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Working It Smart (Defined)

Posted on: October 11th, 2013 by raworkin 3 Comments

WISlogoSo, what do you mean?

Well, there is enough ‘stupid’ in the world for us all to find.  We remember the moments—times of embarrassment or the costly effects of decisions or actions we made, ‘in-the-moment’.  We just did NOT think things through!  After reflection, we knew better—and usually in the future try not to repeat ourselves.  Those ‘Funniest Home Video’ moments we can sometimes laugh at and remember with a smile, but for successful living?–‘stupid’ is just not the way to go!

We learn along the way–through trial and error or acquiring tips and guidelines from those around us—family, friends or trusted sources who have been there before–and know a better ‘way’. We all desire to live better, be happier and have a sense of belonging and having worth. So, to me, it seems that Working It Smart is a more sensible way to base our decisions and actions—in all we do, whether awake or asleep.  Seeking and using the right tools (like a mechanic) makes the job easier.

Of course, acquiring and understanding reliable knowledge is an important part of learning to make ‘smart’ decisions. There is a lot of information out there, but finding reliable and pertinent facts can be hard. For this site, I hope to present easy-to-understand, concise information that I feel would help those who visit—to learn something that might help in making those decisions.

Sleep is something I have experience at observing and helping those who have problems sleeping effectively. Simple and often inexpensive changes in how people prepare for bed or the environment in which they sleep can often make the difference in sleeping effectively and not. This is what I would like to share—initially.  Applying that knowledge to make better decisions, hopefully, will enable you to enjoy more restful sleep.   Then, we can expand from there to other areas of our lives—by Working It Smart.  Stay tuned and may we both learn something of value along the way!

Remember . . . it’s the tools!

Healthy Sleep Choices (Sleep Hygiene)

Posted on: September 6th, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

There is beauty all around us.  We can only appreciate it fully through a well-rested body and mind.  What we take in to our body–sights, sounds, foods–and then how we allow our body to rest and repair itself through sleep, are the keys to a healthy life.  The choices we make determine our success of that goal.vineyard landscape

In our 24/7 availability to access the world through electronic means, our choice to invade our sleep environment with light-producing devices is just one of those ‘bad’ habits we have adopted. It affects the regularity of a sleep time. It can ‘push’ our brains through that normal time of sleepiness, or keep it busy with ‘thoughts’ that we have trouble turning off.

We take into our bodies caffeine, nicotine or we exercise at the wrong times.

Alcohol we know relaxes us, and assume that is good for sleep—but, it has been shown to adversely affect our ability to maintain sleep. Alcohol can also initially relax the upper airway muscles to the point that temporary sleep-robbing obstructive problems or snoring are caused.

People have commented on the follow-up to our observing their sleep, that they ‘slept better’ in our controlled environment. We have questioned as to the cause and come up with the fact that, for some:

1) our rooms are kept cooler than theirs at home,

2) excess light is controlled,

3) the linens are clean every day,

4) pets are not allowed,

5) the bed is not shared with a partner, and

6) we try to minimize excess noise levels.

In those studies where a partner does sleep in the same room, we do see the interrupted sleep from the partner getting up in the night, or snoring, or has other noise-producing movement or ‘talking’.

So, to aid for better sleep, some conditions you can easily change in the home (temperature, light, changing linens, etc), whereas, others may be more challenging and involve tough decisions.

Pets, we love, and in return we are given companionship and affection—but, a pet does not understand the need for sleep, nor can they control their movements or snoring or their need to go ‘outside’. So–for those who do struggle with their sleep, they must weigh the benefits of that received love and affection versus the sleep that can be robbed from sleeping with pets.

Dealing with partners has its own set of choices. Snoring, leg movement, and other interruption-causing activities of your sleep-mate can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult. The hard choice of separate beds or separate bedrooms are decisions that have been taken by couples to help achieve adequate sleep.  The Smart way of addressing these choices is to discuss them openly and kindly.

The single most interrupting choice that I have observed over the years, is sleeping with the televisionold-36723_640No on. It is one of the things we do not insist on controlling(in the sleep lab), but we do identify the interruptions that TV causes. I don’t think most people realize how much the flashing lights and the sounds from the television affect the brains ability to get its rest. The brain monitors its environment for safety. The ears pick up and transmit sound (from the TV) which the brain has to analyze and respond if needed. The variable flashing of the light produced in the room, the eyes pick up; and again, the brain has to analyze that. Some say it helps lull them to sleep, initially—and use of a timer is sometimes used. Others cite that it is a safety measure, i.e., if a threat of, say, a potential home invader sees activity of a television being on, then the TV may act as a deterrent (someone is awake, so their element of surprise may be eliminated). For others, it is just one of those ‘bad’ habits that has been adopted as a requirement for their sleep.

So, the choices we make, voluntarily, can either be detrimental to our achieving good sleep or help us change our environment to make it ‘BETTER’, and help us initiate and maintain sleep.  Adopting these good ‘sleep hygiene’ practices may be an affordable and effective first step in helping those who struggle with sleep.

Stay tuned as we look at other causes that affect our sleep and helps that, if tried, may enable better rest.  After all, it is better experiencing our world–seeing it through rested eyes!

The Choices We Make (Sleep Hygiene)

Posted on: September 6th, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

A good cause of our difficulties in sleeping can be traced to the choices we make and the habits we keep—some of which are not obvious. Let me start by directing you to something called “sleep hygiene”. These first-step ‘tips’ address practices that have been shown to help promote better sleep and identify other practices that we think help—but actually, do not.


Tips for “Sleep Hygiene”

 1.  Set regular sleep times – the goal is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day(weekends and days off included); it helps train your body when to sleep

2.  Sleep when you are sleepy – goal is to go to sleep when you are tired; avoid staying in bed when you are awake

3.  Get up/Try Again – If you don’t achieve sleep after 20-30 minutes, get up, do something boring or relaxing, without too much stimulation and avoid bright lights; try again when you feel sleepy

4.  Avoid caffeine/nicotine – coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate and the nicotine in cigarettes can act as stimulants; avoid them 4 to 6 hours before bedtime

5.  Avoid alcohol – avoid consuming alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime; the relaxing effect wears off and affects the maintenance of sleep

6.  Use the bed for sleep – use your bed for sleeping and sex so the body associates the bed for sleep. Avoid watching TV, reading, using electronic devices, paying bills, etc.

7.  Try not to nap – if you have to nap, limit it to 20 minutes and before 3pm; sleep is accumulative

8.  Establish a routine – 15 minutes before bed, develop a ritual to signal your body it is time to sleep; relaxation techniques or breathing exercises or having a favorite, non-stimulating drink

9.  Warm bath/shower – warmth of a bath or shower and the cooling down of the body’s temperature has been shown to be associated with sleepiness

10.  Don’t watch the clock – try not to worry about what time it is or how much time you have slept; don’t let the light of the numbers on the clock interrupt the darkness

11.  Keep a sleep diary – when trying to determine the facts about your sleep, use a diary for a period of time, rather than relying on assumptions

12.  Regular exercises – first thing in the morning can help establish a regular wake time; avoid strenuous exercises within 4 hours of bedtime

13.  Eat healthy – a balanced diet helps promote good sleep; avoid a heavy  meal too close to bedtime; a light snack or that favorite drink may satisfy the empty stomach

14.  Make it comfortable – keep the room temperature cooler and add blankets or  layers for warmth; use curtains or a mask for light control; use earplugs to block out noise

15.  Keep a regular daily routine – even if you did not sleep well, keep to your normal planned day and don’t avoid activities because you feel tired


These tips for ‘sleep hygiene’ can be found many places, can be worded differently, but they all follow a similar theme.  It is a Smart place to start toward sleeping better.  Stay tuned!

Difficulty Sleeping

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by raworkin 6 Comments


   877106_67680462_good_sleep  Oh, sweet slumber.  Why Sleep? We really don’t understand the need for it; but, we do know the consequences

of not having enough of it. For some, initiating sleep is as easy as closing the eyes to shut out the world. For others, who have difficulty sleeping, they would give the world for it to come so easily.  I write this for those who have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, or feel their sleep is not effective in some way.

      If you struggle with this, you must realize, that you are not alone. About a third of Americans complain of difficulty sleeping at least a few nights a week, a few times a month. Initiating sleep or maintaining sleep has many causes and explanations.  The term ‘insomnia’ is used for those who have this trouble.  The frustrations they feel, and thelate-riser-149016_640_difficulty_sleeping hours they seem to waste before restful sleep comes, are compounded by the knowledge of their next day’s activities.  Morning will come too soon, and they know they will have difficulty getting through the day after a restless night.  When seeking a solution, there are too-numerous-to-count suggestions on what to do for help.  It is hard to know what are good and reliable helps to use.  I want to give an insight as to what I have observed over the past 13 years watching people sleep in a controlled environment.  There are choices that people make that add to the difficulties the body and mind has to overcome for sleep.  They also turn to certain helps that, in reality, do not.  I want to summarize some of these misconceptions and suggest other helps that people have used successfully to attain a good nights sleep.

      Follow me as I discuss some of these difficulties and problems with good sleep, as well as some Smart steps you can take for improvement. After all, that is our common goal—to live (and rest) better.





What If It’s Something . . . Physical? (Part 1)

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

So, what if I make good sleep choices, but I still struggle? I do the things that make my sleeping environment ‘ideal’ for sleep. My sleep hygiene is better, but is there more that I can try? What if I need a little outside ‘help’?949776_73049958R

It can take time to change old habits and make our sleep environment a ‘Better’ place to induce sleep. Time, to allow our body to respond to its natural ‘cues’ for sleepiness, may need to be coupled with other aids to help us get over the ‘hump’, so to speak.

Then, there are certain ‘physical’ problems that may contribute to our struggle.  Let’s look at some of these physical contributors.  First, let’s see how we methodically explain our world during ‘sleep’.

Darkness, a cooling of the body temperature, minimizing the visual and audible traits of the day, and nestling our heads on our favorite pillow in a reclined position are all ‘cues’ to our body–’hey’, it is time to sleep. Coupled with the fatigue of our muscles and the need for the brain to ‘shut off’ its monumental task of making sense of it all, sleep is that time when rest and repair occurs.

To be able to do work, gather food, and defend ourselves—our muscles need time to recover and repair the wear of the day. The brain, or ‘boss of it all’, has to make the decisions of what, when and how we eat, work, play and keep out of harm’s way. To be able to do that in a sensible manner, the brain needs its time to reshuffle or file away all of that stuff to stay healthy. The ‘boss’ needs to be able to make to make good decisions, remember what is good and bad, and respond quickly to the threats the body faces each day.

Sleep helps both the muscles and the brain to do their jobs more efficiently. Sleep has been studied and has been found to follow a certain ‘pattern’ or go through ‘stages’. To study these ‘stages’, monitoring brain waves and muscle tension in the body has shown what a ‘normal’ pattern looks like. Basically our sleep is described as follows:

1) Stage Wake – we are aware of our surroundings (our eyes can be open, or closed)

2) Stage 1 – very light sleep (we are easily awakened)

3) Stage 2 – a deeper sleep (a stage we spend most of our time)

4) Stage 3 – our deepest sleep (important time where muscles get their rest)

5) Stage REM – stands for ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ (time the brain ‘needs’)


A ‘normal’ pattern of our going through these different sleep stages generally looks like this:

A. We go through a ‘set’, including every stage, (Wake, 1, 2, 3, and REM) every 90 minutes

B. We have four or five ‘sets’ each night (I will describe four)

C. During the first ‘set’, we go from Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(most of the

cumulative time for Stage 3 comes during this first set), to REM(a

very short period of time)

D. The second ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(shorter amount of time), to

REM(longer period of time)

E. The third ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(if any), to REM(even longer)

F. The fourth ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(probably none), to REM(the

longest period of time for Stage REM)


Basically, our pattern of sleep is Smartly designed to enable our muscles to get their required rest during the first three hours of sleep. For our survival, we must have rested muscles to work, gather food and protect ourselves. So, if our sleep is interrupted, and we do not get a full night’s sleep—at least the muscles get most of what they need—early in the night. The brain is delayed in getting what it needs, but at least (our body) is more capable of functioning adequately, in the case our sleep time is inadequate. For healthy decision-making, memory, and overall mind sharpness, though, the later ‘sets’ of sleep are important for the brain.

If you struggle with initiating or maintaining sleep, and you are not able to get an adequate amount of sleep, then how you feel may be explained by this normal pattern of sleep. Fatigue, muscle aches or pain, lack of energy—all can because of an inadequate amount of important Stage 3 sleep, early in the night.

Brain fogginess, memory problems or, difficulty with decisions can be due to getting less than adequate ‘brain’ or REM time.

(Stay tuned for Part 2!)

What If It’s Something . . . Physical? (Part2)

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

842430_95938403RNothing can be more frustrating than to not see results, especially when it comes to sleep. Let’s look at some other physical causes that mess with a good sleep pattern.

1. Snoring – a term that is a negative to everyone who hears it, especially to those who have to attempt to sleep in the vicinity of a SNORER!

2. Leg movement – a fairly common and not well understood movement of legs or limbs (during sleep is called periodic limb movement disorder – PLMD)

3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea – a narrowing or closure of the upper airway that affects the normal movement of air during breathing

4. Other common ‘interrupters’ – including teeth grinding, pain, etc.

I am going to limit the disruptions to these four (although there are many others) because these (in addition to insomnia) probably take care of 95% or more of all sleep-related problems. If the steps you have taken to improve your sleep hygiene have not fully enabled you to get that ‘ideal’ nights sleep, then one of these problems may also contribute. Understanding the causes of these problems and taking steps to eliminating them, can aid in our quest for better sleep.

Snoring, of course, is a very obvious interruption to sleep. Sleeping next to a snorer can range from the gentle, sweet purring of a baby kitten all the way up to the paint-peeling roar of a jet engine-type ruckus that can be heard by neighbors down the street. It can be deafening and make a sleep partner want to ‘Go Postal’ to stop the noise.

But what if the snorer is YOU? Some people comment, “Well I never hear myself!”. Others, “Yes, I do occasionally wake up to some ‘sound’ that wakes me up. I think it could be me!” Whether you are the snorer or the snore-e, it is a major robber of sleep.

(I am going to continue explaining these interrupters to our sleep next post, so stay tuned!)

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