Monthly Archives: June 2017

Need More Sleep?

Well it’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is essential for good health,….but did you know missing just one hour of sleep can have a negative affect on your immune system according to a recent study? I remember back in my years at Uni sleep debt was a given, due to lots of partying and a few hours of study thrown in amongst it. Ahhhh those were the days, when I thought I could get away with it, and probably did for the most part. Now in my forties my body is less forgiving. If I lose any sleep at all I take days to recover.

Research suggests that a loss of sleep, even a small amount can cause cellular damage to the body’s immune fighting cells, reducing the ability to fight infection. Add to that the other downsides of sleep loss, including reduced productivity, increased blood pressure, mood disturbances, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes there is good reason to avoid losing sleep at all costs.

So how much sleep do you really need? It really depends on a number of factors, including your age, lifestyle and health status. However, I did stumble across a reputable website that lists recommendations for the sleep requirements for different age groups. Follow this link to find out. http://www.sleep.org.au/professional-resources/sleep-documents/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need Given that I fall into the 18-64 year age category, I think the recommended 7 to 9 hours is a good match for me. I would say I’m at the upper end of that range, requiring at least 9 hours to feel like I’m functioning at my best. Ultimately it’s trial and error to work out what works best for you. As I often say the body is the most sophisticated biofeedback system. You just need to tune in and listen to what it’s telling you. It knows how much sleep you need to function well.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of research on what it takes to give yourself the best chance of getting a good night sleep. Here’s my top five tips based on what has worked well for me.

  1. Establish a good sleep pattern. The goal is to go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning. I find this works really well. Of course there are times when I can’t stick with it, but I do my best to keep to a plan because I feel so much better when I do.
  2. Turn off all electronics. In fact I try not to have any electronics in my room. Although my husband uses an electronic alarm clock so I don’t quite achieve this. I do this because artificial light from electronic screens can interrupt with sleep patterns and the ability to fall asleep. Electromagnetic radiation is also disruptive to sleep and general health.
  3. Avoid eating within two hours of going to bed, especially anything that is considered a stimulant e.g. caffeine. This is easier said than done as it’s no secret I love chocolate.
  4. Do some kind of relaxation activity as part of your pre-sleep routine. I usually do meditation or listen to an audio relaxation sequence Sometimes I’m so relaxed I fall asleep before I complete these activities.
  5. A cool dark room is best – even in winter. If the body overheats then sleep can be disrupted.

Finding Light in the Darkness

One of the best strategies I’ve learnt for dealing with the uncertainty of illness is to find light in every situation no matter how bad it appears. In my case, my light usually comes in the form of humour. There’s a great quote by a guy named Larry Hargreaves that says “You can’t always change your situation but you can always change your attitude”. Wise words those.

A friend recently asked me “What has been the most challenging situation you have faced since being diagnosed with lung disease?” I didn’t have to think too hard to come up with an answer. It’s something so clear in my mind I could’ve experienced it yesterday. It happened three years ago, and these days I choose to focus on the light moments in the situation rather than the trauma that occurred with it. Living the trauma once was more than enough. I should say I’ve learnt it’s important to acknowledge and deal with the negative emotions associated with a traumatic event so they don’t come back to bite you in the future when you least expect it.

I was in the emergency department of one of Melbournes’ private hospitals. It was becoming a semi regular occurrence because I was having frequent lung bleeds, otherwise known as haemoptysis, an unfortunate complication of Cystic Fibrosis related Bronchiectasis. I recall one of the emergency staff saying “At this rate Jane we’ll have to get a plaque with your name on it put up on the wall in your honour because you have probably funded some of our equipment with your visits here” This made me laugh, not only because of the comment but the realisation that the staff recognised me. I tell you what you realise you’re a frequent flyer patient  when the staff in an emergency department start to recognise you!

On this occasion the emergency ward was full, and due to it being peak winter, the staff wanted to isolate me to reduce the risk of me picking up some nasty bugs. The only room available was the supplies room. So after a little rearranging of equipment I was transferred there. Shortly after, I experienced my biggest episodes of lung bleeding ever.  I managed to ring the portable bell I’d been given, and the next thing I knew I had a nurse handing me a bowl and a doctor observing me. I hit panic mode. Things seemed to be spiralling out of control and I wondered if my life was slipping away. I remember looking up and asking the doctor “Is this it”? He said “If I’m concerned I’ll have you in theatre in minutes”. He then started to reassure me by sharing a story of another patient he had treated with haemoptysis, who’d been fished out of the sea up north, flown all the way to Melbourne, and lived to tell the story despite heavy bleeding. I instantly felt more at ease, and have since shared that story with others,  who have also been comforted by the fact the human body can lose significant volumes of blood before it becomes life threatening.

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Feeling more at ease the doctor and nurse left the room and I thought about what I could do to try and find some light in this dark situation. It was 2am in the morning so I didn’t have any of my family around to comfort me. It was up to me to control the controllables…in this case my mind. I needed to relax and find a distraction. One thing that was apparent to me was that the supplies room was alive with activity. I was receiving a fairly constant stream of visitors i.e. doctors and nurses, many of them trying to locate supplies for their patients. Given that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, with the light going on and off and my lungs still gurgling from the bleeding, I decided to familiarise myself with the location of the supplies most commonly sought after and try and memorise them. As doctors and nurses came in and turned on my light, at first startled by the presence of a patient, they would apologise and start looking for equipment. I worked out that the most commonly required supplies were syringes and gauze pads so I had their location sorted in my mind quickly. Apparently the supplies room had recently been rearranged so everyone was struggling to find things. There was some serious labelling required for draws and cabinets that’s for sure! As I watched the staff looking for supplies I would ask “What are you looking for I may be able to help you?” After an initial look of confusion, they would tell me and then I would direct them to the relevant drawer. Then there would usually be a collective laugh. I would then say “Clearly I have way too much time on my hands” It became a great distraction for me and an unlikely source of entertainment.

Thankfully in amongst it all I realised my symptoms had eased. I’d managed to turn an otherwise negative situation into something positive and light. I learnt first hand the impact of stress and panic on my condition. My perception and attitude in this situation impacted my health significantly. This experience definitely helped me going forward.

Whenever I now experience haemoptysis, rather than being gripped with fear I just go with it. I cast my mind back to that patient who was fished out of the sea and I tell myself I will be ok. I know everyone’s experience of haemoptysis is different, just as all other symptoms are but I hope these small tips help. It’s hard when you don’t know where you are bleeding from, whether it’s large or small vessels. There’s no question knowledge is power. For the first year of experiencing haemoptysis I had no idea what I was dealing with. I could feel where I was bleeding from, but had no confirmation because none of my scans revealed it. It wasn’t until I had a Bronchial Artery Embolisation, considered a second last resort for treating haemotysis, that I found out I had some abnormal blood vessels in my right middle lobe. The surgery has certainly reduced the scale of my bleeding, but it still remains something I have to deal with usually when there’s an infection brewing in my lungs. I just think back to when I only had to laugh to bleed and realise I’ve made good progress. I can assure you I wasn’t going to  give up laughing to manage it, as it’s my best therapy apart from eating chocolate.

So the take home message is to keep searching for the light in your circumstances. Sometimes you have to look deep, but don’t give up, because there’s sure to be even a glimmer of light to get you back on track and make those dark situations that little bit easier to cope with.