heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 5 of 7: Get some sleep

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
W. C. Fields

I think I must have been a cat in a past life.  I’m not sure whether I’m nocturnal by nature, or simply an insomniac.  One thing is for certain: I do not sleep very much.  And when I do, it’s a light sleep that is easily disturbed by sound or motion.

Most “night” people (a.k.a. insomniacs) know, in theory, that sleep is essential to good health and well-being.  In practice, however, we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re doing some of our best work late at night, when everything is silent and still.  Actually, a good night’s sleep will boost overall productivity by a much greater degree than a sleepless night will.  

5 simple reasons why sleeping through the night is a good thing:

  1. It improves your memory
  2. Boosts creativity
  3. Gives you more energy
  4. Makes you feel younger
  5. Makes you look younger
“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”
William Blake

5 medically-proven reasons why prolonged bouts of not sleeping can kill you:

  1. May cause inflammation which, in turn, may result in high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, premature aging and death
  2. May cause your metabolism to slow down and your weight to increase
  3. May make you accident-prone
  4. May contribute to depression and/or mood swings
  5. May adversely affect your immune system – making you more susceptible to colds, viruses, pneumonia
“Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life.”
Dr. Rafael Pelayo

Did you know that approximately 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 sleep disorders? I kid you not.  

So, how much sleep do we really need? Although it depends on the person, the general credo is that 7-8 hours sleep (for adults) is ideal. The National Sleep Foundation has provided a chart showing the ideal sleep duration per age group, including the ideal time to go to sleep – see below:

sleepchart

Personally, I intend to make an effort to sleep more (and earlier).  The odds will not be in my favor, if I don’t make this critical life change.

To all the insomniacs out there: please, please get some sleep!

“And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new created.”
D.H. Lawrence

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 4 of 7: Feed your brain

I stared at the man.
‘How many tins of sardines did you eat, Jeeves?’
‘None, sir. I am not fond of sardines.’
‘You mean, you thought of this great, this ripe, this amazing scheme entirely without the impetus given to the brain by fish?’
‘Yes, sir.’
[From Very Good, Jeeves, (c) 1930 by P.G. Wodehouse]

How many times a month do you eat seafood? And, more importantly, why should you care? Well, according to a recent study¹ published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, it was determined that weekly consumption of baked or broiled fish is associated with large gray matter volumes in the areas of the brain that are responsible for cognition and memory. Fried anything, let alone fish, is not healthy (although it sure is tasty!).

Another study² published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) on February 2, 2016, reinforced what many of us suspected all along: that, mercury levels aside, fish is really good for the brain. In fact, eating fish regularly can actually reduce the risk of dementia – more specifically, Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that as we age, we lose a critical lipid in the brain, DHA, and that “fish consumption (therefore) may be more beneficial with older age.”

But why wait until then? We should be proactive and start consuming fish regularly… now – well before we reach our golden years. I intend to significantly increase my intake of seafood in 2017. In fact, I ate salmon on January 1st and today (January 4th) I ate a phenomenal serving of spaghetti with sardines. It  was the tastiest spaghetti that I have had in a long time. Now I have never posted a recipe on this blog site. Ever. But I will today. That’s how fabulous this recipe really is. You can add your own elements to it – but whatever you do, don’t leave out the sardines!

BRAIN FOOD

Spaghetti with Sardines

spagsard

Ingredients

  • 14 oz spaghetti  (I use Rao’s homemade spaghetti)
  • 1 tbsp  olive oil
  • 2 garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 8 oz can chopped tomato (or the equivalent amount of chopped fresh plum or Roma tomatoes)
  • 2 cans skinless and boneless sardines in tomato sauce (or in olive oil)
  • 1/3 cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the instructions on your package of spaghetti.  Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium pan and cook the garlic for 1 min. Add the chili flakes, tomatoes and sardines, breaking up roughly with a wooden spoon. Heat for 2-3 mins, then stir in the olives, capers and most of the parsley. Mix well to combine.
  • Drain the pasta.  Place the pasta on the plate. Add the sauce on top or and mix well (your preference). Garnish with the remaining parsley.

Yield: Serves 4

Endnotes:

¹ Raji, Cyrus A. et al. “Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter Loss.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 4, 444-451.

² Morris MC, Brockman J, Schneider JA, Wang Y, Bennett DA, Tangney CC, van de Rest O. “Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults.” JAMA. 2016;315(5):. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451

Ideas lost in shades of grey …

Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

“However vague they are, dreams have a way of concealing themselves and leave us no peace until they are translated into reality, like seeds germinating underground, sure to sprout in their search for the sunlight.” 

~ Lin Yutang  (b.1895 – d.1976) – Chinese writer and inventor.

Have you ever thought  of a brilliant idea in your sleep, only to wake up and  find that you can’t remember it?

I hate it when that happens!

Last night, a few really good ideas for one of my chapters came to me and, being a light sleeper, I should have had the sense to wake up and jot them down but …. no, I decided to go back to sleep!

And now, for the life of me, I can’t bloody well remember them!

I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to retrace my thoughts ….

… still drawing a blank.

Maybe they’ll come back to me again tonight. Fingers crossed.

So this begs the question: Why does this happen? Why? WHY?

Is it because we:

  1. are sleep-deprived?
  2. suffer from too much stress?
  3. don’t meditate enough?
  4. lack vitamins?
  5. don’t eat enough seafood?
  6. are growing old (er)?

It could be any one, a combination, or all of the above.

As I’ve said many times before (maybe one day I’ll take my own advice!), the recipe for a healthy mind, body and spirit lies in one, simple practice:   Balance.

“We have overstretched our personal boundaries and forgotten that true happiness comes from living an authentic life fueled with a sense of purpose and balance.”   

~ Dr. Kathleen Hall, Author and Stress Expert

When we maintain a balanced life, we operate at peak level.  Our minds are stimulated. We think well and sleep well. We dream. And, amazingly, we recall/remember.  Here are a few tried and true tips to achieve Balance:

  1. Rest. Insomniacs are not able to function optimally. The brain needs to rest, in order to operate at its best.
  2. Meditate. Take a break and relax the mind. Gather our thoughts. Sit in silence. Regroup. This will bring us clarity of thought and completely re-energize us.
  3. Exercise. Do not omit this step! The process is simple:  cardiovascular exercise → improves blood flow to the brain → thus optimizing brain function.
  4. Eat healthy.  And, do NOT skip breakfast. Nuts (unless allergic), fresh fruit, green veggies and, yes, fish!
  5. Reduce your alcohol consumption.  Especially two hours before we sleep.  Alcohol is a depressant and it slows down/impairs mental function.
  6. Turn off the tellie (TV)! It’s a brain drain and, for the most part, a waste of valuable time.
  7. Stop relying on gadgets and exercise our minds.  Do we really need to use a calculator for simple math?  Do we really need to use the GPS every time?  Isn’t it fun and adventurous to discover a new place … by chance?
  8. Read a good book.  Reading helps us process ideas and thoughts.  It stimulates the imagination.
  9. Laugh and laugh often. Laughter is a great tonic for the brain and the spirit. Blood pressure goes down, and the “feel-good” endorphins flow to the brain.  Play the song  I Love to Laugh (from Mary Poppins) – remember that one? Laughter is infectious … in a good way!

On that note,  I shall go and fetch my notebook.  I just remembered the ideas and need to jot them down, lest I forget again!

 

Image via thehindu.com.