In search of the perfect night’s sleep…


Perfect?  Did I say “perfect”?  I’d settle for “Mostly OK”

Iz nots sleepinzzz...! I iz "vizualizin' mai dance routeens" ©One of the items on my “10-Point-Plan” to “Transform Tony in 2013” is #1 Get plenty of sleep every night. 

Easier said than done!   However, talking about sleep is a good way to emphasis and reinforce the ongoing theme that Getting Fit and Healthy is complex because “EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED TO EVERYTHING!

Sleep is important and most definitely connected to everything else in your life.  Without consistent restful sleep, getting fit and healthy is almost impossible.

brunostWithout meaning to whine and moan, or act like a pampered diva….  But, since we’re mentioning “diva”  could I please have some cheese with my Whine?  Hmmm?

Oh, did you hear about that cheese truck fire that took days to put out?  I kid you not!!!!

Holy Cheesus!  Who knew?

Anyway in Norway where this cheese is made there was a truck accident in a tunnel and the load of cheese, called Brunost caught fire and burned for days.

But…  I digress…  Back to the whole sleep thing….

…here are the obstacles in my path to a good night’s sleep along with what I’ve done to try and overcome them:

1. I am overweight which is a contributing factor to my SNORING and sleep apnea.

Snoring Cat -- Click on the link if you'd like to have a coffee mug with this designWhen I say “snoring” I’m not talking a gentle buzz of sound.  I’m talking “shiver me timbers” “is that a plane flying overhead” “Vibra-bed-insert-another-quarter” kind of situation.

Basically the weight is a factor because fat is stored everywhere in the body and some of that fat storage surrounds the nasal passages causing the nasal passages to be reduced slightly in size.  Narrower in other words.

2. I am allergic to dust and dust mites.  I know this because I’ve been tested.  And I happen to live in the dustiest apartment in which I’ve ever lived.  But the pluses of living here out-weigh the negatives so I’m kinda stuck with dealing with the dust.  Where there are dust and people, there will be dust mites.

Man with a tissue suffering from allergiesWhich means that while I’m awake and moving around, all the internal breathing stuff works pretty well.  It is only a mild allergy HOWEVER when I lay down….

[cue the ominous spooky foreboding background music]  Yuck-city!  The nasal passages clog up and less air gets through the nose while I’m sleeping.  Get the soft palate involved and we are talking

SNOOOOOOORRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Now for those who don’t snore or don’t live with someone who snores, basically snoring is a blockage of the airway in the back of the throat.  Here is a short video from YouTube that explains things:

3. Another obstacle to a good nights sleep:  my natural body rhythm is off from the normal “workday” of most of the world.

Yin Yang-Sun and Moon (CC)

If I go to bed when my body wants to go to bed, I tend to go to bed between 1am and 4am and sleep until 9am to noon the next day.  With lots of effort and constant vigilance, I can get reset my body clock to live fairly happily with a “go to bed time” between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am; and a “wake up time” of 8:00 am to 9:00 am

So, in order to be in sync with the rest of humanity in this part of the globe, I  try and stick to the Midnight to 8am sleep target time.

As for why being in sync is important, it is all about coordinating schedules.  For example, ask your dance partner to practice at 2am and see what is the response.  I bet it boils down to “are you nuts?”

4. My body now demands at least 8 hours of sleep a night.  My body demands more sleep (up to 10hrs) if I’ve put in a “heavy” activity day… either physical, doing things like exercising, dancing, spring cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands, etc.  Or a “heavy” day where I’m putting forth a lot of mental effort: designing a new t-shirt, blogging, writing an article for Squidoo, watching and editing videos from dance lessons, editing practice music, etc.

Breathing at night is a good thing!

Sleepyheads - Cat and man asleep in bed (CC)So, let’s review… Excess fat in and around the nasal passages and throat narrow those passages ways.  Allergies to dust and dust mites which cause the nasal passages to be irritated and inflamed (which means swollen) which guess what… yeppers, that blocks even more airflow.  Add in the allergy induced yucky gross mucus that clogs up the works and still less air gets through.

Which means all through the night I keep waking up as my brain sends “Danger Will Robinson” signals to my body and bring me momentarily out of sleep.  Get the picture?

Things I’ve tried…

CRAP machines —  Oh, I’m sorry, CPAP….  I get those initials confused.  It didn’t help. Some folks can adapt to these things but I felt like I was suffocating.

Breathe Rite strips  — didn’t do anything.  I didn’t notice any difference

Anti-snoring nose clip deviceThat springy plastic “Nose-Clip” wishbone shaped thingie — in theory it is supposed to press open the nose so that air can flow through.  It didn’t seem to make a difference and I must have hated it because every morning (with no memory of me having taken it out) it would be out of the nose and somewhere in my bed, usually pressing into my back or tummy leaving the most intriguing mark in my skin….

Allegra D — helps some in the early part of the night, because it dries out the nasal cavities.  But by morning they are still clogged.  Yes, the package says “12 hour” but that has to be a marketing gimmick or my allergies are worse than I think.

Pantanase  — Cue the heavenly choir!!!  This stuff is awesome!!!  Woot  Wooot!  Who Hooo!  Oh, and I can’t afford it.  $130 – $160 a month.  It is a prescription only nasal spray and it is not available in generic yet.  What it does is eliminate the irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages and opens everything up.  That in combination with the Allegra D is a miracle!  I can sleep.  I can breathe.  I awake rested.  And I can’t afford the drug.

Or, to be completely honest with myself, and all eight of you folks I could afford the drug but I’d have to cut the number of dance lessons I take per month from 4 to 2.  I’d have to cut them in half and two lessons a month is not enough.   Geez, what a choice, better sleep?  Or spend the money on lessons which will help me achieve my goal of turning pro by the end of the year and teaching dance and thus having enough money to live on and thus not having to go back to the “typical 9-5” workday.  *SIGH*

So, for now… I give up the better night’s sleep and keep the dance lessons.

Wooden Bed Risers LiftersInclining the bed — Basically to incline the bed you use bed risers but only put them on the two legs at the head of the bed.  this, surprisingly, actually helped. A little.  The improvement was such that I noticed it.

Using pillow wedges — this has helped even more.  I need to do a few things to tweak them but basically I’m on the right track with this one.  It takes two wedges to cover most of my mattress.  I need to either sew the wedge pillow cases together or put velcro strips on the sides so that they don’t move apart as I turn during my sleep.

I actually tried not using the wedges Thursday night and discovered almost immediately that my breathing was worse without the wedges.  The wedges are a trade off however because they put my body at an angle where I have greater neck and lower back muscle aches.  But I’ll trade the better breathing for sore muscles at this point.

Update: I was looking for links to put down in the “Related Links” section and ran across a discussion forum where lots of people were talking about different things they had tried. I found that some people had better luck with putting the wedges under the mattress between the box springs and the mattress. I just put my wedges in that position and laid down on the bed. And, I have to say that I’m hopeful that this position will work better than having the wedges on top of the bed. I’ll report back after I’ve slept on them like this for a few days. If having the wedges under the mattress does not work, I’ll experiment and report back on dropping the wedges and increasing the angle of incline on the bed.

foam wedgeThe bed risers I bought are sturdy wooden blocks.  They come a set of four and they are designed to “stack”  Right now I have one under each leg.

I’m going to double up the risers, putting two each on each of the legs at the head of the bed.  This should increase the angle of the bed to near where it is with one riser and the pillow wedges.  Doing it this way should give me the incline I need and remove the source of the neck and back soreness.

Note:  I tried to find articles about “Inclined Bed Therapy” from reliable sources .gov domains or .edu domains online that reported on the validity of this treatment.  I could find no articles from a source that I could trust with 100% confidence.

All I could find was “individual testimony”  and so-called “reports” that were thinly veiled advertisements for the products to incline your bed.  Some of the individual testimony though seemed to be “real people.”  And the reports were a mixed bag.  Some said inclining the bed helped a little and some said a lot and some said “not much” or “it actually made things worse”

Speaking for myself, the wedges help with the breathing/snoring and thus I get a better night’s sleep.  The trade off with the wedges on top of the mattress is that I sometimes wake up with a sore back or neck.  I’ll keep you posted.

Sheraton PillowsPillows and mattress — The best mattress I’ve ever slept on is found in the rooms of the Sheraton Hotel Chain.  It is awesome.  Sheraton has this website where, in theory, you can buy the very same mattress.  I bought it.  I have it here at my home.  And since buying the mattress, I’ve stayed at a couple of Sheraton Hotels.

My conclusion:  They don’t sell you the same mattress!!!!!  The mattress they sold me is more “flimsy” than the mattress that they use in the hotel.  It is not as firm and does not provide as good a sleep as the mattresses in the hotel.  If I wasn’t past the “return date” I’d ask for my money back.

Having said that, it is a good mattress.  Just not as good as the ones in the hotel.  I thought I was buying exactly the same mattress.  That’s what the website led me to believe.  *sigh*

Their pillows, however, are excellent!  I do not want to count up the amount of money I’ve spent trying to find the “perfect” pillow.  One person’s “perfect pillow” is another persons nightmare.  My perfect pillow is the Sheraton Pillows.  The only problem though is that they don’t last very long.  About every year, I have to buy another set.  Ugh.  According to what I found on the Internet, doing just a quick search, lifespan for pillows is 6 months to 3 years depending on the material and the quality of the pillow.  The average is 2 years.  So my pillows are within that range but I wish I didn’t have to buy a new set every year.

Allergy covers for pillows and mattress — This helped.  They wear out eventually and have to be replaced every two years or so.

Austin Healthmate Jr Room Air Filter — This helped a lot.  A whole lot.  It is kind of expensive, but it is extremely well made and I have had it running continuously for almost 3 years. The motor is very very quiet.

The only time I turn it off is when I go out of town on a dance trip.  It filters the dust out of the air in my bedroom.  Note to self… I need to check and see if the filter needs replacing.  It is a 5-year filter and I think it is almost time; the manual said 3-5 years; the dirtier the air, the quicker the filter needs to be replaced.

Diva Cleaning (CC)Constant dusting and vacuuming — I really should do this once a week, but I find that I let it go until the dust on the shelves or on top of the TV in my bedroom is thick enough to “notice”.  Then I vacuum which works out to be about once a month.  Maybe I can train myself to do it every two weeks and split the difference.  Vacuuming is a pain because I have a small bedroom.  That bedroom is basically that is where I live, meaning when I’m at home, I spend 99% of my time there in my bedroom which also functions as my living room and my office and my exercise space.  I have a lot of stuff crammed into that bedroom and there are lots of things that have to be lifted when vacuuming and dusting.  *SIGH*  It ain’t a simple task.

Temperature — I like it cold when I sleep.  In winter, I open my window and sleep blissfully through the night snuggled under my comforter.

Chilly Kitty sleeping in lateIn summer, I suffer.  My room-mate, as wonderful a person as he is, likes it warmer than I do.  So, in winter, I generally keep the vent to my room closed.  And that keeps the temperature during the daytime perfect in my room.  During the night, the window comes open and bliss ensues.  🙂

In summer however, when the thermostat is set at 70, the temp in my room is more like 77 or 80.  Why?  I hear the teaming masses ask.  Well, in my room, I have lights, my computer, and sometimes the TV & DVD player and me all producing heat.  Since my door is usually closed (to control noise and not impose my movie or music on my very awesome and sweet room mate) all that heat gets trapped in my room.  So, I wear shorts and a light t-shirt a lot in summer.

Oh, did I mention that I like it cold when I sleep?  Did I mention that I sleep best when it is cold?  Not gonna happen during Spring or Summer and since, in Texas, “Spring” starts in February and “Summer”ends in November, well, you probably see the picture by now.

My friend Steve installing hardwood floor in my old houseRemoving the carpet, painting the walls, and replacing the air vent — On my list of “things to look into” is a re-model of my bedroom.

My roommate, the owner of the condo where I live and my best friend and my landlord, has given me permission to hire someone to do the remodel.

I want to take out the very old and very dusty, stained carpet and replace it with hardwood floor.

I want to paint the walls and I want to replace the corroded air vent that covers the air duct to my room.  The carpet is the biggie as it is a trap for dust and a home for dust mites.  But while I have everything out of the room the other two things are “easy” things that I’ll do at the same time.

I am very hopeful that this will cut down on the amount of allergy reaction I have.

When I replace the air vent, I want to get one that has a slot for an air filter.  So that I can can filter the air coming into the room thus reducing the amount of dust that the AC pumps into the bedroom.  Yes, they really do make such a fixture.  🙂

Summing up…

There are a lot of things that can affect sleep.  I haven’t even mentioned caffeine, for example.  Allergies, temperature, weight related sleep apnea and a weird body clock all conspire to interfere with a perfect night’s sleep.

As I loose weight, my sleep apnea will be reduced and perhaps vanish.  Time will eventually cause the Patanase to be available as a generic, then over the counter.  Allegra D was once prescription only and now is available over the counter.  It will get better.  It will just take some time.

So, I’ll keep doing what I can, where I can.

See ya on the dance floor!

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About TxCowboyDancer

Eight time Country Dance World Champion. I love to dance. In the middle of a journey, transforming myself from "unemployed and out-of-shape" to "in-shape and full time dance instructor, writer and graphic artist."

Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2013, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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