All through my day today I just could not stop thinking about this blog! Wondering where it will take me, thinking up ideas for future posts that I’ll make (feng shui, how not to let your stressful job ruin your life, and a list of the top 10 best scenes ever in Friends), and as I laid down I began writing in my head just a few of the many things I have to share with the world (none of which I could recall once I actually sat down to write).
So I got up to make myself some tea – something I never do. Why do I never do this? Well, I went vegan for a while. From last fall until the spring, I eliminated all animal products from my diet, and switched altogether from dairy to almond milk products. Although I’m not vegan anymore (it turned out I made a pretty poor vegan anyway), I’ve stuck with the almond milk for my smoothies and cereal, and the almond cream for my coffee, and both the fiance and I enjoy the almond milk much more than we ever enjoyed true dairy products. The problem is, tea without cream and/or sugar is only flavoured water, which I can’t stand. I LOVE water ❤ and I never adulterate it with lemons or fruits because I think it is the most perfect substance and sustenance all on its own. This aversion leads to another problem – as delicious and amazing as the almond milk and cream are, neither of them mixes well in water. In coffee? So perfect. In tea? Bleh.
Why do I care so much about drinking tea anyway? Well I don’t, really. I’ve lived most of my life not caring much for tea, and wondering what the big deal is. Why is it such an integral part of life for the English? (A quick google search on this reveals that the social arena of tea drinking in England even ascribes class standing as determined by how many lumps of sugar the drinker chooses to put in it and how strong the tea is. Who knew?) Why do people offer it as an option next to coffee, as if there is any comparison? I’m a coffee lover through and through, but even I can’t deny that there are a myriad of benefits to be had from drinking tea. But that is a conversation for another day.
The real reason why I bought the tea (that I just opened for the first time tonight despite having purchased it months ago), is that it was suggested to me as a possible way to get more deep sleep at night. By far my favourite gadget that I have ever had is my FitBit that I got for Christmas last year. Despite having worn it every day for 8 months now, I still find myself fascinated by all the data it tells me. It’s the story of my body throughout the day and night, all broken down into quantitative graphs, charts, and logs that tell me in numbers how healthy (or unhealthy) I am. It really tickles my inner nerd to see all that data, but by far what peaks my interest the most among all that information is the sleep statistics.
I’m fascinated by sleep. Perhaps in part because it has been so elusive to me at times, or it could be because it is the one thing that actually makes everything better. Had a hard day and ready to lash out at anyone who you suspect might have looked at you sideways? Take a nap and you’ll feel better. Physically exhausted from a grueling workout? Get a good night’s rest and by the next morning you will already be feeling stronger. Sleep is awesome. Sadly for me, and I know I’m not alone in this, getting a really good night’s sleep can be so much harder than it sounds.
So when I got this wonderful little gadget, I started to really pay attention to what it was telling me about my sleep cycles. What I found was that I do not often get enough deep sleep, which is the kind of sleep that helps us to feel rested and refreshed when we wake. I was confused because I had been exercising daily in the morning, eating healthy and not late at night, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, and closing my eyes at the same time every night. These are the things I had learned were critical to a good night’s rest, but I still wasn’t getting it! I felt (and still do feel) groggy in the mornings and never at all like I had really had enough sleep, despite that I was making sure to be in bed an hour before I want to fall asleep, which was exactly 8 hours before I needed to wake up. That seems like a lot of sleep, especially in today’s world, doesn’t it? But for some reason, my FitBit shows that I wake up multiple times a night (the app also informed me that it is normal to have 10-30 awake times each night, however mine is usually between 1 – 1 1/2 hours of awake time), and that I am getting a few percentage points less than ‘average’ deep sleep on any given night. This works out to about an hour of deep sleep, and I’ve noticed that only when I’ve had around 1 1/2 hours of deep sleep do I actually feel rested the next day.
So I did what any person in this day would do. I headed to the internet in search of the cause and subsequent remedy for my deep-sleeplessness. The first question I was asked is if stress is keeping me up at night. Although I am currently planning my own wedding, and helping with my best friend’s wedding, and I have a highly stressful and important job, most nights I don’t feel that those stressors keep me up. I’ve developed some very healthy boundaries and can most often leave my work stress where it belongs (more on ways to do this later!), so I didn’t see how that could be making the difference. One person who responded to my plea suggested that although I may not feel like the stress is keeping me up at night, my brain could very well be exhausting itself without me even knowing as it processes all the events of the day and all my plans for the near and not-so-near future. This made sense! I’m taking in and processing a lot of information throughout my day, and it is the brain’s job during sleep to consolidate it all – a task I’m really glad I don’t have to consciously participate in because it sounds incredibly draining. So maybe this little tidbit I learned from a helpful stranger is a tiny step in the right direction towards understanding.
However, simply being aware of something doesn’t necessarily give you the tools to solve it. I love my job and am not planning to leave anytime soon, and I am definitely not going to put any wedding planning on hold, so I need to continue searching for another solution. Helpful Stranger suggested I try some sleepy-time tea before bed. I never did look into exactly what it is about this tea that helps with sleep, but I bought it anyway, forgetting that I wouldn’t drink it with the almond cream and I couldn’t drink it without anything at all. So it sat and sat until I recalled this evening that we now have regular dairy cream in the fridge again, because I am trying my darnedest to eliminate sugar from my diet and although the almond cream has less sugar than most flavoured creamers, it still has more than I want to put in my body.
So there I was laying in bed this evening, wondering what my second blog post ever would be about, and I remembered that I finally had a nice tea to try with some real cream, so I made it happen in my favourite mug.
This mug looks like an ordinary black mug when it is not in use. But in reality it is the closest thing to an actual Marauder’s Map that I have ever seen!
The Marauder’s Map was gifted to Harry Potter by Fred and George Weasley in ‘the Prisoner of Azkaban’, and is a detailed map of the Hogwarts castle and grounds, that can display the location of every soul (including ghosts and animagus’) who is currently within its boundaries. The map, to lesser knowing eyes, appears to be just a simple scroll of parchment paper. However, when the user recites “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” the map appears, ready to use. A simple “mischief managed” will clear it right up again – particularly handy if you’re wandering around the castle after curfew and are facing being caught red-handed by a particularly distasteful teacher.
As a simple muggle myself, to get this map to disappear I can either wait for my tea to go cold, or enjoy the likeness to black dripping paint as I run it under a cold tap (which serves absolutely no purpose other than that it looks kind of cool).
So I’m curious, what kind of sleep data are you getting? What does it tell you about your habits, and have you found any solutions to problem areas? Please comment and let me know what insight into your habits you have found most helpful!