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“How to Beat Insomnia. Can’t Remember Your Last Good Night’s Sleep? Real Answers and Tips to Getting Your Life Back”

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PROBLEMS SLEEPING?

Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to go to sleep, but there is hope.  More and more studies are showing that proper sleep habits or “sleep hygiene” is as much or more important that medications in fixing your sleep.  There are many things you can do to help without medications!  The following tips can help you attain the quality sleep you need.   If you are a Type-A person that can’t let go of things, those days need to end for you.  Be it exercise, baths, or whatever makes you feel relaxed, it’s time to lower the stress and increase the sleep hours with good quality sleeping habits.

hrs sleep per night

  • Why 8 hours of sleep is important:

Most adults need 8 hours of sleep.  Research has shown that the average American in 1900 got about 9.2 hours of sleep a night.  The average American in 2018 gets about 6.8 hours of sleep.  It is predicted that only 60% of all Americans sleep enough hours each night.  With everyone eventually getting electricity, radios, television; and now smart phones and laptops; there is way too much keeping us alert at night. A good night sleep releases various hormones, can elevate your mood, keep you sharp and alert, and make you feel rested so that you can take on your day.  For adolescents growth hormone is released as well.

An important thing to remember is that the longer you sleep the deeper you sleep. If you need 8 hours of sleep and you only sleep 5 or 6 hours, the 2 hours of missed sleep at the end may have contained important deep sleep to make you feel refreshed. The two types of deep sleep are Stage 3 and 4 Delta sleep, and REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement sleep which is dreaming. In the sleep field we like to say Delta sleep restores the body, REM sleep restores the brain and emotions.

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  • If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in another room until you feel sleepy. Do not eat or drink in bed!

Sit quietly in the dark or read something very boring in another room. Don’t expose yourself to bright light while you are up. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up. If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to go to sleep, you also may be going to bed too early.  Some people stay in bed for 10-12 hours a night but only sleep 6-7 hours so they should go to sleep later. As we said before, the longer you sleep, the deeper you sleep.

  • Don’t take naps unless absolutely necessary

This will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is less than one hour, and before 3 pm, or your sleep at night may be affected. Even a short nap though can decrease your sleep at night. Each person is different.  If you just can’t get enough sleep, power naps are used often to help you, so if you don’t have insomnia, taking a short nap is a great idea so restoring you somewhat.  When you take a power nap, the brain will often go into REM sleep quickly which helps to restore you. I use them often.

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Exhausted woman sleeping in front of her laptop
  • Get up and go to bed near an hour the same time every day and night respectively

Even on weekends! For instance if you sleep from 11 pm to 7 am every night, try to do that on the weekends too. When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, you will feel and sleep better.   Staggering your sleep times will make sleeping consistently difficult and sleep deprivation will usually occur.   You will then often feel fatigued and tired.

  • Refrain from exercise at least 2-3 hours before bedtime

Regular exercise is recommended to help you sleep well, but the timing of the workout is important. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep.

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  • Develop sleep rituals

It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine-free tea, or do light relaxation exercises or stretching. Do whatever works for you.   (Make sure to do this outside the bedroom).

  • STAY OFF OF THE INTERNET WHEN YOU SHOULD BE SLEEPING!!

This is self-explanatory. If you have insomnia then obviously do not text, or talk on the phone in bed. If you do, you then train your brain that when you are in bed it’s now time to be alert and on the phone. Don’t use your laptop to do work in bed. Do not sleep with your cell phone next to you. Instead put it away from you so that you can’t get to it. I charge it on my nightstand where I can’t reach it.   Every tiny text or notification is not going to change your life. Getting a good night sleep will. I have very few notifications on my cell. I don’t need them for social media or basic apps.

  • Only use your bed for 2 things; no TV, eating or reading:

Refrain from using your bed to watch TV, eat/drink, pay bills, do work, or read. This is so that when you go to bed your body knows it is time to sleep. Sex and sleep are obviously the only exception.

  • Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 3-4 hours before bed

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Coffee, tea, cola, and some prescription and non-prescription drugs can contain caffeine. Alcohol may seem to help you sleep in the beginning as it slows brain activity, but you will end up having fragmented sleep. If you snore or have apnea, alcohol will make it worse. Do not take OTC cold remedies (that I can’t name) to make you sleep. They have a rebound effect that will make you sleepy the next day, and also if you do sleep, it may decrease the amounts of Delta and REM sleep.

insomnia sleeping moon

  • If needed, Have a light snack before bed

If you eat early and your stomach is too empty, that can interfere with sleep so a light snack may help you. However, if you eat a heavy meal before bedtime, that can interfere as well. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which may act as a natural sleep inducer. Tryptophan is probably why a warm glass of milk is sometimes recommended. If you have reflux problems, try to sleep on your left side, and don’t eat near bedtime.

  • You can take a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime

Some people enjoy taking a hot bath near bedtime. This will raise your body temperature, but it is the drop in body temperature afterwards that help some people sleep.

  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet, cool, and comfortable

SUPER important. A very warm room may feel comfortable, but it will make sleeping difficult because it will increase your body temperature. That’s why during hot days in the summer, it’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to sleep. A cooler room along with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended because it will increase your bodies melatonin production and bring you to a state of sleepiness. If light in the early morning wakes you up, get a blackout shade or wear a slumber mask. If noise bothers you, wear earplugs or get a white noise machine.

  • Use sunlight to set your biological clock

Soon after you get up in the morning, make sure that you create a lighted environment. The sunlight and activity can increase seratonin levels which will elevate your mood and also make you more alert. This will tell your brain that it’s time to get up.   (i.e. open the curtains, electric lights, sunlight by going outside, etc…) If you travel a lot, it’s imperative that you stay out in the sun during the day as much as possible. This will increase seratonin production and greatly help your jet lag and listless feeling that many business travelers experience.

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In ending, to sleep well you will need to create a cool environment, and have consistent quality sleeping habits.   We all have different personalities; and some are more anxious or “Type-A” than others; but don’t make sleep such a stressful event that it makes sleeping even more difficult. People that sleep well don’t think much about it because their quality sleep habits have become second nature to them. If you’re a worrier and think about things over and over in bed, then take these suggestions to heart to improve your sleep. Some people have had difficulty sleeping and poor sleep habits for years, so this may take time. You are the key to getting a good night’s sleep and creating proper sleep hygiene. REMEMBER, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT SO DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR SLEEP WILL IMPROVE SOONER THAN YOU THINK! Be positive and consistent with these changes and you too can sleep well without much worry.

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“Ken Stabler Leading Teammates in CTE Fight Even After His Passing; Should Kids Play Football?”

 

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Ken Stabler Being Helped off the Field During Game

Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death.  They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush.  They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players.  Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.

The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:

Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time.  His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.

You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/14703416/outside-lines-nfl-great-ken-stabler-diagnosed-cte-death

Eliminate Tackling in Practice:

In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices.  Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots.  Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football.  What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.

http://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/2016-03-04/college-football-ivy-league-limits-tackling-football-practices

My Experience With CTE:

I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep.  I immediately remembered the name.  I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.

When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be.  She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it.  Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good.  When I left his wife walked me out.  At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears.  “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much.  Please come visit again soon”.  I told her I would be by next week.

A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off.  He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes.  He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed.  I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t.  He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time.  It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth.  CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.

His wife explained this was their life.  A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times.  I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.

Owners Still Don’t Get It:

Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions.  I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem.  Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool.  Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy.  Money doesn’t make you smart.  It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.

In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it.  The NFL said to trust their math.  Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.

What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:

Many say I’m too hard on the NFL.  They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay.  It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover?  CTE.

The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players.  In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues.  Soccer players are now having issues with CTE.  Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.

The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more.  It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.

The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures.  Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field.  After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it.  Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake.  Damage done though.

I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review.  In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago.  The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold.  Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field.  Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory.  You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.

Breakthrough in CTE Testing?

The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive.  When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings.  The problem with anything in medicine is greed.  If this is true, they stand to make millions.  Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.

Should Kid’s Play Football:

One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits.  Usually the longer you play, the worse it is.  Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid.  You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage.  Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not.  When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar.  Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.

I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old.  I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.

The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players.  In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week.  Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.

Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died.  Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football.  What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time.  Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids.  That HAS to change.  They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers.  Epic fail.  This has to change.

I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games.  It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game.  He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him.  I hope they still have that same support there now.

Final Thoughts:

The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them.  Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.

What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football.  University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS.  He played 8 years in the NFL.

CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear.  Fans and the media need to get involved.  Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage.  Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees.  The NFL said both were too expensive.  Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well.  In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.

All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act.  Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks.  We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable.  The 88 plan needs to include CTE.  Support research and retired players rights.  Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”.  The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.

The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to.  It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless.  Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support.  No more Dave Duerson stories.  A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest.  He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did.  No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them.  We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t.  The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.