Getting enough sleep is one of the pillars of good health. Drowsiness, due to too little sleep, makes us feel less than our best during the day. Sleepiness is dangerous for people who have to drive, run industrial machinery, or carry out any job in which there is some element of danger. And, people who continue to get too little sleep are, over time, at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
But, too many adults, and even children, are accustomed to staying up night after night, for an hour or more, after they bodies have told them that they need to sleep. It is common to hear these people say that they are always tired and that they have trouble staying alert during the day.
The tired person, who has slept too little for a couple of nights will find a way to get some extra sleep in the following days. They catch up on their sleep without too much problem by napping, going to bed earlier than usual or by sleeping in late. In these ways, they repair any temporary damage to their well being. Within a few days, they will return to their normal sleep pattern without too much effort.
You have probably heard the old adage: “Lost sleep is never found.” Well, it may seem that way to some people because, according to them, they have been tired for years. These people begin to lose sleep for many different reasons, including late work shift, academic studies, new baby, professional responsibilities, family conflict or family emergency. But, then, they continue to get too little sleep for months or years after the initial reason has ended. They have become accustomed to being exhausted. Their sleep pattern has been altered.
Ruling out other illnesses, people who are always tired and can’t ever seem to catch up on sleep have what’s referred to as a chronic sleep debt. And, for these people, a few days of extra rest will not be enough. In order for them to establish a healthy sleep routine, they will have to make a consistent effort to sleep more over a period of weeks or months.
So, what can you do if you’re one of those people who is always tired and you’re determined to catch up on your sleep?
First of all, examine the history of your current sleep habits.
Ask yourself some questions
- Are you getting less than 6 hours of sleep most days of the week? When did you start sleeping so little? Has that situation ended?
-Do you stay up after midnight on a regular basis without a specific reason? What are you usually doing at that hour?
-Do you often eat a meal or drink caffeine or alcohol drinks after 7 at night?
-Are you getting enough regular exercise for your body to feel tired?
-Are you letting other people in the household keep you awake?
-Is your room temperature comfortable when you try to go to sleep?
- Is your room totally dark, when you sleep? Are electronic devices giving off some kind of light? Are lights seen from outside the house?
-Is your bed comfortable? Do you think you need more or less pillows than you have?
Once you have analyzed your habits. Make a list of the things that you believe are preventing you from getting more sleep. What ideas do you have as to how you can achieve restful sleep? Remember the best way to catch up on lost sleep is to start following new sleeping habits. Here are some ‘tried and true” ways to establish a new sleep pattern.
During the day and early evening
- Decide what regular bedtime you need to allow you six to eight hours of sleep and pledge to stick to it.
-Eat your last meal of the day before 7 p.m., and don’t drink caffeine drinks or alcohol after that meal.
-Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into family discussions after dinner.
-Finish anything that is pending – such as household chores, returning a phone call, answering email, studies of any kind, or take-home paperwork from the office - at least one hour before your new bedtime.
At night - Go to your bedroom at least an hour before you need to go to sleep. Take a warm shower or bath and put on your bedclothes. Turn the overhead light out at this time and use just a low-wattage bedside light.
-If you find that you are really hungry, make yourself a light snack. Yogurt, fruit, and cereal are good foods for a nighttime snack.
-Do a quiet, relaxing activity that you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading, writing in a journal, or watching a light, non-violent TV program, until your new bedtime. When you feel drowsy, turn out the light and turn-off all electronics.
-If you don’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, turn the light back on. Get up and get something to drink or do a relaxing activity. Then, after a half-hour or so, turn off the light and try to go to sleep again.
For the next several months - Be consistent with your new routine. If you really want to catch up on your sleep and feel alert all day, you’ve got to have other habits. And, new habits can’t be established in a week. Make sure you go to bed at approximately the same time every night for several months. If you find yourself feeling drowsy during the day, plan for extra hours of sleep for a few nights. Arrange for a sleep-in day whenever you can. Take short naps – up to one hour - in the late a.m. or early p.m. It isn’t laziness, it’s the way your body makes normal adjustments to sleep debt.
About other people - You’ll have to think about the late night activities of other household members, because their staying awake affects you, directly or indirectly. If other adults in your home are awake late at night, find some way to isolate yourself, so that you don’t hear their noise. You should explain to them why you need to change your bedtime habits. Ask for their understanding and their help.
Your children and young teens can also be keeping you from going to bed. Your children need nine or more hours of sleep, if they are to stay healthy and do their best at school. Make bedtime a definitive moment. Establish your children’s bedtime at least two hours before yours, so you can have time to unwind and, possibly, have an adult conversation with someone, before your bedtime. Don't let anyone make a lot of noise in the house after that hour. Don't permit children and young teens to watch TV, use the computer, listen to music, talk on the phone or do homework after their bedtime.
You may need to change some other family routines. Review your children’s homework with them immediately after dinner. Make them finish their homework in a den, dining room or kitchen where you can help or, at least, hurry them up a bit. Don’t allow them to go to their room until they show you that they have finished their homework. This means you’ll have to check on them again at bedtime and make sure they've turned off their light. Of course, they may pretend to follow the bedtime rule, and then, turn the light back on and continue with some activity. So, check on them another time before you go to bed. Enforce some kind of punishment for children and young teens who don’t follow bedtime rules.
MAKE YOUR OWN JAPANESE CURTAIN
You probably have some doorway in your home that doesn’t please you. It may be a door that doesn’t really have to be closed, but often is, or one that should be closed but family members are always leaving it open (often the case with a bathroom door). Or you’d like privacy in a space beyond an open passageway, but still want air to circulate between the two areas. Or, maybe you have a window that lacks something, but you don’t want to employ a formal curtain treatment. These situations can be bothersome.
Here’s a solution. You could solve any of these problems with a traditional Japanese curtain. The curtains are called noren, and they are divided in the middle. When noren are used for doorways, most of the time they remain “closed”, but the slit in the middle allows for people to pass through. Their use in Japan dates back thousands of years, when they were used to stop unwanted elements from entering homes. Among those unwanted things in the home were sun, dust, rain and, of course, any evil spirits that might enter the home and create mischief.
In more modern times, they have been used in the doorways of businesses, with written advertising, or with some attention-getting artwork. When displayed, they show that the shops are open for business and welcome people to go inside. Today, they're hung in homes between rooms, in doorways or windows. Their primary purpose is decorative, but most still serve their original purpose as some kind of a shield, either from natural elements or for privacy. They have become popular in many countries given their style and functionality.
Noren are made from rectangular pieces of fabric and come in different sizes. Today, they don’t just come in traditional Japanese designs and can have all kinds of patterns. You can buy noren from different sources, but they tend to be somewhat costly, depending on the quality of the fabric and the artwork. Because their design is simple, you can also make your own noren for a few dollars and a morning or afternoon's work.
Here’s how to make your noren. Measure the length and width of the opening that you want to curtain. Since the noren is very simply made with all straight seams, you can choose to do all the sewing by hand.
- Make any adjustments in your bedroom - such as putting up room-darkening curtains or looking for an extra pillow - that you think will help you to relax and sleep better.
-Do some exercise during the day, so that your body gets tired enough for you to want to go to bed.
The fabric can be any color and pattern that you like. I suggest medium or heavy weight cotton, so that it drapes better and can be easily washed. You'll need fabric the length of the opening, plus three inches, for the bottom hem and to hold the top curtain rod. The width should be the same as that of the opening. (Usually the doorway noren does not come all the way down to the floor, but stops a foot or two above the floor.)
Here's a chance for you to recycle some old curtains or buy some used curtains at a yard sale or flea market. They will have more than enough material for your project and some of the original hems can be left in, saving you work. If you decide to buy new fabric, consider unbleached muslin. That way you can paint the fabric with your own design or you can embroider or stamp it. The design can be a traditional Japanese theme, a design from nature, or anything that you like.
First, hem the sides. Next, carefully measure the width, and mark it vertically exactly down the middle. Slit the material down the middle, guided by the line you marked, beginning at the bottom and stopping about 12 inches from the top. Then, turn over 2 inches of the top and sew it down to hold a curtain rod. Hem the slit and the bottom. Be sure to reinforce the top of the slit so that it won’t rip. Put up curtain rod hardware at the top of the door or window opening. Insert a simple curtain rod or wooden dowel in your curtain.
Hang your noren, enjoy your handiwork, and display it with pleasure. (By the way, your friends and family will also admire your noren. So, be prepared to make a few more in the next months to give as gifts.)
APPLE CIDAR VINEGAR IS A KITCHEN STAPLE
There are a number of foods that our grandmothers and great grandmothers considered to be a staple (where the word, staple, means what is absolutely necessary for cooking). Apple cider vinegar was one of those staples in old fashion kichens.
Vinegar, in any of its forms, is a tasty and healthy ingredient in cooking that serves to heighten the flavors in foods. US families consume millions of gallons of vinegar each year, but a lot of it is in the form of processed foods such as commercial tomato ketchup and mayonnaise. While wine and balsamic vinegars are great tasting (and considered very fashionable), apple cider vinegar is just as good drizzled over salads along with olive oil. It’s also a lot cheaper than the more “fashionable” vinegars.
While, many modern cooks have stopped buying this valuable product, apple cider vinegar is still an important item in my kitchen. I keep apple cider vinegar on my basic food shelf, along with salt, pepper, sugar, and oils. I use it daily and sometimes more than once in any given day, when cooking vegetables, soups and stews and for cleaning purposes.
Here are some of the uses that I can swear by:
1) Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the other ingredients when you prepare bread. It adds flavor and gives a better bread texture.
2) Use it as a buttermilk substitute. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of fresh or canned milk. Let the mixture stand a few minutes until it thickens.
3) Improve the moistness of your homemade cake (or cake-mix cake) by adding a teaspoon of vinegar.
4) Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the cooking water when you boil eggs. It will prevent the egg white from leaking out of cracked shells.
5) If you want fluffy rice, add a teaspoon of apple cider or rice vinegar to the cooking water.
6) To make dried beans less gas producing, add a little vinegar to the cooking water.
7) Add to any soup or stew that contains tomatoes. It enhances the flavor and decreases the acidity of the tomatoes.
I use apple cider vinegar or whatever cheap vinegar I have on hand as a non-toxic household cleaner which works well to deodorize, and disinfect. I also wash windows with a few tablespoons of vinegar in a gallon of water and use it full-strength to clean up coffee pots and teapots.
Apple cider vinegar is also a home remedy and, according to its many enthusiasts, cures all kinds of common ailments. Everyone has heard the saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, apparently that same benefit extends to apple cider vinegar. It contains many important vitamins, minerals and enzymes, including several antioxidants that help to slow cell aging. It’s even considered to be good for losing weight (and a lot cheaper than commercial weight-loss products).
(Make this the day before you go to the grocery store, and use it to clean out the fridge of all the vegetables that otherwise you might be tempted to throw out.)
Make a base for your stew by sautéing plenty of onions and garlic in olive oil in a fry pan. Then, empty the sautéed mixture in a large cooking pot. Add fresh or canned tomatoes, any uncooked vegetables that are in the refrigerator, and 2 teaspoons of apple cidar vinegar. Throw in a protein source such as meat, beans, or lentils. Then add a starch, which could be potatoes, noodles or rice. Cooked vegetables can also go in this stew, but put them in at the last, so they won’t fall apart. Season the stew with salt, pepper, and your favorite green herbs. Cook on slow heat for about an hour or in the slow cooker for 3 to 4 hours.