Sugar, anxiety and insomnia…and other tips to get you to sleep better tonight!

I have always been able to switch off my bedside light and fall asleep within minutes. Even on my travels, often sleeping in youth hostels sharing rooms, it wasnt an issue for me. Ever.

When my son turned one a year ago, it changed. For his 1st year I slept well in between multiple night waking and breastfeeding sessions. Now he was starting to sleep better and all of a sudden this mommy couldnt fall asleep anymore…shock horror!

Is this a joke – no – it’s very real.  Some even call it “momsomnia” or postnatal insomnia.

When you suffer from insomnia, you either struggle to fall asleep or you wake up and then struggle to fall back to sleep again.

It’s one of those things that can quickly consume you as you start struggling night after night and experiencing the repercussions of not so much optimal functioning during the day.  You start almost dreading going to bed even though you are tired.  The “Tired but Wired” saying became quite real to me…

It’s a vicious cycle… Insomnia creates anxiety and this creates more insomnia. I experienced over the past year that if I have a better night, the anxiety almost immediately starts to decrease dramatically helping me to go into the better direction of sleep again.

So what can you do – the standard advice that you’ll get…

  1. Sleep hygiene
  2. Herbal aids
  3. Melatonin
  4. Sleeping tablets
  5. Antidepressants (more to treat the anxiety)

These are the things that has worked for me to a certain extent recently and over the past year:

  1.  You absolutely have to do the sleep hygiene thing i.e. NO screen time for at least an hour before bed time and keep lights fairly dimmed in the house if you can.  I also started to have a bed time routine – for me this was drinking either camomile tea / hot water with apple cider vinegar and a bit of honey / milk with quarter teaspoons of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  And also reading a book until I feel I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
  2. Consider cutting your caffeine.  I decreased it to one – two cups of coffee max all before 11am.
  3. Be careful of sugar as this can worsen anxiety symptoms and for me any form of sugar and even cocoa (dark chocolate) I found could increase my alertness and keep me awake.
  4. Alcohol – yes it helps to relax you – but I am not sure what it is – but I found this also didn’t help my sleep, so bye-bye drinks for now! (Insomnia is so tormenting that you will do ANYTHING to alleviate it).
  5. Melatonin didn’t work for me unfortunately, the herbal stuff also not, I wish it did as it’s not habit-forming.
  6. An anti-anxiety tablet and/or a sleeping tablet helped me at certain times to calm down at night and just re-set and get a night of good sleep – but it’s not for long-term use…
  7. Watch your mind… I found that the more I panicked when I couldn’t fall asleep the worse it all became.  I started meditating on Bible Scriptures about sleep, anxiety and fear which helped me a lot.  I also pray as part of my bed time routine.  And I watch out like a hawk for those evil thoughts that try to make me go into panic and fear mode.  I replace it with TRUE thoughts – Renewing my mind with God’s TRUTH.
  8. I have had to almost become quite relaxed about the whole thing – knowing through the grace of God that I WILL be ok the next day even if I didn’t sleep.  I had to make a point of tapping into the peace, joy and gratitude inside of me despite my lack of sleep and not feeling great the next day. Worshipping Him throughout became my Spiritual Weapon of choice.

This thing has become a lifestyle, spiritual and emotional journey for me.  Not something with a quick fix (believe me I tried all of that, spent a couple of R1000’s on doctors who couldnt really help although I am sure they wish they could.)

I really hope this helps someone out there…

Love Helene x x x

 

My sugar detox journal – confession time! What’s your WHY?

I never remember very clearly how it starts – it always seems a bit blurry.  

But then I find myself finishing an entire piece of the most delicious, moist carrot cake on a Sunday morning.  How did this happen…?  How is it possible to go from super motivated and focused, to stuffing my face with my all too familiar drug of choice – SUGAR?

I can tell you how it happens…

I will have an emotionally down day or moment –  and then I go to that familiar mind-set:

“Sugar will definitely help me to feel better, it will give me energy and that feel good factor that I desperately need (and feel I deserve) RIGHT NOW.”

Then I give in to a biscuit with my coffee, have one of my toddler’s sweet treats… and its like a slippery slope down hill (ok it’s not THAT bad, but you get what I am saying…).

Next thing I think to myself, well you have given in so you might as well have a couple of biscuits, or a piece or 2 milk tart (this was yesterday) and carrot cake…(today)…?

And the next thought…. Tomorrow is Monday and it’s basically the beginning of a new month… perhaps this time I will kick the habit and a few kg’s before summer…?

BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE… And there’s no time for denial anymore – I am just too SICK of it.  Time to get REAL people!!!! O.k… I am trying really hard to motivate myself…

Human willpower (for most of us) just freaking fails us time and time again.  It’s the reason why new years resolutions are mostly a waste of time… and the: I will start on Monday… or next month or whatever…

So WHAT NOW???  I so desperately want to live healthier – and for me right now – this means cutting out the white stuff.  And the white floury stuff.

I heard a talk the other day… she said you need to 1st OF ALL – FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY.

Your WHY needs to be important enough to carry you through those familiar moments where you typically give in.

MY WHY?   I want to do what I can to not get sick.  I want to feel less achy, less moody, less tired and totally be there for my hubby and busy toddler.  And perhaps most of all right now – I am searching for a holistic, sustainable lifestyle cure for insomnia & anxiety.

What is you why?

Love Helene x x x

My sugar detox journal…hidden sugars to watch out for!

I finished my 21 days of trying my best to go off sugar.

HiddenSugarInfographicAlthough I am happy with my progress,  I am not entirely happy with how the 21 days went.

Why?

  1.  I had about 4 “cheat” days
  2. I didn’t cut out ALL sugar (for example: Honey, fruit and certain refined carbs)
  3. I don’t think I experienced the FULL BENEFIT of really detoxing from sugar… And this is what I am after – really getting to that point of moving beyond the withdrawal and cravings and starting to experience all the benefits.  Like…. better and a more stable mood, better sleep, clarity of mind, more energy and some weight loss.

So… What I am going to try to do over the next 21 days is to:

  1. Consistently cut out all forms of sugar (Including honey, fruit and hidden sugar in snacks – see this cool picture to the left…)
  2. Lower my overall carb intake (Mostly for me:  Bread; rusks; wraps; rice; potatoes; pasta; pizza)
  3. Decrease my caffeine intake to 2 cups max per day – mostly to help with the anxiety and insomnia.
  4. Trying not to get too ravenous (this is when I make my poorest food choices) – so filling my tummy with good stuff whenever I am hungry.

Here is a great list of all those other names under which sugar hides in foods:

According to the USDA and other sources, alternative sugar ingredients or names to watch out for when reading labels include:

There also “healthier” sugars, including coconut palm sugar, honey and blackstrap molasses. Generally since these are far less processed (especially real, raw honey), they are OK in moderation but still a source of sugar to keep to small amounts.

So today is another day 1 for me… wish me luck!

Love Helene x x x

My sugar detox journal – this is hard!

I am currently on day 15 of my 21 DAY attempt to detox myself from sugar.

The first 10 days were relatively easy for me – I think it was due to my human will power doing fairly well initially…

 Then my old habits started to taunt me… Let me explain:

I am a stay at home mommy of 21 month old Lucas.  My GO TO for when I am feeling a bit tired/bored/lonely/emotional is mostly coffee and sugar if there is any form of sugar in the house.

So a couple of days ago I gave my little boy a biscuit.  He didn’t want it.  For a moment I was in a battle in my head, and then I just ate the cookie… And then I finished the whole bag (kiddies bag I have to add in my defense 😉 And then I had some fruit cake that I had in the house the previous day for my in-laws visiting.

That old – almost uncontrolled way of eating – took over for that moment…

Later that same day I went to the mall and considered stopping for a piece of cheese cake – because (my old way of thinking) I might as well cheat properly!  And I was feeling tired and like I “deserved” it (again an old habit of mine…).

I didn’t give in to the cheesecake which was an achievement for me.  So the next day I just  kept going where I left off.

So be aware of your old ways of thinking… For those sugary snacks in the house… And don’t beat yourself up if you slip up – just carry on the following day.

Weight loss? Not dramatic in any way – perhaps because I havent given up carbs too.  But I have probably lost almost 1 kg.

But it’s about more than weight for me – its about my health and knowing what sugar does to the brain and body…

After the 21 days…?  The other day I listened to a podcast of Dr Caroline Leaf and she said it takes 3 cycles of 21 days to really create new habits… So perhaps I will push myself a little longer… and even look at cutting out some other things like too much processed food/perhaps I will be a bit more strict with my carb intake.  I’ll decide when I get there…

For now…baby steps and just keep going moment by moment…

What the sugar?? My sugar detox journal…

I am doing a sugar detox for 21 days. I am currently on day 6.

Why I decided to do a sugar detox? I feel that I have become addicted to sugar and that it was starting to affect my mood in a negative way. It is a personal mission of mine to achieve mental wellness, and I know its up to me to make it happen. About 6 months ago I started suffering from insomnia and this has seriously spurred me on to do everything I possibly can to start sleeping better again… Sugar potentially being one of the aspects that can affect your sleep negatively.

SugarWithdrawl_Graphic_1-768x3464
So the insomnia and mood issues are my main reasons for going on this sugar detox. (To be perfectly honest, other reasons for me include potential weight loss and the prevention of diseases.)
What a sugar detox looks like for me? A book that has helped me a lot is “I quit sugar” from Sarah Wilson. But there are many many books. So for me it basically means cutting out ALL sugar. A quick list would be : Actual sugar (brown, white) ; honey; any foods or sauces with lots of sugar added (check labels)and fruit (actual fruit, juices, dried). I am not cutting out all carbs – I have decided to make this about SUGAR.
How am I feeling? I felt perfectly fine for the 1st 2 days. On day 3 I started really craving and missing my sugar fix (usually cake/chocolate/sweets). On day 4 I started struggling emotionally and day 5 I felt completely depressed and tearful. I wondered whether this could be a detox symptom and found out that it absolutely can be…(have a look at this link.)

The start is always the HARDEST. But I have found that once you get started it gets easier.

It’s almost like you need to learn how to trust yourself again too. Trusting yourself that you will honour a decision that you make to commit to something. Even if no one else is checking up on you.

Day 6: Yesterday we celebrated my bother’s 46th birthday and since his wife always bakes with zero sugar I thought the birthday cake was a gluten and sugar-free version. After this 1st couple of bites I realised that it wasnt this time 😉

For a moment I felt like I was a failure and had to start all over again.

Then I decided to be kind to myself. So I am adding an extra day to my 21 days and today I am continuing as normal despite my little “glitch”.

People trying to eat healthier can often be so hard on themselves for having a weak moment – that weak moment then becomes a weak month of year… These type of negative emotions and guilt just never serve you.

So currently I am still on day 6 and so far so good. I had a scone this morning with butter and cream (no jam) and coffee without sugar. Also had a seed cracker with sugar-free peanut butter. And I am feeling a lot better today in terms of my mood…

I will do another post in 1 week!!! I will write about which sugar alternatives are BAD and which ones are OK. I personally like Xylitol… And of course an update of how it’s going with my detox…

Why not join me?

Love Helene xxx

20180707_133647_000.jpg3c17e9c86d309f43f7325071b8986d51-zoom