Touched by Grace

For clarification, Grace is a massage therapist and all touching was done in a professional, therapeutic manner.  I first met Grace a year ago.  She is a talented yoga instructor that is very anatomy focused.  During yoga sessions, she will make the slightest correction to your form and the pose either becomes stupidly simple or infinitely more difficult.  She knows the body!  In conversations after yoga class, I found out that Grace is also a licensed massage therapist and specializes in deep tissue work with a holistic body approach.  Ever since the amazing, deep tissue work that I received from Scott Dolly at RUNGA 2016 in Costa Rica, I’ve been looking for someone good in Chicago.  Viola, here is Grace!
I have a high tolerance for pain and a low tolerance for being tickled.  Seriously, I almost convulse when someone tickles my feet.  It makes me squirmy just thinking about it!  She remarked, that she sees laughter and pain sensations as being very similar and there is probably some pain in there somewhere.  “We will find it”, she said.  Oh boy, I thought.  Then she mentioned that she likes to see immediate results.  Ok, I like that!  Let’s get going!
The set up isn’t anything like a spa massage.  The massage table is in middle of the yoga studio. You remain fully clothed for mobility.  There are no essential oils or soothing meditation sounds.  It is just you, the table, Grace and Grace’s knowledge of how the body works. Less is definitely more, in this case!  It starts with a quick chat about the process and reassurance that the session is just about you.  I wanted the session to focus on my tight hamstrings and hips.  I am in my car most of the day, going appointment to appointment and sitting for hours in traffic.  All that sitting takes a physical toll over time and makes my body too tight to do some yoga poses properly.  It’s way beyond just stretching to get lose, hence the session with Grace. Especially after a long Chicago Winter, it’s time to loosen things back up.
To start, Grace has you lay there and do a body self assessment.  How do you feel, does one side of your body feel differently than the other, what sensations are you feeling right now, etc.  For me, the right side of my body felt noticeably heavier.  No pain or anything.  Well, except for my “texting thumb”.  I could hear Rene in my head, “Be sure to tell Grace about your thumb or I will.”  So, I made a quick mention of my thumb and moved on.  Grace then proceeded to muscle test in order to determine which areas to work on.  I’d lift my leg from the table, she would put some resistance on my shin, then have me make an ‘ahhhh’ sound or lift an arm and make a fist.  If my leg went down, she explained that the issue was really in my shoulder or in my jaw or in my neck.  It is all tied together in a line down the body, she explained.  When we started, I could only raise my legs 75-80 degrees from the table and my hips were equally challenged.  At the end of the session, I had 90+ degree range in my legs and my hips were noticeably more open and loose. Some firsts for me, I received a deep jaw massage, an interesting diaphragm massage and a psoas muscle release.  Oh yes, there was also a bonus deep thumb massage, that resulted in a couple of curious pops but felt great.  During the final body self assessment, everything felt perfectly even, lighter and balanced out. It was only a 60 min session and I felt like I ran a marathon.  I was seriously knocked out the rest of the day.  Two naps and a full nights sleep later, I feel like a new man.  I already scheduled a session for next month.  Perhaps a full lotus pose in my future??
RUNGA 2016
RUNGA 2016

Highway to the Slumber Zone

I’ve always been been good at falling asleep, but I did find myself regularly waking up in the middle of the night either too hot or thinking too much or just uncomfortable. Once I woke up, it was almost impossible to fall back asleep. My brother, Dan, attributes that waking period to the “two sleeps” where, historically, some cultures had a pattern of sleeping for 3-4 hours, waking to do some creative work, meditate, have sex or whatever and then fall back asleep again for another 3-4 hours. I thought that idea was kind of cool, but I just don’t fall back asleep after my brain gets going. I’d rather just sleep through the night in one swoop, then wake up and do awesome stuff all day. For a couple of months, I wore a Fitbit to bed to track my sleep patterns. No surprises, but the data reinforced what I already knew about when I was deep in sleep (not much of the time) and when I was awake tossing and turning. So, now what? The options were to stick with the same sleep, wake, sleep, be groggy all morning pattern or try to adjust it somehow. In my opinion, the keys to a good nights sleep are no lights, no distracting sounds, steady comfortable temperature and a clear/ stress free mind. When chatting with my friend/ real estate business partner, Jeff, he added in “consistency, no technology devices allowed in the bedroom, and limiting caffeine after noon.” All valid points! So, to correct my suboptimal sleep pattern, I tried all kinds of stuff and here are the results…

#1 An Essentia Mattress – Of course I use this nightly! We actually purchased this mattress about 2 years ago and it was a significant sleep upgrade. The previous mattress was a Costco special that eventually cratered in the middle, so you would wake up with a strained back and sore side from fighting the nightly gravitational pull to the center. After significant research, we chose an Essentia mattress because it is made from certified organic latex and is unbelievably comfortable. Three years later and it is still as comfortable as day one. Essentia doesn’t have many store locations, but we are lucky enough to have one in Chicago. We spent an entire Sunday afternoon trying out the different firmnesses before selecting the right one. When we travel, I wish we could take it with! I haven’t found a mattress as comfortable anywhere. Essentia mattresses are expensive, but they run sales all the time, so sign up for email alerts and wait for a deal. It’s worth it!

#2 Black Out shades from The Shade Store. I splurged and got the motorized version, so we get darkness or light at the touch of a button. I guess light switches also fall into that category. Anyway, there is some “light leak” around the edges. It drives me crazy, so, I supplement with a SleepMaster sleep mask. I’m so used to sleeping with the mask on, that it is hard to sleep without it. There is something comforting about having it wrapped around your head like a warm hug. It looks weird, but I’m not posting sleepy selfies, so who cares.  Rene does not like to sleep with hers on every night and the light leak also bothers her.  We’re most likely adding a blackout curtain for the princess (Rene, not me) – stay tuned for that update.

SleepMaster
Sexy Sleep Mask

#3 No Tech! I try to limit screen time and exposure to led lights before bed. Also, WiFi and bluetooth are turned off on the phone, there are no smart wifi switches in the bedroom and all the lighting is from incandescent bulbs. I did EMF testing on the room and the outlets. The room was great having no signals, but the outlets/ wiring were carrying a high amount of EMFs. I was able to reduce the “dirty electricity” and bring the numbers down using GreenWave filters on two of the outlets. If you’d like more information on how to test for EMF’s in your home, please reach out to me.  This has been a game changer for us.

#4 No blue light. If I’m up late working before bed, I use Night Shift and f.lux apps. You can use these apps on your smartphone, tablet, laptop to create a yellowish/ orange tinted screen. This limit the evil blue light that messes up your sleep because your brain thinks it is still daytime. I use nightshift on my iPhone and f.lux on my MacBook after sunset to keep my circadian rhythm in check. The only time I have issues using the apps is when I am processing real estate photos in Lightroom and forget f.lux is running. After making color adjustments with f.lux on, you can get some funky results in real world lighting. So, if you are doing any graphic design or photo processing where color is important, you can click the “disable for an hour” button on f.lux. Or just do it during the day!
In lieu of the apps, you could try yellow tinted glasses, similar to the old school Blu Blockers. We have tried the inexpensive Uvex Skyper yellow safety glasses and the fancy Swanwick glasses – Swannies are cool, hipster looking yellow lens glasses that we first saw at the Paleo f(x) conference. These babies stop the blue light before it hits your eyes. I’d say that both are very beneficial at night if you are watching TV or on the computer. I prefer the way the Swannies fit and look, but I’m not a big fan of the pricetag so search around for discount codes.

Swannies Twinsies
Swannies Twinsies

#5 The ChiliPad – I use this nightly and can’t do without it. I sleep hot and would wake up in the middle of the night throwing the comforter off so I could cool back down. The Chilipad is a mattress pad that circulates cool or warm water, keeping your body temperature however you like it. I originally purchased a chilipad to cover the whole mattress and with dual controls to have separate temperature control on each side. The chilipad didn’t agree with Rene as immediate swings in temperature will trigger nerve symptoms in her legs, so the company was kind enough to swap the dual one for a single. I’m happy with it, she is happy without and we are both sleeping well.  Aside from the Essentia mattress, this really is my favorite sleeping device! The infamous Ben Greenfield tipped me off to the Chilipad at Runga in Costa Rica.  Thanks Ben!

#6 Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier – We run a portable cool mist humidifier in the dry Winter months and fill it every other night with filtered water. Humidifiers are pretty basic and this one is nothing fancy.  I think it was about $20 at Target.  You can find them in the baby section! Without the humidifier, Rene is waking up in the middle of the night with a dry throat, which wakes me up and then no one is sleeping. The humidifier is $20 well spent!

#7 Air Filter – we use a Honeywell Air Genius filter that is washable and has a charcoal pre-filter. I need to clean it about once a month, so it is doing the job and catching particles from the air. I am wondering how much it is missing, though because the exterior gets pretty dusty. At some point, I’d like to upgrade to a HEPA filter and/ or ozone air cleaner. Still researching!

#7 Delta Sleeper – This little device I use a few times per week. It sits on your collar bone and sends a pulsed field at a specific frequency through your brachial plexus to your brain. Sound weird? Well, it is, but I do get some serious deep sleep when I’m using it. Ben Greenfield again gets credit for introducing me to this one and #8. It is really cool and does work!

#8 Binaural Beats – You may have heard the term or tried binaural beats before. Basically, you wear headphones and listen to a steady frequency in one ear and a slightly different frequency in the other ear. The difference in frequencies makes the sound “pulse” as your brain reads the sound as the difference between the two frequencies. Your brain goes along for the ride on that frequency difference and can put you into a very relaxed state. Different frequencies will produce different results, so you pick the right frequency for sleep or meditation or for focus or attention. There are a bunch of apps that have binaural beats, but I have been using SleepStream. You can layer in other sounds like rainfall or waves crashing into the shore. It is really relaxing. I have listened to them in combo with the Delta Sleeper and it puts me in a kind of trippy meditative sleep. Since the binaural beats need stereo sound to work, you have to use headphones for best results. I’m not a fan of sleeping with headphones on, but I found some comfortable sleeping headphones that are built into a headband. Even wearing those, I still end up waking up in the middle of the night wrapped in the wire and have at least one sore ear. Because it ends up defeating the purpose when I wake up at night, I don’t use binaural beats very often. But they are interesting to play around with!

So, did the experimentation work? Absolutely! You really don’t have to spend money on the weirder stuff, but having that light-free environment, comfortable bed, comfortable temperature, consistent bedtime = good sleep habit will get you there. Things I wouldn’t do without are the Essentia mattress, the Chilipad and the Sleepmaster mask. I’m sleeping great, now. I still wake up occasionally in the middle of the night, but I can usually attribute that to an extra glass of wine that I didn’t need or a super stressful day or both! When that happens, I just know to set aside a little more time the next night to get relaxed and de-stressed before bed. Anything interesting you do to fall asleep and stay asleep? I’m always open to more ideas!

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