Sleep-less in Discipline
I saw this article in the New York Times, you can read it by clicking here. What do you think of that? I honestly thought it was the opposite. The higher my BP, the harder it’s been for me to sleep well—and that’s been too much of my adult life. I personally think the key is not just low salt, but low stress, and a good workout routine. If you’re body’s exhausted (in a good way) you can sleep. At least I can, I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. Bonus, it's great for your heart! At the end of this post I will share some of the other tried and true remedies that are holistic which I have personally implemented and will continue to do until I see a shift. In the first post I forgot to mention that my BP has been in the range of 130+/80+ with a low/normal pulse. It’s hypertensive considering the Metoprolol Tartrate is meant to keep the blood pressure normal (and it had, for years until recently). Within the next few blog posts my goal is to report news that the BP is in normal range. Then the goal is to keep it there—indefinitely.
As I sit here and reflect on it, I think my entire life there has always been something difficult about sleeping all through the night. This other article mentions that heart disease can often start developing in childhood (watch the video, I found it tremendously informative and I know you will too, plus it’s only 5 minutes long)… I guess that explains some things, but not all. Sleep is just as bizarre a phenomena as waking, as far as I can tell. Sure, I’ve had strings of years when I would fall asleep and stay asleep the entire night through, but I haven’t seen them since I was a teenager or a little kid. There’s the inevitable shuffle to the bathroom to offload old water. There are strange sounds in the night. Thoughts whirring and whizzing through the mind, preventing sleep from settling in. Anxiety about having to go to work the next morning—I know you can’t relate to that, but still… ;)
This whole thing with me not sleeping reminded me of my teenage years in which I battled another (I thought) unrelated illness. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
THE TEEN WHO DIDN’T SLEEP IN
Imagine Manhattan at the age of 15. You live there. The sites, the sounds, the restaurants, the people. My father had a great little chiropractic practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Central Park West off 72nd Street. We lived on a yellow…I mean, a cigar shaped island in the East River between Manhattan and Queens called Roosevelt Island. My commute to school from the ages of 13 through 15 was to the lower East Side near Thompson Square Park—actually, my public school butted right up against T.S. Park. To get there was quite a hike. Most days schlepping my body felt like the hardest thing I ever did. By the time I climbed the stairs in my school to get to class I was practically asleep. Never mind the trip back home. Most days I thought I'd never make it to the first bus, let alone the famous tram to get to the island!
Heart Unhealthy Diet
Cheese pizza slices for lunch. Dinner was often a hamburger and fries with gravy for dipping. The salt content of any of these alone is terrifying to contemplate! Salad? Get that away from me! I wanted Chinese food (notorious back then for being as greasy and unhealthy as it could be, especially the places I wanted to go to.) With all the ways I was poisoning my body I hit the end of my rope. Going to school was just impossible. My mom had to start working at my Dad’s office when he caught his office assistant stealing from him. My brother who is older was often at home, so I was sick a lot. He had the unfortunate run of babysitting me while I felt sick. I really was sick, and didn’t know just how sick.
Home School and Discipline Awry
At some point I convinced my parents it was time for me to drop out of school and do homeschool. They agreed that I may as well. My grades were terrible anyway. My dad was suspicious that I had a bigger problem than I was able to articulate. He took me to see another doctor friend of his in the city who used his own testing methods to reveal that I suffered from CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). There are studies out now that support the possibility that CFS is related to heart disease. Who knew!
My whole life changed when I read a specific book one day. It was about meditation. It was about many things, and it was connected to the spiritual lineage (ashram and guru) that I had always been connected to through my parents. I say the book changed my life, but in fact it simply changed my direction. In reality, my own discipline is what changed my whole life. After my diagnosis I went on a vegetarian/vegan diet. I stayed home doing my syllabi from my new Home School, I woke each day at 3AM! I meditated and then chanted in Sanskrit (I know, whaaaa?) for an hour. My self-discipline went militant. And no, I don't recommend anyone go off the deep end like I did. I was a teenager and thought everything in the book was rather a direct path to knowing my self, a specific path and if I didn't follow it, then I'd never know who I really was. Teenagers...so literal, so lost. Anyway, that's not how life is as we all know.
I’d eat breakfast, study in my room and write reports and read the books I was assigned. I felt energized in a way I’d never experienced before. Shortly after this, in 1996 we moved out of the city to New Rochelle, NY and I completed my studies there, receiving my High School Diploma in the mail at the ripe age of 17 with high mark grades and glowing reports from my teachers—all of whom I stayed in touch with via snail and email at that exciting time. I never attended college. There’s more, because life can’t be captured in a blog post or a book, but the link between CFS and CVD feels significant. Here's my suspicion based on my behavior: all that early rising was good to strengthen my nerves, but was difficult on my heart. The fact that I was mostly vegan/vegetarian during that time saved my heart, and the fact that I got little sleep also weakened it. My life has always been in the clutches of contrast, one end and another. It's a constant pendulum swing. I bet if you look into your own life's past you can see how certain things you did or didn't do contributed to the way your body is right now. You're probably way ahead of me that way, but I always think it's cool to take a step back and look at the larger/longer picture.
WHAT I DO NOW:
I still wake up early, but that's not because I'm trying to become enlightened. I have to go to work and my work-days begin early, that's just the way of it. I think there are moments of freedom and 'enlightenment' every day if we're open enough to notice them. That's good enough for me at this stage of life.
As of this blog post I take the following supplements daily: Multivitamin, Kyolic Garlic (good for cardiovascular health), Hibiscus-Hawthorne Tea (this is sipped throughout the day), Flax Oil from 365, and Fish Oil. Yes, these are taken in addition to medications. You may try whichever brands you like, but these work pretty well for me for now. I’m well known in my household for being averse to tea, but I kind of like the Hawthorne Hibiscus tea by Traditional Medicinals. It has a tart flavor (which I augment with half a tablespoon of honey.) If you want to read more about Hawthorne and its benefits to the heart click here.
If you or someone you know is chronically depleted and tired, if every movement causes stress, anxiety, the feeling of exhaustion, please do something about it. Meditation is one of the most powerful and healing remedies for all bodily ailments. Respected scientists now support meditation as a means of changing the brain and reducing stress.