Sleep Is The Best Medication

I need more than a cat nap!  But how do I explain to my cat Maisie that I need more than a cat nap to operate efficiently! As Summer Time dawn breaks she wakes me, with a gentle paw tap to my nose, having spent the night curled up on my bed. But it’s far too early in the morning!  Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make me tired but it impacts on my mood, performance, concentration – and of great importance, the way my body repairs itself.  Consistent sleep-deprivation reduces my body’s ability to maintain the processes required for muscle tissue, growth hormone and repairs – which occur during sleep.

I was interested to read that a recent study by The Sleep Council found those who exercise are more likely to sleep better.  But a word of caution.  I’m of the opinion that it isn’t a good idea to take physical exercise before you go to bed, because the adrenaline is flowing and your heart rate is up. After a workout the brain is very active and with body temperature raised it makes it harder to fall asleep.  Those who want to, or need to exercise in the evening, should do so over two hours before bedtime.

We possibly spend a third of our lives sleeping so it’s important to create an environment that helps us to sleep.  But many of us use our bedrooms for other activities such as discussing important issues with our partners, watching TV or browsing the internet.  Since the bedroom impacts on sleep let’s keep it just for sleep, and possibly for sex, because unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy.

For our health’s sake, when it comes to work most people need on average seven to eight hours of solid sleep to perform at their best.  If you start scrimping on sleep you’re in danger of becoming too tired to be truly effective.  Try telling that to my cat!

Lack of a good night’s sleep affects both our bodies and minds, and as the research found, also erodes concentration and problem solving ability.  Each hour of sleep lost per night is associated with a temporary loss of one IQ point. “Sleep is the best medication” said the Dali Lama.  Sound advice for both humans and cats!

Question 1 Cosmetic surgery

I am 61 years old and know a lot of women of a similar age who are having “work” done on their faces to help them look younger.  I am nervous and don’t want to take the risk of things going wrong.  Diana what is your view about cosmetic surgery?

Pauline Earle – Manchester

Answer 250 words

Pauline we’re led to believe that superficial beauty leads to happiness and success and some women feel they must have surgery to compete in the workplace and socially.  Many strive to fund expensive surgery and expectations are high as they seek to improve their looks and life.  Maybe feelings of inadequacy do disappear along with wrinkles, but they’d do well to remember their faces and hands will not necessarily match!

The demand for facelifts, body sculpturing and other non-invasive procedures is on the increase with excessive pressure on us all to re-capture youth.  Personally I am nervous about having unnecessary invasive surgery, including facial cosmetic surgery, probably because I’ve needed major invasive surgery in the past due to breast cancer. So I prefer a natural look.

Of course I see familiar signs of ageing, things gradually slipping downwards due to gravity, but I don’t want to look 21 again, nor do I want a blank and expressionless face.  I’m proud of my laughter lines; they show my character and sense of humour.  All skin eventually ages, loses plumpness, becomes thinner and dryer and so I’ve cared for my skin over years by moisturising both day and night.  But skin reflects lifestyle – and inactivity, poor diet, smoking, drinking, sunbathing, stress, lack of fresh air make things worse. Some bad habits can be avoided, like facial expressions which habitually performed over time give us individual looks.  A positive smile uses 7 muscles whilst a negative frown uses 32.  So Pauline be happy – less wrinkles!

Question 2 – Headaches

I often have headaches that last the whole day and the only thing that seems to chase them off is sleep. I have tried paracetamol and ibuprofen but am hesitant to get into the habit to taking anything stronger in case this proves detrimental to my health. Are there any natural remedies you can recommend?
Sarah Fimms, Oxford

Answer – 250 words

Rather than seeking cures for your headaches Sarah I think you should be looking to what causes them.  Most headaches aren’t serious and are easily treated with over-the-counter painkillers and lifestyle changes, such as getting more rest and drinking enough fluids. Regular sleep, reducing stress and staying well hydrated help. Normal, “everyday” headaches are usually tension headaches, linked to things like stress, poor posture, skipping meals or dehydration, and can usually be treated with ordinary painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

The cause of your headaches are unclear but hopefully aren’t severe enough to prevent you doing everyday activities? The constant ache of a tension headache affects both sides of the head, like a tight band stretched around it. They usually last for 30 minutes to several hours, but can last for several days. Migraines are less common with a severe, throbbing pain at the front or side of the head and possibly other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Migraines can stop you carrying out your normal daily activities but most people can treat them successfully with over-the-counter medication. They can last for a couple of hours and some people need to stay in bed for days needing stronger medication that’s only available on prescription. Sarah maybe your headaches could possibly be triggered by hormones linked to monthly periods or the menopause?

However, if they aren’t relieved by over-the-counter treatments, or are painful and frequent, I think you should talk to your GP.