Hallelujah – A Good Night’s Sleep! Here’s How…

After three years, last night I had nine hours of good sleep where I laid my head down and woke up nine hours later. Hereโ€™s how I got to this point.

So, it’s been about three years since I can remember having an effortless, good night’s sleep. Where I would lay my tired head down and just simply fall asleep and stay that way for the whole night. This post is about the journey to getting back to that simple necessity of good night’s sleep. Something I will never again take for granted.

Sawing logs? Catching flys? Funny phrases for sleep. But, sleep had lost it’s humour for me. It had eluded me and I was getting desperate. I had been told to go to bed around the same time every night. No screens in the room. Darken the room. Sleep in a separate room from spouse and pets. Fan beside the bed. No liquids after 8 pm. Lots of exercise and fresh air. Bamboo bedding. Cool room. No caffeine past noon. I have done it all. I had even duct-taped over any annoying little green LEDs – like the one on the heat pump. Still no sleep.

After three years, last night I had nine hours of good sleep where I laid my head down and woke up nine hours later. Here’s how I got to this point.

It started in my book club this past winter when a friend was saying that her aunt was seriously suffering with shingles and that we should all get vaccinated against it. Making a mental note, I called my doctor’s office for an appointment to get the prescription for the vaccine. The appointment would take place five weeks later. Ugh. Life in Nova Scotia with a shortage of doctors.

Five weeks later, I now need to wait a few more weeks because I have since had the covid vaccine and there needs to be at least four weeks between jabs.

So, two weeks ago, I called down to my local Pharmasave to make an appointment for the shingles vaccine. I was put into the following week on Wednesday which was a week ago. All this to say, it was a journey just to get to the place where I would learn the real trick.

After getting the jab, the very nice and kind pharmacist had to observe me for fifteen minutes or so to ensure that I was okay. In that time she asked these words, which will be forever in my mind as the key to unlocking the mystery…

“So, is there any other health concern that I can help you with today? (or some such phrase which gave me the opening to ask about my overwhelming, at this point, issue with not sleeping. You see, I had a sponge brain going on. I was forgetting things and misplacing things. I was putting things in the freezer that didn’t belong there – like a fresh bunch of broccoli. I was lacking energy, grumpy, and reaching for carbs and sugar to fill the void. And who knows what else was troubling me below the surface.)

So, I said back, “well, actually, yes there is something”. Trying not to cry, I said, “I haven’t been sleeping well for the past three years. I sometimes have whole nights of no sleep where I alternate between laying quietly and just keep hoping for sleep to come, and reading. I am getting desperate because I am also bipolar so sleep is very important to ward off episodes and anxiety.” I was nearly crying. She was nodding profusely and looking at me with big, kind, intelligent eyes. She professionally asked about any other meds I might be taking.

She said then, “Are you taking magnesium?”

“Yes, I’m taking the big horse pills from the bottle with the green lid.”

“I would recommend magnesium glycinate for you because…blahba-de-blah – my sponge brain couldn’t recount those words if I tried. With her vastly educated tongue, she explained why magnesium glycinate works best.

I’m thinking, “Preaching to the choir. You had me at ‘recommend'”.

I blurted out, cutting her off: “Sign me up!”

“I compound capsules of it here. Everyone here, (she waved her arm in the direction of the whole pharmacy), is taking it. I’ll make a few and you can give it a try. 200 milligram capsules and take max of 600 mg per night.”

That night I had five solid hours of sleep, up for a quick pee and then three solid hours. Each night has been progressively better and as stated, last night NINE solid hours. Thank effing jeesus.

So, this morning I wander out into my living room and sit on the bay window bench on the aqua afghan my sis made for me. I look out the window and it’s odd. For some reason I’m facing the opposite way that I normally face. I usually always look north down to the bay. This time I raised my face to the south west and there, quite aptly, was a rainbow.

What’s 50 Pounds Between Friends?

In the last five years I have both gained and lost fifty pounds. Hereโ€™s how…

Five years ago I entered what is known as perimenopause and the shit basically hit the fan with regard to my body size (and sleeping – NOT). I was doing all my normal stuff, like big walks and lots of water and ‘watching’ what I ate, for the most part, but the pounds were coming on anyway. I was beating myself up about weight gain, heading up to the 135 mark was like never-never land to me back then. Well folks, you can then imagine what hitting the 180 mark felt like when I was weighed at a doctorโ€™s appointment. Hell. I also felt completely bloated, toxic, hot flashes and, as stated, was not sleeping well. Many would attribute this to symptoms of perimenopause. This could go on for ten years, I was told. Holy sweet jesus.

Last summer hubby and I went away for a week to the sweet little village of St Andrews By The Sea, New Brunswick. We had some free nights on points in the Algonquin. Dean and I, at that time, liked to raise a glass with a craft beer to quaff together. We would have a nice lunch somewhere and each have a beer. Then we would do a long, long walk and come supper time, we again would have a beer or even some wine as well. Basically, my clothes were getting tighter and needed replacing and I wasn’t sleeping. It was upon returning from this trip that I weighed 180 and I nearly died with that. I had gone from a size 4 to size 16.

I spent a lot of effort hiding my size. Certain t-shirts masked the belly rolls and were long enough to cover my bum. I thought of my new bras as ‘machinery’ and were over $100 each in order to keep the girls supported. These pieces of fine engineering were extremely well made and were lacey and pretty but they were so uncomfortable it was unbearable. I would remove my bra as soon as possible upon getting home. Another thing that happened which is cringe-worthy and perhaps TMI, is my upper inner legs would rub together with the added weight. I can not state emphatically enough how much I hated this. I had to wear spandex shorts under dresses and skirts in order to avoid chaffing. While visiting Cuba just before the pandemic hit, I was perturbed by incessant chaffing due to the added ingredients of salt water and fine sand and had to buy diaper cream in order to combat this problem. Ok. This really spoke to me. Hellooooo. Diaper cream!!!!! Jysus!

Because of not sleeping and then feeling completely bloated and toxic while on our sweet little away trip, to New Brunswick, I shook up my routine enough and was uncomfortable enough to see that I had to make a change. I was not happy with how I looked nor how I felt.

The decision I made was to stop drinking alcohol of any sort. Almost immediately I peed out about ten pounds of water, folks. (I do have another complicating factor: I take lithium to stabilize bipolar disorder. So not only perimenopause but also lithium in the works.)

A few weeks later I had dropped another five to ten pounds and I was feeling better and better. Sleep was not nearly as elusive and I was actually having the odd night of sleeping right through to morning. What a gift.

Sometime in there I watched a TEDx talk about intermittent fasting. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Dkt7zyImk

I had thought fasting was an extreme and nutty behaviour but, the way she explained it, it sounded perfect for me and had added health benefits. I learned that WHEN you eat is more important than WHAT you eat. I stopped eating after having a good supper meal and didn’t eat again until mid-morning the next day. Because I was having a morning coffee, I didn’t feel hungry and I was never a huge fan of breakfast anyhow.

This was key to dropping the remainder of the weight. Please understand: I DID NOT STARVE MYSELF. If ever I felt hungry, really hungry, I would eat something with high protein like a couple of eggs / a handful of nuts / peanuts / a piece of cheese / a pepperoni stick. In this way I reduced carbs. For me, reducing carbs, like bread, rice, pasta was key. Also, I would reach for an apple or a pear sometimes. Even at night I will sometimes have a crispy cold apple if I’m feeling a nagging hunger that just won’t stop.

I lost about five pounds per month, so a safe amount to lose, and am now back to 125. On me, 125 actually looks and feels good and I am happy.

Summerville beach, Nova Scotia (me: 130 pounds, Jack: 60 pounds)

Key things I did:

  1. eliminated alcohol;
  2. stopped eating at night after supper;
  3. when sitting for a show or movie I keep my hands busy with playing scrabble or something like blocks on my ipad. This helps me to not want snack foods while viewing;
  4. the majority of the time I ate only from mid-morning to mid-evening and therefore had 14 to 18 hours of fasting. That is, no food or beverages other than water after supper from 7 pm. And, black coffee in the morning. Although sometimes I would have an apple, some nuts or a small piece of cheese in the evening if my stomach was rumbling;
  5. walked 5 to 10 km per day;
  6. pretty much eliminated desserts and empty carb foods (I was not going to be that person who says no to a piece of birthday cake or to a piece of home-made pie. I just didn’t eat it often);
  7. cut back on carbs like bread, cereal, buns, potatoes, rice, pasta, nacho chips, wraps and would choose high-protein foods instead like sliced meats, nuts, fish;
  8. between meal snacks would be high protein or a piece of fruit;
  9. I weighed myself on the same day each week. I didn’t own a scale initially but was visiting family and they had one. Digital scales are now widely available even at your local pharmacy for under $30. Worth it. But, I recommend once per week weight measuring, same time each week wearing about the same outfit and write it down so that you can see your progress.

So many people have asked me what exactly I did to lose the weight, especially during lockdown when most people were putting a few pounds ON. Simple things. Besides this, I would take time each day to mentally thank my strong healthy body for all it does for me. If extra weight doesn’t bother you, well, then don’t do anything different. For me, it DID bother me. I felt like carrying around an extra fifty pounds was quite torturous for me. I mean, this was over FIVE years. It took 4 years of dedication to put that much weight on and it took 9 months of dedication to take it off. I am back to size 4. Size 4 feels good.

Before I began my downward journey I was eating a treat (cookie, chips, ice-cream) almost every night. I was also, as stated, drinking an alcohol drink or two almost every day. That’s a lot of extra carbs on a 5’5″ frame. I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen with these extra carbs. Perhaps I was in complete denial. But, in hindsight I realize that the toxicity of daily alcohol was likely what was causing the cravings for junk food.

I will never again take my trimness for granted. As I take those steps during the day, usually with my furry friend, Jack, I really pay attention to how much easier it is to move. How much easier it is to climb a hill. How much more balance I have in the winter with the trail is slippery. How much easier it is to get down on my knee to pick something up or to sit on the floor to play with my little grand-niece and grand-nephew. I give myself a nod for finding the method that truly worked for me to lose the excess weight. For me, that fifty pounds was a real thing that made my life less sweet. I’m glad it is gone.

I welcome your questions folks. Bottom line: if you want to shed weight and you’re in good health – GO FOR IT. If you want to shed weight and you have a health issue – check in with your doc first to ensure you are doing things safely. Lose the weight slowly. A few pounds per month. Be patient. Walk. Be mindful. Take good care of your Earth Suit with healthful fresh foods. It will come off.

‘All of Me’ at my highest weight, 2020