Thursday, February 8, 2018

No Update

No update this week, since I broke my hand and typing is haaaard.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Managing Chronic Illness: 03 – Sleep and Lifestyle Aids

 Sorry this post is a day late. My neighbour sprayed termite spray all around their house and I am highly allergic. The past four days have been… fun. And by fun, I mean an insane, waking nightmare of hives, burning mouth and throat, migraines and vomiting. Good times!

They're outside smoking as I type this, which I am also allergic to. At what point does this cross over from annoyance to attempted murder? Anyway, on with the post.

The Importance Of Sleep

Quality sleep is important to good mental and physical health, and weight loss. Poor sleepers have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, they eat more calories, they have reduced insulin sensitivity, putting you at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, they have poor concentration and lower performance, are more likely to suffer depression, have weaker immune systems, suffer increased inflammation and lowers your ability to empathise. Which is terrible news if you are an insomniac like me.

However, reading that list, it becomes very clear why it is VITAL we do everything in our power to get eight hours of quality sleep every single night.

There are several ways to do this and talking to your doctor about prescription and over the counter sleeping aids might be one of them. You should also try and exercise in the morning, get 15 minutes of sun a day, avoid caffeine up to six hours before you plan to go to bed and avoid screens of all kinds for at least an hour before bed.

Make sure you go to bed as pain free as possible, wear comfortable clothes and keep the room at a comfortable temperature.

Mattress Quality

Quality beds are very expensive. I know. However, when calculating the price, remember you will be spending a third of your life using it, and a good quality mattress should last ten years. So always divide the cost by ten, to see how much you are paying a year for high quality sleep. Its probably not as much as you think, when you consider how important sleep really is.

It might be a good idea to start a mattress saving fund and put aside your tax refund, along with a set amount each week. If you've just brought a new mattress, and a good mattress is $10, 000. You need to save $1000 a year for the next ten years so you are ready to buy the next one. $1000 a year is only $83.50 a month and if you put it in a high interest savings account, you'll come out with a little more at the end.

Another tip is to wait for big sales at mattress stores and buy then. You can get as much as 50% off at End of Financial Year Sales. If you keep your receipt, or scan it, as they tend to fade, and show that when you try and sell your mattress, you might even be able to get $1000 back. Which can go into your new mattress fund.

Pillows, Sheets and Hygiene

You (hopefully) spend 8 hours out of every 24 in your bed, on your pillow and sheets. During those eight hours you drool, sweat, cough, fart, shed dead skin cells and wipe snot and eye-goo on everything.

When you think about that, suddenly changing your sheets and pillow case every day feels like a good idea. However, that's not always practical. You SHOULD, however, change your sheets and pillowcase every week.

Did you know, within 12 months, the average volume of a pillow becomes 1/3 dead skin cells? Yep. So, make sure you get a new pillow every 12 months too. Or every six months, if you are prone to sinus infections or lung problems.

Also, remember if you are sick with anything contagious, your bed has become a hotzone. When you recover, everything has to go in the wash, or you could just keep reinfecting yourself.

Lifestyle Aids

Lifestyle aids are any equipment that makes your life easier, pain free and more manageable. Walking frames, wheelchairs, heat packs, ramps, handrails, specialised cooking equipment, glasses, stools, braces and splints, even things like soft socks, specialised bras or underwear, shoes and a hundred other possible things.

Sometimes we, as chronically ill people, refrain from using these tools because we feel we aren't sick enough to deserve them. This is crazy talk. There is no need to 'qualify' for an aid. They are designed to make life easier, so if they make your life easier, you are qualified for one.

Sometimes, people will tell us we aren't qualified. These people are assholes and you don't owe them anything. Practise the words: "I have difficulty with X. This aid makes X a bit easier for me."

Anyone who doesn't apologise and gives you a hard time after that is not deserving of your time, energy or love. Ignore them and move on with your life—hopefully with a bunch of new aids that make things easier for you.

Lifestyle Aids Exercise

This is an exercise to help you determine if you have the best lifestyle aids on offer, if you need more, and what those aids should be.

First, I want you to write a list of all the things you struggle with in day to day life. It helps to think about every room in your house and look at your day planner, in order to ferret out any difficult things you take for granted.

Some examples might be:

- Toileting
- Showering
- Cooking
- Driving
- Getting out of bed
- Shopping
- Walking the dog
- Typing
- Watching TV
- Reading
- Doing Taxes

When you have a long, comprehensive list of things that are challenging, it is time to subhead them with why. EG:

- Toileting
                - Getting up and down
                - Constipation

- Showering
                - Getting fatigued
                - Slipping

                - Trouble focusing/blurry vision

Watching TV
                - Can't hear well

When you have a comprehensive idea of what difficulties you are having with each activity, it is time to start looking for solutions. And I promise there are a lot more solutions out there than you think! If you have a problem, someone has solved it. Most of those really silly seeming ideas on infomercials are designed for disabled people. For example, those egg crackers? Designed for people with one arm. No spill bowls? Designed for people with tremors. And so on.

If you have trouble getting up and down from the toilet, it is worth installing a handrail. If you are having issues with constipation, it may be that a Squatty Potty will solve all your problems. If you get fatigued in the shower, often a plastic chair will help. If you slip over in the bath or shower, simply invest in a cheap anti slip mat. I stopped reading for years until I got a kindle and realised I could make the text as big as I needed. And most digital TVs these days had subtitle options that can be turned on and off with your remote. You may already have the aids you need and not know it!

Asking in groups (facebook groups are plentiful and accessible) for people with similar conditions to you can expose you to a whole wealth of products you didn't previously know about. There are even fonts that make it easier for dyslexic people to read.

When you have at least one solution to all your problems, list them in priority. You might have to list them in order of practicality while you are at it. Newer, more expensive cars have navigation and driving options that would make life MUCH easier for me, but I simply can't afford a new car. Let alone a new fancy car. As much as I would like one, I have to accept I just can’t have one at this time. However, I do have a lot of aids currently on my wish list and I put aside a little money every fortnight, buying them when I have saved up enough.


So, there you have it. Sleep well and use whatever tools and aids make life easier for you. These really apply if you are chronically ill or not. If you have any really cool lifestyle aids you want to share, link them in the comments below and they can be a resource for everyone.

Next week everyone's favourite topics: Medication and Exercise.