Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sligo Creek Trail

I find that I am not blogging as often now that I am back at school. Usually when I get on my computer during the school week, it is to do my course work. If I happen to stop procrastinating and get my school work done today, I may just post something more substantial. I have a few topics I would like to learn more about.

School work or not, it is a beautiful Sunday today, and I knew that I wanted to get out and enjoy it. My husband and I headed over to Sligo Creek Trail which is about 10 minutes away from our house. It's funny because we usually walk on it until we get to the spot that was the end of our walk in our old neighborhood. We walked for about an hour and 10 minutes, so probably 3.5-4 miles. A lot of bikers out today, and deer too!

Monday, September 7, 2009


When I began this blog, I had a number of diet and exercise goals, some I have had before (exercising regularly) and some that were new (eating raw foods everyday). I was doing pretty well over the summer but now that I am back in school, it seems that I am not doing so well with the exception of two changes: drinking green tea regularly and not eating candy.

One of the major reasons it has all become more difficult is lack of sleep. It has been very difficult to adjust to getting up before 6 am, not getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, and having to fall asleep when it is time, not when I just feel like going to bed.

But lack of sleep isn't like not eating raw foods or not achieving some other health goal, lack of sleep affects the ability and motivation to do everything else. I don't want to go for a walk or fix the treadmill (just when I got going on the treadmill, it broke!), or prepare the raw food to go with dinner because, after teaching all day, I am sleepy. It's not that I can't do all of these things, it just isn't a priority because I also have to pack more into my evenings, like preparing for the next day and doing other assignments for the courses I am taking. I know I have time for all of this, I don't have children to look after, lunches to prepare, etc., but when I am sleepy, I am not as efficient and I don't care enough to make the best health choices.

But after week 1 of school, I realize I HAVE to make sleep a priority. I have to make sure I am getting in bed by 10 pm every night, even earlier would better. If I want to reach any of my goals and resist the typical germs that come with being a school teacher then there are no excuses.

I know that ideally I need 8-9 hours, but 7 hours of sleep is pretty good. Anything less and I will get more and more tired as the week progresses. Some people, I know, seem to only need a few hours and I am not sure how that works, but that is definitely not me. And it's interesting how all the research might say that people need 7-9 hours, but we still admire those who sleep less I think (or is that just me?). I remember hearing on the radio that many CEO's of companies reported only needing 3-5 hours of sleep suggesting those really successful people in life are those who are awake long enough to get it all done. Again, that is just not me.

Lack of sleep is considered to cause or be related to many health problems, like obesity, cardiovascular conditions, depression, accidents, and inflammatory conditions (interesting!). I am sure we don't need research to also tell us that lack of sleep decreases our ability to be attentive. It is interesting that while we might burn more calories if we are awake for more hours, lack of sleep and weight gain are related. I also heard on a report about sleep that new mothers tend to lose more of their 'baby weight' when they are able to sleep regularly.

Of that list of risks, I also find the link between inflammation and lack of sleep interesting. Apparently being chronically sleepy or lacking in an appropriate amount of sleep can cause a low-grade inflammation which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. (Washington Post) I have my own reasons to avoid inflammation as I mentioned in my first post, and I think this fact has made me more determined to get more sleep.

I also know from personal experience, that lack of sleep affects my immunity. If there are a lot of viruses going around my school, I am more diligent about getting to bed on time.

Another bit of interesting information about sleep research is that there are two factors to consider when determining how much sleep we need. Basal sleep need refers to the sleep we need regularly and sleep debt refers to the amount of sleep we have lost due to poor sleep habits (National Sleep Foundation). That makes sense to me, because I know that one night of good sleep doesn't reverse the effects of a few nights of little sleep.

So, the bottom line here is that sleep is seriously important and if I want to do my job well and remain healthy, sleep is the first step to achieving that.