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‘It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal.’ Stirling Moss.

As I am sure you all realise we are fast coming up to the end of another year.  Yay!  But alsoYikes!  I’m not at all ready for it.  Well—yes I am, but also, no, I’m not, if you know what I mean.  I am really looking forward to the Christmas break when I know I can take a couple of weeks off and just lie around the house and veg out (no phones, no computers, no students!) and play with my girls, go to the movies, do some sketching and catch up on my reading (and sleep)—but I am also very aware there is still so much I have to do before then.

To tell you the truth my brain aches.  I have never had any trouble relaxing my musclesin fact you could say I am a bit of an expert at it (sloth is my favourite deadly sin)—but my brain is a whole other story.  Although I can see Stirling Moss’s point about not relaxing your brain totally, it would be kind of nice to at least be able to switch it down a notchor three.  I like to think I am pretty good at dropping into relaxation mode when I need to and I can’t say I consciously feel overly stressed about anythingbut every now and again my brain likes to kick in and and remind me that I am obviously not as good at switching off as I think I am.

This past week I have woken every morning around 2.00am (wide awake—bam!) to find my mind running through lists of things that really (really, really) have to be done this week.  Because once they are donethere are all these other things that need to be done the week after that . . .  and the week after that . . .

‘. . . the festive season is thundering towards me and I have barely given it a moment’s thought . . . the car has to go to the garage on Friday for its MOT . . . got to think about the new term timetable now  ‘cos if it’s left until the New Year all hell will break loose . . . I have a house inspection this week, I’d better get go over it once more to keep the rental people happy . . . did I actually transfer those last course results on to that other database, or just think I did?  . . . I’ve got to get the brochure away to the printers at the end of next week . . . Marg’s puppy is coming to stay with us for the weekend  (shhhh, I haven’t told the girls yet) . . . what the hell am I going to write for this week’s blog . . . ‘

You know, that kind of thing.  Sigh.

Of course I am no different to anyone else and, if I am perfectly honest, my life is undoubtedly much less complicated and a lot less busy than many othersbut there you are.  It’s not their brains keeping me up at night, it’s mine.  It’s not as if I can do all that much about it either (short of getting really really good at meditation in a hurry and  that seems unlikely) and I do know that all these ‘things-that-need-to-be-done-right-now’ will eventually resolve themselves in due course.  They always do.  (In other words, suck it up and ride it out Sal.)

But you know, in spite of knowing all thatsometimes . . . just sometimes . . . it does a body a world of good just to have a bloody good grumble about it anyway . . .

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.’ Stan Laurel.

I love to watch my dogs sleep.  They always look so comfortable and content.  Unlike me, they never seem to suffer from disturbed sleep. No tossing, no turning, no thrashing about.  (No thumping the pillows or rearranging the bedclothes.)  They just find a nice, sweet spot, turn around three times, and settle in.  I often wonder what they dream about.  “Chasing rabbits,” my dad would say.  Watching Maudie now and listening to her excited little ‘yip-yips’ as her nose twitches and her feet paw the air, it’s easy to imagine that’s exactly what she’s doing (although I don’t know that Maudie has ever seen a real bunny . . . )

Scientists have been performing sleep and dream studies for decades but still do not seem to be 100% agreed on why we dream.  The most popular theory is that dreams work together with sleep to help the brain sort through the information it has collected during our waking hours.  Dreaming helps us process what to remember and what to forget.

As it seems that humans and dogs have very similar sleep cycles (stages of wakefulness, rapid eye movement (REM) and slow wave deep sleep) perhaps dogs dream for exactly the same reason we do.  Rather than chasing rabbits, Maudie is probably reliving all the sights, sounds and smells she encountered during the day, deciding which ones she should discard and which ones are important enough to keep (there’s a new big scary dog moved in around the corner . . . the little kid down the street always has lollies in his pockets . . . I hid my favourite ball on the couch behind the cushion . . .)

I rarely remember my own dreams.  I know I do dream, and dream often, but I rarely remember the details.  This past week I has been a little different.  I have had some seriously weird dreams.  Really vivid, surreal, almost nightmarish dreams—some so freaky they remained with me when I woke.  I was trying to think why that would be—why these dreams seemed so different—and then I had a thought (it happens sometimes) . . . could my whacked-out dreams be an unexpected by-product of all the (industrial strength) flu medication I have recently been taking?

I had never really thought about that before but now I was curious, so I looked it up.  (I looked it up on the web, because who reads the teeny-tiny printed (‘Please read carefully’) foldouts that come in the medication boxes?  I tried that once.  Not only did I give myself serious eye strain, but the list of possible life-threatening side effects nearly scared me to death . . . )  Anyway, I found that there are in fact numerous drugs used in cough, cold, flu, allergy, motion sickness and (get this) insomnia medications, which have been linked to dream-altering states and vivid nightmares.

(How unfair would it be to be suffering from insomnia, only to take prescribed meds, finally fall asleep and then be hit by screaming nightmares. Talk about adding insult to injury!)

Weird dreams have also been noted as a side effect of anti-depressants, pain medications, blood-pressure meds and drugs to help people stop smoking.  So it seems that while we are happily ingesting any and all pharmaceuticals to cure whatever ails us, we are also unwittingly inviting in all manner of creeping night terrors to join us in our misery as well!

Happily, so far, my girls have been healthy enough that I haven’t had to ply any of them with much medication of any sort, but my own experience this week has made me realise that this is something I should probably bear in mind should they need any ‘medicating’ in the future.  If their sleep patterns are indeed akin to ours, it stands to reason that any drugs they receive might well affect their sleep patterns (and dreams) too.

I admit, this somewhat worrying to me.  Maudie is a happy little dog and would probably quickly shrug off any bad dream (just wave her ball under her nose and she’d be good to go) but Mabel and Molly are both somewhat highly strung at the best of times (that’s putting it politely) and the idea of them (and therefore me) having to cope with raging bouts of doggie-nightmares doesn’t quite bear thinking about . . .

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.’ Wilson Mizener.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maudie’s got the ‘Yip Yips’.  She’s fast asleep and dreaming . . .

I love to watch my dogs sleep. Especially in the evenings, when they’re all fat and fed and warm and content.

They’ve had their mad half hour when I first get home from work when they fling themselves crazily around the house, running from room to room, jumping on the bed, off the bed, over the couch, under the couch, barking and giggling and jostling each other up and down the hallway, until they finally stop, panting and wriggling and waiting for me to catch up and give them a pat.

sniffing dogThey’ve had their walk around the park, sniffed every blade of grass, woofed at every other dog, had pats from all their fishermen friends and, if very lucky (me less so), found something really juicy and stinky to roll in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’ve lined themselves up in the kitchen and waited patiently (ha!) for me to get their dinner ready, wolfed it down as if they are never going to get another, and then lined up again and beseeched me for more (I’m such a bad mother—you can tell just by looking at them that I don’t feed them enough).

Mabel and Maude have had their obligatory wrestling contest holding a leg each of their favourite bear (poor bear), dragging each other back and forth across the room and growling fiercely at each other the whole time. (Molly doesn’t join in. Molly is above all that sort of nonsense.) 

And then, and only then will they start to slow down, to get a bit yawny and a bit sleepy-eyed and grumbly and will retire to their favourite sleeping spots around the living room.Three bugs in a rug1 Mabel likes the doggie bed in front of the telly (or lately under the couch—although I suspect that has more to do with trying to avoid the eardrops she is being subjected to twice daily at the moment). Molly likes to sleep on the other end of the couch from me, and woebetide any one who tries to take her spot (a bit like Sheldon really). And Maudie usually comes to rest tucked up half under my left arm and half across my lap.

Although they look so settled sometimes they won’t sleep for long. Perhaps after only ten minutes or so Mabel will yawn and stretch and sleepwalk out into the kitchen and help herself to a goodo . . . and then another . . . and maybe just one more . . . dog and bowlor some sound will permeate Molly’s sleepy depths and she will suddenly explode off the couch and hurtle, huffing and chuffing, out through the back door to kill whatever has disturbed her. (She’s usually back in within a minute or so quite pleased with herself so she obviously makes short work of any intruder, although I have yet to find the bodies).

'Can't we run a little, and just pretend I'm chasing you?'But sometimes they drop into that deep, deep hear-nothing sleep, and that is where Maudie is now. She is sleeping with intensity. She is frowning. Her nose is twitching and her feet are running . . . and then gently gently her frown relaxes and her feet start to slow and she becomes very still . . . and  then another excited little ‘yip yip’ and a tail flick and her feet are off and running again. I wonder what she is dreaming about? ‘Chasing rabbits’ my Dad would have said. Maybe, although I don’t know that Maudie has ever actually seen a rabbit . . .

In a little while she’ll wake up, stretch, go get a drink of water, stretch again, and then return to her favourite spot, turn around three times one way, turn around three times the other way, curl up again and go back to sleep. Just like that. And when I eventually go to bed myself and turn out the lights she will sleep all night too, having done not much else all day. Sigh. sleeping-puppyDo I sound jealous? Just a little bit. Apparently adult dogs sleep for around 12-14 hours a day. Puppies can sleep for up to 18 hours a day. I don’t think I need to sleep quite that long, but longer than a two hours at a stretch would be nice. I remember (in the dim, dark, distant past) I used to to sleep really, really well. Eight or nine hours a night. Blissful, unbroken sleep. Alas, no longer.

It was a couple of years ago now that I really noticed my sleep patterns changing. I tried everything (short of medication) to improve the situation, even (a very drastic measure) joining a gym to try and wear myself out (see earlier post ‘The only exercise I take. . .’) and, as much as I hate to admit it, the exercising does help.wide awake dog I can now go to bed dead tired and fall asleep almost immediately. It is the staying asleep that is the issue. Sometimes I overheat (other ladies of a certain age may know what that is like) and I have to get up and go for a walk around the house to cool down. Sometimes I hear somethingor think I dobut the dogs haven’t heard anything as they are all still fast asleep (and how aggravating is that when you are wide awake and everyone else in your household is snoring their heads off? I know I said I love to watch them sleep, but there are limits you know . . .) At other times I have absolutely no idea why I have woken up. I’m fast asleep and then I’m not.  I’m awake. Wide awake. With, it seems, not even slightest chance of nodding back off. So annoying.

So I get up and wash those few dishes I’d left in the sink, or tidy the living room, or decide what I am going to wear to work tomorrow, sleepdeprived1or read for a while (and also make sure all the dogs are awake ‘cos if I have to be awake in the middle of the night so do they), and then I’ll go back to bed and lie there for a while longer and at some stage eventually drop off again, sleep fitfully and wake up groggy and cranky and half an hour later than my usual getting-up time and have to rush around to catch up and probably be foggy in the head and irritable all that next day and—work colleagues you have been warned.  The next evening I will be really, really tired and go to bed early and fall asleep quickly . . . and the whole process will start all over again. Sigh.

I know I shouldn’t complain. There are people out there who suffer much more than I. We have all read the research about what happens to people’s cognitive functions when they are even mildly sleep deprivedconfusion, depression, headaches, irritability, etc (preaching to the choir here) but real insomnia is no laughing matter. People have actually died from not being able to sleep. I had not heard of it but there is a disease called Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) which is a rare, and ultimately terminal, genetically inherited disease. Once a person starts to show the symptoms, starting with insomnia, the illness progresses quickly and the symptoms include hallucinations, weight loss and finally dementia before the person actually dies within a relatively short period of times—so, like I said, I shouldn’t complain. That doesn’t mean I won’t of course . . . especially after my next sleepless night.

Of course, there are plenty of websites out there full of advice on how to best deal with this issue, some of the advice sounds good (no electronics in the bedroom), some less so (avoid alcohol in the evening—say what?)  but, as I said, I’ve tried most of these ‘remedies’ already to small avail.

dogblinkI wish I could just ask Maudie what her secret is. I know she’d tell me if she could because she loves me (and also because she is getting a bit fed up of me waking her up all the time just because I can’t sleep). But for now I guess I will just have to keep watching her and the others sleep and hope some of their sleepy dust rubs off on me.

Although, just quietly and while no-one is looking, I have been thinking I might just give that ‘turning around three times’ before I lie down thing a try. Maybe that’s some kind of secret doggie-Jedi-mind trick they pull on themselves.  I’ll let you know how it works out . . .

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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