Who knew skipping sleep could add up so quickly? Not, J Smiles!
What J believed was a supernatural power is now bad for her. She struggles -- yet again -- to accept a monumental shift. Most of her life she has functioned on much less than 8hrs of sleep per night.
An easy peasy chat with her therapist opened a door J didn't even know existed. Problem? What problem? A mountain of questions later, J is scrambling to understand the merits of "sleep hygiene", wondering how her's got dirty and praying for a plan to avoid the all-to-common caregiver burnout. Since caring for Zetty is the top priority then burnout is not an option.
Smiles finds and shares healthy sleeping techniques plus the consequences of not using them.
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It wasn't until my therapist asked me, Hey Jay, how's it going? How do you feel? Like hey, I'm great, I'm feeling cool. How's your sleep going? Just fine. Do you ever get sleepy? Nah, I mean, get sleepy. I'm my caregiver, I'm always sleepy. What do you mean? Are you ever sleep during the day? Well, yeah. I take naps. She said, what about when you're driving? What do you mean what about what I'm driving? Do you fall asleep while you're driving? I was like, well, not while I'm driving, not actually while the car is moving. She said, well, what about like at a red light? Oh, yeah. Oh, hell yeah. Definitely at a red light, at a yellow light, at a green light if it turns from the red light too fast and I wasn't ready. At a drive thru, if Starbucks, if I'm putting a fork to my mouth with food on it and my arm isn't moving fast enough,sleep. She said, Jay, you're kidding me. I said, Doc, I can be in a meeting with my team. I'm the one in charge of the meeting. I can be talking and if I pause like that, sleep. She said J Smiles, that's not normal. I said doc it is for me. I that's what that's that's how it goes down over here. She said you got to go get checked out right away. I said Oh. Parenting Up caregiving adventures with comedian J Smiles, is the intense journey of unexpectedly being fully responsible for the well being of my mama. For almost a decade, I've been chipping away at the unknown, advocating for her, and pushing Alzheimer's awareness on anyone and anything with a heartbeat. Spolier Alert- I started comedy because this stuff is heavy, be ready for the jokes. Caregiver newbies, OGs, village members trying to just prop up a caregiver, you are in the right place.Zetty:
Hi, this is Zetty. I hope you enjoy my daughter's podcast. Is that okay?J Smiles:
Today's episode, sleep the new soulmate. Before you throw me out the window, let me tell you, I've always had an extraordinarily toxic relationship with sleep. But I was good and grown before I knew it. I didn't realize that sleep and Jay, were on bad terms. I really could sleep five, five and a half hours and function at 90, okay, maybe 80% capacity since middle school. I was on honor roll, in a ton of extra curricular activities, had a job, band, and whatever. Three university degrees, all of them academic scholarship, everything that I did in corporate America really Ionly got four or five, six hours of sleep on average. I didn't know just how awful it was. You know how some people can drink a six pack of beer and not have a hangover. I'm not saying it's healthy, but they can do it. And other people can have one sip of a beer and can they even stand up straight? That's how I would sleep, I am nice, I'm Ninja, like with all nighters. I have actually stayed up. I think my record may be 30 hours or 36 hours straight, like zero sleep. I didn't make it 48 hours but it was close. Would like not winking, like not one nod, not five minutes, not a 10 minute nap nothing. But things were so different before I was a caregiver. First of all, there were peaks and valleys, a natural ebb and flow to life. There were deadlines, whether I was in school or in corporate America, some entrepreneurial venture. There was a deadline certain and once I met that deadline, there was a natural release, a bit of relief. I could chill for a second, maybe a weekend, maybe take a vacation or something, let the steam off. That doesn't happen with caregiving. When you are a primary caregiver, you're never off, not 100% off, you'd might go from on 10 to on seven. But before I was a caregiver, I might go balls to the wall, and then crash and sleep for a day and a half. But I could sleep really hard. without a care in the world because there were no responsibilities. I'd met all my responsibilities. Either I finished the exam, I turned the project in, I submitted the proposal, I invented the product, whatever, it's time to celebrate, let's go on vacation, let's party. That's not the case of the caregiver. That's not been my experience. Prior to becoming a caregiver, I did not have any emotional component, tying me to the project, or the test, or the proposal the way I do to Zetty. So if I was up all night, or working very hard for a whole week or two weeks, sleeping two or three hours at night, once I completed that task, I could wash my hands of it, it was on to the next thing, pass it off to the next team, to the next department. Or I graduated and went got a job. But with Zetty even if we get over the hump, we have a bad night, we get over the hump. Emotionally speaking, I'm still drained because my that's my mama. If she had a rough night, the next day, I don't just forget about it. She may forget, but I don't. So that emotional component that lingers, just hangs in the air and doesn't allow me to rebound the same as I used to with my four or five hours of sleep. So then I'm like, wow, this four or five hours or not, they're not doing what they used to. There was a definitive period of time when I was off before I became a caregiver. It may not have been Saturday and Sunday or it may not have been 5pm, but there was clearly some point in the day, or some day of the week where I was, o f f. It didn't matter if I had a corporate job or if I was working on a proposal as an entrepreneur, there would still be slices of the day or the week or the year where I could shut my brain off. Just to regroup or rejuvenate. Ahhh, au contraire mon frre, not as a caregiver. Not the way I'm wired, not with Zetty, ain't no O F F, O FF is O N. There was always a pattern, some type of schedule or routine. Even in the early early stages of entrepreneurship, there was some level of routine vendors or my partners or clients had expectations and stores open and close prototyping, shops open and close. So there's a cycle to when the world is working. Because I have three hired caregivers, professional people, and I make the fourth person sometimes I'm the night shift caregiver. Other times, I'm the day shift. So any given month, I could be working days or working nights or working both, so I can't even get into a flow. Do know that your girl is not complaining. I'm extraordinarily grateful that I have three caregivers that work wonderfully well with Zetty and to make sure that they have have their needs and to make them feel valued, and their time off their time with their family and their vacation and doctor's appointments and things like that. I end up filling in the gaps, which means nights and days. So there's really no way for me to get a serious schedule or routine. Sprinkle a little bit of, I'm more than a caregiver. Mind you, being a caregiver is quite enough. It is absolutely a full time job. I could 100% only be a caregiver and be tired as hell, emotionally spent, and spiritually very full, but that's not my story, and never has been my story. I'm a polymath, so I'm a podcaster, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a comedian, I'm a philanthropist, I'm a caregiver. In addition to managing my time and my rest as a caregiver, when I am awake, it's time to use my brain cells and my energy for the other pursuits. Tricky, super duper tricky. What really got my attention, scared the buh Jesus out of me, was when my therapist suggested that I really need to see a sleep doctor. Nobody broke it down like that before. since college people told me I didn't get enough sleep, but I just thought Ah, tomato tomoto, you need more sleep than I do. I always thought that it was like a superpower of mine, that I could just perform off little sleep. Just like a cactus can thrive off little water. Now don't rake me over the coals, I'm being transparent here. All right, Parenting Up family, you know this this I said I was going to give it to you straight and be honest. That's the truth, I had nowhere else to put it, lack of sleep had not bitten me in the butt here to four. Yeah, she sent me to that sleep doctor and he gave me that quickie test, you supposed to answer yes and no and add up your points. And I think it's on a scale of like one to 20 and maybe anything over a nine or a 10 means you have a severe sleep disorder, or you have a very unhealthy relationship with sleep. Your girl was like at a 16 or 17. I was like, oh snap is not good. Most concerning was the science and the data that I was given. I was like, uh oh, this stinks the sleep doctor started throwing things at me like, you know, at this rate, your mom could outlive you because she's getting her rest. I was like ouch, ouchies doc. H also talked to me about the ve y unique situation that I'm in because I'm working night shift nd day shift as a caregi er, but also wearing other ats as a comedian, podca ter, philanthropist, entrep eneur. So J Smiles, when are yo going to sleep? You have to fig re out a way to schedule sleep. Schedule sleep, how do you chedule when you're a aregiver? It's so hard to make schedule. How do you stick to schedule, but we have to do it. Caregivers all around the world, we have to do it. All the research says we have to do it even if the schedule slips a little bit or if it's flexible and malleable so be it, but we have to set one I did not realize the hole I was putting myself in. I don't want you to o what I've already done. I am oing my best to at least not ig a deeper hole. There the bvious things that I want to void, being irritable with Zetty, short tempered, adding to my stress level, increasing my anxiety or depression, who the world wants to do that just because I'm sleeping less. But I got to dig in just to see how intense and serious this stuff is. According to Amherst niversity at amhurst.edu, f ve hours or less per nig t, increases your mortality acr ss the board in all areas of y ur health by 15%. Listen, acr ss the board. I'm not trying to have all my organs start popp ng out and exploding and oo ing stuff just because I ai 't go to sleep; didn't nobody sa all of that. And the National leep Foundation said, J Smile you can rest forsure that our sugar cravings are going to ump through the roof if you're s eep deprived. Not wait, hold o , I don't need Ekster Ekster, o ay, er, sugar dumping all my b ck because I haven't had any sle p. That's not fair, that's a dou le dose of wro Homecareassistance.com says that sleep actually cleanses our brain, removing the toxins. And while there's no agreed upon authority, there's enough pinky swears amongst the neurological research folks that says yeah, you know, the plaque buildup and the toxin buildup; they loosely believe that's all that's related. And so if you get these toxins out of your brain, you should have less of a chance of ever even getting Alzheimer's. What??? I located so many websites that actually list sleep as a top self care activity for caregivers. Yeah, yeah, s many so that I'm not even going to tell you all the websites just trust me Parenting Up family, I'm not leading you astray. Sleep that's listed more than drink water as self care for caregivers. Now this whole category called sleep hygiene. I have to tell you, J Smiles laughed and laughed and laughed. I'm like, what, now I got to wash my sleep, I got to clean. I got How do you clean your sleep? How do you hygiene it? You got to floss your sleep. You got to Clorox to sleep. Do I got bathe my sleep? How do I how do I do that? Can you? Can you clean your nap? Do you have to deep dig? Okay, do you have to clean your nap? Or do you only have to hygiene if you're gonna be a deep sleep? Anyway, I don't know anything about all of that, but sleep hygiene, apparently, is the category of when you're taking good care and you have good sleep habits. And that's what they're calling the category of sleep hygiene, so what is your sleep routine and your sleep schedule? Which I have to say that I find a little ironic and I scratch my chin a little bit on that because as a full time primary caregiver, I'm like, I don't know how much scheduling I can do. I do appreciate the notion of having a schedule. And I absolutely embrace the concept of having a sleep environment. And I'm going to share a little bit of what I found out and what I am trying. Parenting Up family, the dark, cool room is a must. It needs to be cool enough where you actually might be a little chilled. Just put enough cover on yourself to be warm and dark dark. Like get an eye mask if it's not black out dark in your room. Don't shoot me, I know, we all heard about the hot toddy. Everybody's grandmama and uncle, cousin and maybe yourself, hot toddy is supposed to put you to bed, let you sleep long. According to caregiver.org that's not a good idea, if you're caregiver and adult alcoholic beverage at bedtime will put you to sleep quicker, but you will wake up in the middle of the night, statistically speaking. So since it's going to break your rest or break your rhythm, you shouldn't do it, don't shoot the messenger. What you can do, to sleep longer, bedtime stretches, yoga stretches, deep breathing right before bed. I like these kind of things when they give you something to avoid telling me J Smiles, if you do this life would be perfect. Well hell in a perfect world, Zetty wouldn't have Alzheimer's and I would need to do this podcast. As a caregiver, make sure you get a really good night's sleep every third night, in order to avoid burnout, I like that, that's from caregiver.org as well. That's something I can really hang my hat on, emergencies happen, sometimes you have to juggle your schedule, your staff might not come in, someone gets sick, but if you know uh oh by that third night, I'm going to be burned out I have to figure something out. So then you can put together a system, a team of friends or family members, of backup caregivers where you got to tap somebody in to come and help you on night three. That's how you can start to schedule for yourself. Believe it or not, naps are okay. The National Sleep Foundation says that a little nap is okay. Now it seems that they suggest the nap is no more than 30 minutes. Now I'm gonna tell you as J Smiles, my naps are somewhere between 10 minutes and an hour, but that's me. There's a very specific way you could take a nap if you want to follow the ayurvedic method where you would nap in the fetal position on your left side. Cristiano Ronaldo takes these power naps like that and he is one of the world's greatest football players, soccer to those of us in the United States. If his body can do it, pop up and score all those goals, it can't hurt us, right. Northwestern University's family Institute suggests if you're experiencing insomnia, which is different than you just a little rest broken, but you are really just laying in the bed and you just can't quiet your mind you're just staring and fiddling with the thumbs getting frustrated, try changing your position drastically. Switch your body 180 degrees in the bed, put your head where you would normally have your feet go and sleep in your guest bedroom if you have one, or go and sleep on the couch, in a reclining chair, if you have it. According to their studies, sometimes you just really have to shake up your environment. Because as a caregiver, your brain is racing so fast, you have to throw it off guard. Deep breathing also works for me. If I'm in a quiet, cool, dark room, I can inhale very slowly and deeply, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale twice as slowly as I did on the inhale. So if I inhale, on a 10 count, I tried to exhale for 20 seconds. Do it for whatever your lung capacity is, may you get inhale for five seconds and exhale for 10 or three seconds to six seconds. But let the exhale be twice as long. I find that to be extraordinarily relaxing. I don't have anything in my mind other than the numbers that I'm counting. The hilarious thing is, I usually don't remember the deep breathing thing until I'm at my wit's end, I'm frustrated, and I'm pissed off. I'm like, oh yeah, I can do the deep breathing thing. Which gets back to the sleep doctors point in all of these websites around creating a sleep routine or having sleep hygiene and if I ever get that right, perhaps deep breathing will be a part of my daily regimen. A major thing that kicks us all in the butt, caregivers, non caregivers, humans, just humans all over the world, that monkey brain. You're laying down, you're getting ready to lay down to rest to go to sleep and your brain is on fast forward warp speed on tomorrow. What are you supposed to do tomorrow? What did you forget to do today? Meetings, lunch, clothes, phone calls, homework, dry cleaners, grocery store, bills, and then the anxiety and concern over am I forgetting something. Aarp.org has a nifty strategy to avoid that occurrence, rather than waiting for that anxiety to hit you and that monkey brain to start when you're getting into bed. Two hours before bedtime, go ahead, plan for tomorrow, don't depend on your calendar. Don't think, oh, I already wrote a to do list, my assistant has it. I put it in my chat already. It is worth the time to just grab a piece of paper and a pen or make another note in your smartphone, a couple of hours before bed to do a quick brain dump on what you did not get done that day and what you know you need to do the next day. Specifically as it relates to caregiving and your job, that is your source of income. And if you handle that, a couple of hours before bedtime, according to the article, you're able to start letting the anxiety go. So that an hour before bedtime, 30 minutes before bedtime, so much of that stress has already just melted away. So as you brush your teeth, you take your shower or just throw on your PJs, or just jump into bed in your outside clothes, which by the way is gross, but whatever. I'm not in your house to see you do it, so don't tell me but your psyche would have already adjusted to the fact that that weight has been lifted. The weighted blanket is a sleep aid that many adults swear by, it's basically a self swaddling device. It comes in a few different sizes and weights for the people that I know who loves it, man, if you touch it, they gone cut you. J Smiles, is there something we can eat? Y'all know I got you. Daily caring calm says we can eat almonds, walnuts, bananas, kiwi, and fatty fish to catch some zzz's. That's good to know, oh yeah and Turkey. Hell, they ain't have to tell us that, who ain't face first at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. Oh, chamomile tea and tart cherry juice too. Parenting up family, Zetty's mom loved sleep. She had the healthiest relationship with sleep ofanyone I've ever known fictitious or real. She talked about sleep like a good book,or a meal, or the love of her life. Actually, I think maybe sleep was the love of her life. I have a lot of my grandmother glorious qualities. I didn't get that one though. I wish I had it. Maybe if I tried to date sleep. If I tried to act like sleep is my boyfriend or at least a romantic interest. Something to spark a flame, get me to return to the bed quicker. I can recall Glow getting a sparkle in her eye when it was time to take a nap. She was so serious about her sleep even if someone she loved was dying, she did not want us to wake her up. That was the rule in the family. This was her rationale, "hey, baby Jay", that's what she called me, why are you gonna wake me up? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a priest. We're Catholic. I can't give him the last rites nor can I save them, so you might as well let me get a full good night's rest. So that when I do wake up, I'll be the best version of myself to start preparing for the funeral or the home going, or the meal or the program. There's nothing I can do and she meant that. Yeah, that's what she meant. For her honesty was the best policy. She was the family favorite. After all, that my grandmother has lived among the clouds for decades now. But her sleep commandments are still spot on. It's good for you, it's free and you can't get in trouble why you are doing it. The snuggle up- number one, caregivers, the sleep patterns are very different than your life before now. Be honest with yourself, your family and friends, coworkers, employer, get the help in the backup that you need before you burn out. Talk to your doctor. Take naps. Check out some of the tools that I suggested. You are worth it. Number two, catching up on sleep is a myth. Do all you can to minimize the deficit interpersonally. Number three, depending on the report you read between 10 and 20% of caregivers die before the care recipient. Come on y'all, we got to do better than that and it's all attributed to stress which typically starts from lack of proper sleep. And it goes straight downhill from there. Number four, join me every Monday night for a video broadcast. A BODcast, it's a video podcast, t's all about caregiving, but a completely different topic than we have here. Same title, Parenting Up in partnership with getvokal.com. Follow us on social media. Parenting Up has a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram with unique caregiving content. That's it for now. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe for continuous caregiving tips, tricks, trends, and truth. Pretty Pretty please with sugar on top, share and review it too. I'm a comedian, Alzheimer's is heavy, but we ain't got to be.