to be interrupted so soon.** It didn’t often stop me from falling asleep but it made me feel a bit cranky about the whole thing, even though I have willing signed on to support my family member. I didn’t want to feel cranky and I certainly didn’t want them to think that I resented their need for help.

Obviously, my feelings are valid and I can feel however I feel about the situation. But I didn’t want to get so caught up in those feelings that I generated any extra distress – not for me and not for my family member.

A GIF of a small child banging on a window and looking overwhelmed with their feelings. The word FEELINGS is in red text below.
A GIF of a small child banging on a window and looking overwhelmed with their feelings. The word FEELINGS is in red text below.

After all, I can’t choose my feelings but I can choose how I act on them. I knew I needed to reframe how I was thinking about the whole situation so I could act more effectively.

Samantha To The Rescue

On Saturday, Samantha saved the day by posting this BBC article about bi-phasic sleep by Zaria Gorvett: The forgotten medieval habit of ‘two sleeps’

The funny thing is, I have read about bi-phasic sleep before. If *you* had told me that you had to sleep in two chunks and that you felt weird about it, my brain would have tossed enough facts from that old article at me that I could have used them to help you reframe your thinking.

My brain did not choose to cough up those facts for me until I saw Samantha’s post.

But as soon as I read ‘bi-phasic’ sleep, I thought ‘OH! That’s what I’m doing!’ and my brain immediately began to reshape the story I have been telling myself about how I am sleeping.

Suddenly, I wasn’t having interrupted sleep, I was having bi-phasic sleep.

I had gone medieval and I didn’t recognize it!

A GIF created to look like a ​medieval tapestry. A group of people in medieval clothing are dancing in a jerky fashion while the words’ frolic hard’ flash on and off at the top.
Okay, so I’m not thinking of being awake at 1am as a party but recognizing it as a possible sleep pattern is helpful. Image description; A GIF created to look like a medieval tapestry. A group of people in medieval clothing are dancing in a jerky fashion while the words’ frolic hard’ flash on and off at the top.

I was getting up after my first sleep to support a family member and perhaps do a little reading or drawing before starting my second sleep.

That reframing puts a whole new slant on things.

It takes away the idea of the interruption as a problem and makes it a structure for my night’s sleep.

And, as mentioned in the article, it removes any anxiousness about being awake in the middle of the night. This is probably not how I will sleep forever but it is one way that people *can* sleep. I’m not sleeping ‘wrong’ and I am not doing something detrimental.

I’m just practicing bi-phasic sleeping at the moment and, by framing it that way, my brain can settle in around the pattern and stop trying to solve the ‘problem’ of being awake at 1:30am.

A GIF representation of my brain since reading the article. Image description: a small white dog sleeps in a red hammock as the hammock rocks slowly back and forth over some green grass dappled with sunshine.​
A GIF representation of my brain since reading the article. Image description: a small white dog sleeps in a red hammock as the hammock rocks slowly back and forth over some green grass dappled with sunshine.

*If you are warming up your fingers to type some advice about what I *should* have done back then, save your energy because I won’t play. I tried everything. I did all kinds of research. There are all kinds of things you can do to encourage sleep but sleep is neurological thing and sometimes all you can do is wait for the situation to change or a baby’s brain to mature a bit. If you know someone whose baby is not sleeping, don’t give them advice, give them support. Zip over there early in the morning so they can get back to sleep before they fully wake up for the day. Stay late at night so they can grab a nap before the evening circus starts. Run errands for them. Take the baby for a walk so they can do some yoga nidra. Just don’t offer more damn advice. They have tried it already and all the advice is starting to feel judgmental and aggressive. Trust me on this.

**I imagine that everyone hates interruptions and I can’t speak for how the neurotypical brain deals with them. For someone with ADHD, knowing that you will be interrupted (whether that interruption is scheduled or just impending) can put you into the dreaded ‘waiting mode‘ which prevents you from immersing yourself in what you are doing because you know that you are going to have to switch tasks.

fitness · link round up · sleep

Fit is a Feminist Issue Friday Link Round Up #109: Zzzzz!

In my newsfeed this week there were two articles that kept appearing, Are you getting too much sleep? and What Sleeping Less Than 6 Hours A Night Does To Your Brain.

From the ‘too much’ piece: “A new study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, Missouri, which monitored 100 adults in their mid to late seventies over several years, apparently found an association between less than five and a half hours’ sleep or, rather astonishingly, more than seven and a half hours and declining cognitive performance. The “sweet spot”, where cognitive function remained stable, was in “the middle range” (ie 5.5-7.5 hours) of total sleep time.”

From the ‘6 hours or less isn’t enough’ piece: “The researchers found that those who are sleep-deprived had more than a twofold greater risk of colds and flu. In those people who are vaccinated, we see an increased development of antibodies to combat the viral pathogen, and that’s accelerated when you couple vaccine appointments with healthy sleep duration.”

So more than seven and a half hours is too many and less than six is too few. Got it.

There’s even more sleep news today!

Unsteady on your feet? Why sleep deprivation is ruining your walk

7 Secrets of a Super Sleeper, Revealed

People who sleep naked twice as likely to have a good night’s rest!

Five of the best podcasts: sleep-inducing sounds and stories

Black and white photo of a cat sleeping in a bed. Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash
Sat with Nat · self care · sleep · walking

Nat tries to keep an East Coast mindset in Southwestern Ontario

Recommended Soundtrack: Blow Up by The Beaches

It’s only a few weeks of being back in Ontario and I can already feel the sense of calm contentment slipping that had settled over me in New Brunswick.

It’s partly that I know more about what to do here, where to go, who to see and there is just more of those things and so little time to do them!

Thanks to my partner, we had taken a bit of a tourist’s view of New Brunswick and we are looking to bring that with us in London. If you only had a weekend here, what would you do? Where would you go?

So we are making plans to see more sections of the Thames Valley Trail. Walking has remained our foundational activity, rain or shine.

It’s low cost, low equipment and easy to just get up and go!

Natalie and Michel smile at the camera with a beautiful walking bridge behind them. There are young people enjoying the view in the background.

Last Saturday we accidentally walked 10 km of the North Branch so I could see the beautiful new path and bridges. It’s along the river and through the southern portions of property owned by The Sisters of St Joseph, Scouts Canada and the Ivy Leadership Centre. It’s beautiful.

I’m grateful we have both cultivated enough mobility to spontaneously go on a decent walk. Good shoes help as well as all the little walks we do each day.

My legs are strong and flexible, my feet feel good, it’s nice to be a pedestrian tourist and see new sides of the city I’ve lived in for 16 years.

So I’m working on staying in the moment, carefully leaving unspoken for time in my life and scheduling time with friends.

What are you up to this month?

fitness · meditation · rest · sleep · yoga · Zwift

Sleep, stress, and exercise: Sam’s vicious cycle

I’m the Nap Queen. Sleep is my super power. I prioritize rest. These are some of the songs I sing on the blog.

La La La.

La la la la

But lately it feels more like…

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I have a very stressful job and lately I haven’t been sleeping that well. I’m worrying a lot.

So I have been tired and also some days, not feeling much like hard exercise. I mean, I’m still working out. I still bike commute. I still throw a little yoga in here and there. I walk Cheddar and I do some rowing on the erg. But my passion for big. heavy lifting or long efforts on the bike? Nope. Nada.

That’s very not me. So I’ve been listening to the voice that says ‘more rest.’ I’m going to bed early.

But it hasn’t really been helping. I’m sleeping but I am not sleeping that well. Stress and heat are both factors but also without the serious exercise, I’m just not that tired.

One thing that’s occurred to me that is that I use exercise to burn off stress and it makes me tired. The combo makes for an excellent night’s sleep. I slept my best during the pandemic when I was zwifting 5 or 6 nights a week. If I’m too tired to work out, I don’t exercise in the evening and then I have a crappy night’s sleep.

Listening to your body doesn’t always mean more rest. Sometimes the message is more complicated than that.

I’m going to try exercising even when I don’t feel like it, knowing I’ll feel better after. I’m usually the sort of person who uses exercises as a reward. It’s a fun thing that I do. I might have to change my thinking a bit.

I’m going to also look for some non exercise stress relief. I’ve got Adriene’s Find What Feels Good app on my phone and I might see what night time yoga and meditation do for my sleep.

What helps you get a good night’s sleep?

Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat confused fatigue with caffeine addiction aka CPAP year 2

Recommended soundtrack: Breathing Underwater by Metric

Folks I recently had the great joy and privilege to come home to New Brunswick after not seeing family & friends for 2 years due to travel restrictions to mitigate COVID 19.

Some Canadians, especially those of us born on the East Coast and who live somewhere else, love a good road trip. I certainly do, having made the trek from Ontario to New Brunswick regularly since 1993. Ya. That’s a lot of kilometers friends, roughly 1,600 km each way!

I was nervous about being on major highways after an 18 month hiatus. I hadn’t left London since Christmas 2019. I was worried about how achy I would be, but especially how tired I would get.

But then something unexpected happened, I didn’t get bone tired. I didn’t reach for coffee the first leg of the drive. It was after 6pm and we drove from London, Ontario to Brockville. It’s roughly 5 hours and a third of the way. It makes the second day much more reasonable.

We arrived later than expected because traffic and life. But. I wasn’t dead tired.

The next morning I got up, packed and was on the road for an hour before we grabbed coffees and breakfast. So. Weird.

The thing is, for almost 30 years, I was the walking dead in the morning. Frighteningly tired. Every. Morning.

So I drank coffee, a lot of it. I blamed a weak will, a hedonistic personality, and a myriad of other character flaws because “everyone knows” caffeine addiction makes for terrible mornings.

But. Uh. Folks. There’s something that changed since my last road trip, regular use of a CPAP machine.

It wasn’t an easy transition. I’m now thinking I’m almost to neutral about wearing it, which is tremendous progress. I definitely don’t love it but now I am appreciative of its slow but steady support of my sleep and rest.

I still love coffee but I can wait a few hours in the morning. I have become a bit of a morning person. No one is more surprised than I!

So when we drove into my parents’ dooryard I arrived tired but not a mess. It was such a huge change. I don’t know I would have noticed if it hadn’t been so long since I had a road trip and enough CPAP time to recover from a lifetime of sleep deficits.

So I am grateful for the insight and the impact of my daily sleep routine.

As you emerged from restrictions this year did you notice something new?

Natalie smiles, slightly surprised or bemused at not being tired all the time. She is in a super cute turquoise paisley dress she got for five dollars at a thrift shop. She is leaning against a pine plank wall and sees that she definitely needs a haircut but that’s ok.
fitness · monthly check in · sleep

Sam is Checking In for February 2021!

Red flowers, Photo by Chandan Chaurasia on Unsplash

The months are weirdly flying by. I’m excited about spring and making plans for outdoor summer things–bike ride weekends, canoe trips, Snipe racing. I feel like I’ve got a focus now for all my fitness efforts that goes beyond mental health and beyond the thinking that exercise is one of the few fun things left that I can do. I’m in training for an active outdoor summer, doing fun things with family and friends. And I am so looking forward to that.

Fitness successes of February include getting my Tron on Zwift, having my Concept 2 erg arrive, appreciating the snow and the sunshine, and giving hourly movement a go.

It wasn’t all success though. There were some fitness struggles too. The big one is slack of sleep. Work got way too busy and I’m behind on sleep. I’m moving lots but not bringing the same energy to it that I once did. March I’ve decided will be different. I’m making sleep promises to myself.

I’ve already declared myself the Queen of the pandemic naps. But a year in, I’m finding it’s not enough.

I’m sure I’ll feel better when the days get longer, when the sun shines more, when I can be outside with colleagues, family, and friends but right now I am feeling pretty tired and I’m dragging myself through some of my days. Work is hard and I miss so many people. Bah.

I’ve noticed, thanks to my Garmin watch, that I am sleeping less and less, like often 6 hours a night. I’m pretty hardwired to sleep 8 hours a night. That gap is too big to make up with naps.

Again, I’m not sure why I can know something is true–sleep and spending time outside make me happy–but I can still struggle to do it. I need remind myself that it helps a lot with my performance on the bike as well as my happiness and well being. See Is Sleep the Most Underrated Hack for Performance Enhancement?

Looking ahead to March I’ll likely get to experience my first outdoor ride on my road bike–that’s usually a March thing and some more dog hikes with family and friends and work colleagues. All good!

Cheddar says stop working and get outside!

clothing · fashion · rest · sleep

Aren’t all dresses nap dresses?

The ads in my digital media news feeds know what I’m up to. Which is to say staying at home, working from home, exercising at home, spending time with family, and napping. I’m also dressing differently now my life is one big blur of working, exercising, doomscrolling, eating, sleeping etc.

Enter the nap dress. I swear ads for different versions of this dress make up half of the advertising I see these days.

And that makes sense given that I’ve declared myself the Pandemic Nap Queen.

Haven’t heard of this pandemic fashion trend yet? See Meet the Nap Dress — Summer’s Biggest Must Have, Meet The ‘Nap Dress,’ The Latest Pandemic Clothing Trend, and Why a nap dress is about to become your new summer staple.

This New Yorker piece explains the allure of the nap dress.

Rachel Syme writes, “Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”

Here’s what some of them look like:

The nap dress is part of the daytime nightwear trend.

In “The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown,” Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent.

“I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a nightgown. I get that they’re comfortable, and who doesn’t crave comfort right now? It’s possible that I’m projecting way too much onto a few yards of fabric. But the nightgown, especially as daywear, strikes me as reactionary. Its evocations of passive Victorian and pre-Raphaelite femininity feel like an uncritical throwback to those eras’ mold of white female fragility. The styling of these images evokes sleeping beauties or Ophelias, or worse, invalids. Fashioning yourself as a tubercular Victorian might once have felt ironic; with millions in the grip of a real pandemic—one that is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities—it feels Marie Antoinette-at-the-Hameau-level out of touch. And in 2020, the idea of “checking out” and into the seductive world of blameless slumber that the nightgown invites us to, does too. It serves as a reminder that while some people are taking to the streets, others are taking to their beds.”

You don’t need a fancy new specially designed nap dress to get into the spirit of the being well-rested. And maybe we can be well-rested, including naps, so that we can work and protest. Tracy’s posts on naps as a form of resistance talks about that connection.

This is speedy, short post, quickly written before I zoom away for holidays where there will definitely be lots and lots of napping but also definitely not any special nap dresses!

See you when I’m back after a week of canoe camping in Algonquin Park.

The Nap Ministry

covid19 · fitness · self care · sleep

Queen of the pandemic naps

This is me, happy napping, at the end of a long work day.

I don’t know about you but COVID-19 and #wfhlife hasn’t been great for my sleep. I can always fall asleep…see the comic below, it’s me….but I’ve been having nightmares and sometimes waking up way too early. I fall asleep quickly but if I wake I struggle to get back to sleep.

Early morning doom scrolling doesn’t help.

Another sleep complication is that my Zwift races tend to be late, 830 and 900 pm often and they’re all an hour or an hour and a half long. After it’s hard to relax and go to sleep right away. I’m still all zoom zoom, go go, for at least another hour.

Enter the post work nap!

Work. Nap. Supper. Zwift. Sometimes I go back to work after. Shhh! But more often I watch an episode of something and go to sleep. I’m getting more than 8 hours sleep, averaging 8.5 according to my Garmin watch, even if it’s not all in one go.

This would be more challenging if we had children at home but these days we’re empty nesters. Napping in the nest, that’s me.

Has the pandemic changed your sleep patterns at all? Are you struggling a bit with disrupted sleep?

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?