Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Sleep

There’s nothing like crawling in between two cool sheets and falling into blissful slumber. Maybe it’s been easy for me because I keep so busy during the day that it’s never been a problem. I feel for those that have trouble.  There are many things you can do to improve sleep. No, not smoking pot!

Let’s start with the environment: Cold dark room is most important. Keep the activity nice and slow at least a few hours prior to turning off the light. Exercise is not a good idea before turning in. No housecleaning or cocktails at lights out time.

Some people may be able to fall asleep with noise, but some seem to wake with every little sound. Others sleep through all kinds of noise. Much has to do with your central nervous system (CNS). If you’re primed to jump, if your CNS is on edge, your sleep won’t be restful. Make sure there are no electric appliances or wiring that run within 3’ of your head. This can mean taking a gauss meter to the walls near your bed. This may not be affecting your sleep, but it most certainly can affect your health. Remember you spend around 8 hours in this environment, it should be healthy. If you’re sensitive to chemicals, organic sheets and non-toxic detergent are a must. Of course, be sure to choose a mattress and support that is conducive to your comfort. For many years I thought I liked a hard mattress, only to find when I traveled, I slept more soundly and woke feeling better with a softer mattress. Essential oils may be soothing. Lavender should not be used with young boys, so keep it away from the children, it affects hormones.

Light is very important to eliminate at night. Research has shown that light shown on the small area in the hollow of the knee on sleeping subjects decreases the level of melatonin, the hormone that puts us to sleep and keeps us there. So don’t think a mask is helping, it’s just one small part of the problem.  Our levels of cortisol have something to say about our sleep as well. The higher the level of cortisol, the more melatonin we need to sleep. Where the rise in melatonin crosses the decrease in cortisol is where we fall asleep, conversely, the rise in cortisol crossing the decrease in melatonin is where we wake. Hopefully these will be in the proper settings, when we’re expecting it. If you have high levels of stress, some extra melatonin may do the trick. When first marketed, manufacturers used 3 and 5 milligram doses, much too high for most users. Now it is available in 1 or 3mg doses, and in liquid. Try ¼ mg to start. Most early users complained about vivid dreams and groggy mornings. They were taking too much, or not allowing a full 8 hours for sleep. Don’t expect to wake rested if you take melatonin and allow 4 hours to sleep. Your body doesn’t like shortcuts!

Next, let’s look at food and drink. As we get older, we have less room to store liquids. Once I had a hitch in my hip, and went to see a rolfer. An unintended consequence was that I no longer got up at some point in the night to use the bathroom. That was over two years ago. Not drinking water after a certain time doesn’t work for me; if I’m thirsty, I drink. Some people swear no water after 6pm works. Food can sometimes also have an effect on sleep. If you have acid reflux, when you lie down you may have an esophageal sphincter that is relaxed, allowing acid to seep into the throat. This can possibly cause problems with the esophagus or larynx down the line, not to mention disrupting sleep. What foods can cause this problem? Many sources say peppermint, chocolate, coffee, fried foods, and other items should be avoided. Some problems have more to do with digestion than acid reflux; your body doesn’t want to be digesting food when you’re going to bed. Many can’t digest fats on a good day! If you have this problem, often bitter foods can help the bile flow, getting digestive juices flowing to enhance the absorption of your food. And if you’ve had your gallbladder out, you need bile acids! Don’t let this one go. Your body had a gallbladder for a reason, it’s not expendable.

Your immune system is most active at night while you’re sleeping. That’s why we often see people with poor immune response that don’t sleep well. The cause can be lack of sound sleep. Also, if you take calcium, it should be taken at night, when your body uses it. Calcium circulating in the blood is not where you want it, which is what happens when you take it during the day. Sometimes it ends up in your blood vessels, creating – guess what – hardening of the arteries. Your body may excrete it, and is not beneficial to your bones and teeth.

Say you have all of the above problems under control and your sleep is still bad. Do you lie awake at night and can’t fall asleep? Do you wake during the night and are unable to fall back to sleep due to thoughts? What about waking – you hide your head under the pillow hoping the light and alarm will go away? These are probably symptoms of anxiety. Think about why you are having this problem. Think of a solution to what is causing the anxiety. See if that helps; if not, try writing before bed. I’m not a writer (OK, I do try), but I have read enough about anxiety to know that it can help.

Do you have dreams or nightmares? Sometimes they can indicate what is going on upstairs. Do you have dreams of being pursued? This is often a fear that something bad will happen. In homeopathy, there are many remedies associated with particular dreams. You may think your problems are unique, but a quick look at the repertory will surprise you. I’ve heard stories that help point out the correct remedy, or confirm my choice when I’m not sure.

Homeopathy can help most of these problems people have with sleep. I’ve seen sleep improve with the first remedy quite often. Of course, some of the work I do is with homeless people, and it is a difficult road. These are people that must sleep with lights on, or uncomfortable cots, people making noise, snoring, or they may be having CNS hyperactivity, a feeling of not being safe when trying to sleep. This is so very important for many, as a lack of sleep can cause psychotic behavior in the most stable person.

If you’ve had bad sleep, now’s the time to figure out why. Sleep is so important to your health. Once it is good, you’ve unlocked the door to better health. Work on that now, saw those logs! 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

YOUR Health

Recently I was reading about the pharmaceutical industry’s record profits (we’ll talk about the oil industry another time). Let’s simplify things a little, and look at what’s going on. If we look at the health/medical/pharmaceutical industry and the American people’s money as a pool of money divided up from a pie, we can keep it simple. If we pay our doctors directly, we eliminate the huge cut the middleman takes away. That means the managed care system doesn’t get paid. Hmmm…that means a lot more saved by the patient, and more profit for the doctor. Doctors have been found taking handouts (and bribes) from these companies to push their drugs.  Big pharma contributes more to state and federal elections than any other industry. That should tell you something, don’t trust them!

Think about the pharmaceutical companies. They put more money into advertising than R&D. The US and New Zealand are the only countries that allow direct advertising to the patient. Does that make sense? You’re paying for them to sell you something. No thanks. I think I’ll just use natural remedies. It’s a heck of a lot better on the environment. We won’t pollute all our waterways with antidepressants, keep our frogs male and female, thankyouverymuch. We will be able to eat the fish!

Look at all those insurance companies. All that money has come from OUR pie, the one that used to be shared between doctor and patient. The doctors get paid less, the patients pay more. Why does that make sense? All those buildings, salaries, paperwork, meetings, phone calls, lawsuits cost part of the pie! People are denied coverage, even though they’ve paid and paid huge premiums for years.  

I remember when I was pregnant with my son, 20 years ago. I wanted to have CVS (chorionic villus sampling) instead of amniocentesis. I needed to get approval right away, as I was quickly approaching the deadline for having the procedure. When I called my provider, it was Wednesday, and I could only have the test Friday morning. The woman that was to approve the procedure didn’t call me back. I left a few messages, and finally, called a general number. I explained my predicament. She said the person I was looking for had left Thursday, that day (with a 3 hour time difference!), for an early weekend. I was given a verbal OK to have the procedure.

The only place between Sacramento and Los Angeles that did this testing was UCSF. I scheduled the procedure, and everything turned out fine. About a month later, my insurance company told me I would only be reimbursed about 50% of the cost of the procedure because it was ‘reasonable and customary’ for the area. Reasonable and customary? Calling the company, I was informed they survey other hospitals and clinics in the area to ascertain the approved amount. Of course, I wrote a scathing letter to the company, and my employer. It was eventually covered.

My point: We have given over so much of our health care to others. How about we take it back? The last time I went to see my PCP was probably over a decade ago. My chiropractor (ask me for her name, she’s great!) takes care of little things or imbalances that are physical, my homeopath (another great one!) takes care of the rest. My healthy diet (OK, not always) and exercise take care of the rest. I don’t need all those expensive tests. I don’t like mammograms, thought they were a waste (yes, I did have thermography though, and I paid for it myself). Now it turns out they don’t really do much. Same with PSA; the medical community has now come to the conclusion it isn’t really a significant indicator of cancer. Read some medical trial information. Read between the lines. Are they studying natural vitamin E in the Finnish men that developed lung cancer? No, a synthetic, and only alpha tocopherol. It didn't prove anything. If you don’t like reading between the lines, ask someone else (that is healthy) what they do. Dry skin? Fish oil. Joint pain? Curcumin, ginger, glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin. Eat greens. Eat well.

What about cholesterol? HDL? LDL? All these things were so important 10 or 20 years ago. Not anymore. I say we go back to the beginning: You are responsible for your health. If you’re not healthy, find out what you need by seeing an alternative health practioner. Address the issues. If you need help, ask.