What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What are your views on drinking alcohol in front of your children?  Do you make a conscious decision to abstain when with your children or just not to drink to excess?  Have you ever been drunk in front of your children?

In a new report released by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 29% of parents admitted to having been drunk in front of their children, whilst 51% said they had been tipsy.  Out of the parents that admitted to having been tipsy, 29% of their children said they had been embarrassed by their parents' behaviour as a result and 19% said they felt they had been given less attention.

Invited to take part in a discussion on the findings of the report I was asked whether I drank in front of my teens.  My response quite simply was yes I do.  Asked my opinion on drinking in front of children I expressed the view that it was all about moderation.  Yet the English language is a fickle beast.  Moderate drinking can of course mean different things to different people, one person's glass of wine can be another's bottle.  So parents where should we draw the line?

The differentiating factor for me is responsibility.  We are bombarded by "responsible" marketing messages every where we look but the pinnacle of responsibility is surely responsible parenting.

As adults we know what it is to overstep the mark.  Thus, when it comes to alcohol, it is important as parents we exercise self-control when with our children.  This is at its height when they are younger.  Whilst that early parenting phase for me is well and truly over I was always conscious of the need for a sound mind at all times in case of an emergency.  In fact my husband and I have clocked up quite a few A&E trips with our children over the years and aside from being able to drive, a clear mind was very much a necessity on every occasion.

As they grow and move through the tween phase, our children become more perceptive and aware of boundaries of acceptable behaviour.  Add to this the benefits of education.  Tweens soak up information like sponges .  There is nothing more enjoyable than your child returning from school and brain dumping everything they have learnt in a series of "Did you know?" statements.  Included in this is the introduction to PSHE lessons and its important messages on social media, bullying, puberty, drugs and alcohol.  Tweens are suddenly armed with facts as well as an inquisitive mind.

In the report 11-12 year olds described alcohol as "like sugar for adults".  Well that must be bad then.  After all we spend our lives telling our children to cut back on sugar.  Fizzy drinks are banned, juices and smoothies with their abundance of natural fructose must be limited, along with biscuits and cakes and sweets are forbidden.

Well to be honest in my house all of these things are allowed in moderation.  Yes there is that word again.  But it is a word which for me encompasses the necessary sentiment.  It is about the avoidance of extremes.  My children know the difference between what is acceptable and what will send their dentist or me into a tail spin and them out of control.  Isn't it the same with us as adults when it comes to alcohol? By all means enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer but just know when to stop when children are present.

Now as a mother of teens have my parameters changed?  Almost certainly.  That is not to say I lose control and dance on the table, but a lazy Sunday lunch with teens is one of midlife's pleasures and is more likely to end with a board game, a movie and an afternoon nap than a trip to A&E.

That said, it doesn't mean I have abandoned parenting responsibly.  Control is the defining point in all of this and is one that we emphasised to our eldest teen when he started on the teen house party circuit and more recently when he headed off to university to confront the first hurdle that is Freshers' Week and its inherent heavy drinking culture.

There is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to a matter of personal choice and everyone's choice will be different, even within families.  The only element to remember is that we are setting an example for our children at all times with food, exercise and alcohol.  Ultimately, however, our children will make their own decisions regardless of the example we have set, or what they have learnt and they will almost certainly make some mistakes along the way because that is life. . In the meantime, whilst flying the flag for responsible parenting, let's also remember life is for living - in moderation of course!

 

Did you see the report? What are your views on drinking in front of your children?  I look forward to hearing your views.

 

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Review – The ResMed S+ Sleep Tracker

A  good night's sleep is increasingly regarded not only as the best but the most crucial medicine for our health.  Without it not only are we operating below par in the short term, but long term we are susceptible to a range of life threatening illnesses.

Our health is our wealth and in a society where there is no longer a clear demarcation between work and leisure, never has the value of sleep been more pertinent. In the words of Thomas Dekker "Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and bodies together."  The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.

Sleep is fashionable. Talk about sleep routines, sleep hygiene and sleep apps is commonplace and only last week the Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine was awarded to a trio of scientists for their discoveries relating to the Circadian Rhythm, the human sleep/wake cycle that dictates our need for sleep.  We are quite literally a nation obsessed with sleep.  I confess to being one of those people.  So does that make me a sleep bore?  Personally I would like to think of myself as being "bang on trend", although I am sure my teenagers would almost certainly disagree.

So with my confession to sleep obsession firmly on the table, you won't be surprised to hear that when asked to review the ResMed S+ Sleep Tracker I jumped at the chance.

What Is The ResMed S+?

Quite simply it is the world's first non-contact sleep tracker.   If you are still wearing a fitness band on your wrist to monitor your sleep (which I was) then I am sorry to be the bearer of bad of news, but you are behind the times.  Things have moved on - considerably!

Widely regarded as the technology dunce in our family, I was firmly pushed to one side by my geek husband and youngest teenager when the ResMed S+ arrived.  Never have they been so keen to help and as each stage was completed my husband could be heard muttering "This is such a clever bit of kit."  

Despite being overpowered on this occasion, I can assure you setting it up is straightforward even for someone like me. You simply sync it with your smartphone or tablet, set up an account, answer a few questions about yourself and your lifestyle (honestly of course as my husband kept reminding me) and you are ready to go.

To look at, the ResMed S+ is quite simply a shiny white box encased in brushed steel, a bit new-age in appearance but nonetheless sleek and stylish, which is exactly what you want from something that is going to be on your bedside, or at least I do!

Of course it is not as basic as all that.  Inside the white box are all the brains and sensors of the machine which are going to help advise you on getting a good night's sleep.  A LED glows red in the middle of the box when the S+ is on but not connected and green when your phone is in the vicinity. The white box tilts in the frame so you can angle it towards you regardless of the height and position of your bedside and this is important to check each night because if it is not angled correctly it quite simply won't record, as I found out to my detriment on a couple of occasions.

ResMed S+ @Mother of Teenagers

Sleep Tracking

When it is time to turn in for the night, the ResMed S+ monitors the light, noise and temperature in your room and recommends the ideal levels for the perfect sleep environment.  Then you hit the sleep button on the app and answer a few questions on your specific state before going to sleep, namely how stressed you were that day, how many caffeinated and alcoholic drinks you consumed and how much exercise you did.  After that you can choose to clear your mind and relax ready for sleep.

The mind clear feature I found particularly useful. Like most mothers, I go to bed with a multitude of things going around in my brain from that day and in anticipation of the next.  Mind Clear enables you to either record a voice text or enter a text message to get the thoughts out of your head before going to sleep.  It certainly worked for me and is better than waking in the middle of the night and reaching for a notepad and a pen.

After this you either set the SmartAlarm and/or turn on a calming sound to send you to sleep.  To be honest with this feature I think it is down to personal taste.  My husband rather liked being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves whereas I found it irritating, but then again I am exactly the same if I have a facial, I cannot stand the background tubular bells style music that is intended to help you relax, so I think this probably says more about me than the feature.

The flip side of this, however, is the Smart Alarm which I LOVED.  This gives you a 15 minute window during which to wake and get up, so if your alarm is set for 7am the Smart Alarm starts easing you into the morning around 6.45am with gentle sounds which start off quietly and gradually increase to the point when you need to get up.  As a non-morning person this for me was a much better way to be woken up than the harsh, uncivilised ringing of an alarm bell, whereas my husband who loves mornings and jumps out of bed at the first sound of the alarm found this pointless.  We agreed to differ on these features. But then again it was my sleep it was monitoring not his, he just happened to be nearby!

The Sleep Data

In order for your data to be collected you do have to have your phone plugged in.  Now as a firm believer of "no phones in the bedroom"  and insisting my teens leave theirs downstairs when they go to bed, this seemed counter-intuitive but on the plus side once you have confirmed you are going to sleep, the screen does not emit the bright blue light that stops your brain producing the melatonin you need to nod off.  As this is one of the biggest reasons screens are discouraged in the sleep environment, this was my rationale when challenged by my teens.

So here is the really interesting part and the bit that I think sets the ResMed S+ apart from all the other sleep trackers I have used and that is the score and analysis of your sleep.

Forget the basics of how many hours you have slept, the ResMed S+ breaks your sleep down into four components, Deep, Light, REM and Wake, the latter including the time it took you to fall asleep and any disruptions during the night.   Each has an ideal score for your age and gender and your personal sleep score is measured against each of these.

Sleep restores us both mentally and physically and each morning you can see what you achieved overall for your mind (REM) and body (Deep) within the ideal scenario.  Both of these stages are vital to our well-being but it is the balance of time spent in both of these phases that will make the difference between the general feeling we all get on waking of having slept well or not.

The first night I used the tracker was the weekend prior to my eldest teen leaving for university. Probably not a good time, but then again I wanted to see the bad bits of my sleep, not just the good.  Not surprisingly perhaps with a house full of teens invading the house after a farewell party for my son, my sleep score was rubbish and disturbances plentiful on the first night.  Ditto the next night, prior to his departure. The mind clear feature came into its own on this occasion as I woke frequently agonising over what we might have forgotten to pack, so when I woke sluggish and fretful the next morning with a deadline for departure and a husband telling me to hurry up, I could at least refer to my middle of the night notes!

Unfortunately my sleep did not improve much over the next few days after dropping him off and my worst recorded sleep score was 53 but this was probably a good place to start.  My life and that of my family was changing big time so what better place to start with improving my sleep than at the bottom?

The ideal sleep score is 100.  My highest score to date has been 98, but the journey in between has been so interesting and it is not over yet.

As well as your score the S+ Mentor feature gives you advice aimed at improving your sleep going forward, obviously with the view that you make adjustments and your score goes up.  After one particularly poor reading this was its personalised suggestion.

People of your age typically get 6h 17m of total sleep time, 1h 26m of REM, 1h 6m of deep sleep and 3h 44m of light sleep.Your REM sleep last night was 0h 34m. REM sleep is the time when the majority of your dreams occur.  Try the Relax to Sleep feature which senses your breathing rate and matches the speed of the sound to it. Slow the sound by slowing your breathing and then follow the sound as it leads you into a relaxed state and finally into sleep.

I find the analysis of how long I spend in each stage of sleep fascinating and it is easy to see how sleep becomes addictive.  I love sleep but what the ResMed S+ has made me realise is that over the summer I have become lax with my normal sleep routine which quite simply is having a detrimental impact upon the quality of my sleep.

I have been using the ResMed S+ now for three weeks and interestingly the nights I have slept the deepest are when my husband is away on business.  I have no way of knowing for sure but when my sleep history shows disturbances I generally assume it is due to his snoring.  I am not quite sure where that leaves me or us for that matter but I have made progress and I have loved the tips proffered along the way - although clearly there were none suggesting I sleep alone!

The Value of Sleep 

I have written previously about my battle with menopausal insomnia and my efforts to find a solution to those specific issues, but that midlife crisis aside, a good night's sleep is a prerequisite for life and particularly as we age. Adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime than those clocking up seven or eight as recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Matthew Walker, neuroscience professor at Berkeley, California believes we are in the midst of a "catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic".  He claims that in the UK alone, the NHS spends an eye-watering £50 million a year on prescriptions for sleeping tablets but that sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue.   You don't have to be a genius to realise that there is something wrong there somewhere.  In his book Why We Sleep, Walker argues that the real need is to get to the root cause of why we are not sleeping and remedy it.

Achieving the correct amount of quality sleep is a discipline  With the help of the ResMed S+ I have started to redress the balance.  Of course it is not a perfect science.  Living gets in the way sometimes and as a result there have been peaks and troughs in my sleep journey but like with everything else in life it is work in progress.  The quest for perfect quality sleep continues and whether that will come with a 100 sleep score I am yet to find out.  In the meantime, as Homer said "There is a time for many words and there is also a time for sleep."

 

Disclosure: I received the ResMed S+ in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and unbiased.   

 

 

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The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

Mummy Times TwoThat Friday Linky JakiJellz 

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Coping With Panic Attacks – A Modern Day Epidemic

"I think I am having a panic attack!  How can I stop it?"

Both my teenagers have asked me this question at some point during their young lives.  Panic occurs as a natural result of anxiety.  Yet anxiety is a term so readily bandied around nowadays that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between that which is genuinely life changing and that which is a fleeting response to a stressful situation.

We all have moments in our lives which we find stressful but anxiety at its most serious is debilitating and can drastically affect the sufferer's day to day life and that of those around them.

In the case of my teens both were experiencing moments of heightened anxiety as a result of exams, a normal scenario for many.  However, as  a sufferer of panic attacks myself some years ago I am all too conscious of the need not to dismiss another's anxiety out of turn and find myself naturally sympathetic to those coming out as a fellow victim.

My own experience was unprecedented.  There was no logical reason for it and that is often the most frustrating aspect.  It doesn't make sense.  But then again it is not meant to.  I consider myself to be a relatively resilient person but found myself knocked sideaways for a good 6 months by recurrent panic attacks.

Surviving or Thriving, the report released earlier this year by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that over a quarter of people in the UK say that they have experienced panic attacks at some point during their lives.  That is not an insignificant number and justifies the need for an emphasis on treating and caring for our nation's mental health.

The challenge with anxiety lies in recognising when you have a problem that could benefit from expert help.

So starting with the basics, what is a panic attack and what does it feel like?

If you talk to anyone that has had a panic attack one of the first things they would say in describing one is that they thought they were having a heart attack or rather what they imagined a heart attack to feel like anyway.

A racing heart is a classic physical symptom of a panic attack, along with an inability to breathe which can lead to a period of hyperventilating, sweating, severe nausea and trembling.

The triggers, however, are less easy to identify and that is what can make treating them seem like an uphill struggle.  Whilst the fact you are experiencing panic attacks is due to a period of stress past or present and your body's physical reaction to it, the specific episodes themselves are not linked by a common situation.

My first attack occurred in a shopping centre discussing bed linen with a shop assistant.  My second walking to collect my children from school.  My third in a queue in the post office. One of my worst was in Athens on top of the Acropolis, marring what was an idyllic moment during a family holiday.

None of these situations were stressful and that is the difference between an isolated attack induced by a specifically stressful scenario like sitting an exam, standing up in front of hundreds to give a speech or fighting off an attacker and an actual disorder.

I had experienced some stressful situations in my life a divorce, a parent with cancer but at the time of the attacks themselves my only stress was the everyday kind, but it is possible after periods of intense stress for something small to trigger a physical reaction that can then spiral out of control if ignored.

Treating panic attacks requires the sufferer to recognise the onset of an attack and know how to control it.  That is easier said than done of course.  The feeling is overwhelming and the memory of how it renders you helpless so terrifying it can be a self-perpetuating problem as you become taken over by it.  The fear of having another attack also comes with its own problems including a reluctance to go out or put yourself in a social situation where you may not be able to control  an attack.

I am not an expert.  I only have my own experience and treatment to draw upon but that has been enough for me to encourage others not to dismiss panic attacks as a "passing phase".  This is particularly easy when dealing with young people as teenagers are notorious for behaviour which can easily be dismissed as "just a phase they are going through".

I have been reminded of the agony of panic attacks recently by the stories of two young teenagers known by our family and both the same age as my daughter, just 14.  The first is the daughter of a very dear friend and the second a school friend of my daughter's.

There was a time when I was reluctant to discuss my own experience, preferring to push it to the back of my mind as an unfortunate episode, but of course as with everything there shouldn't be a stigma associated with panic attacks and sometimes personal recommendations can make a difference in helping others to make sense of what is happening to them or someone they know and if that someone is a young person then that is a job well done.

CBT played a big role in my recovery.  As someone who had always historically shunned therapy I surprised myself with how quickly I embraced it in this instance.  It helped me to make sense of what was happening which I couldn't do on my own.   Once I grasped that I could train my mind to take back control of my body I became less anxious about the attacks and more willing to explore contolling mechanisms that worked for me.  Ultimately the objective was to remove the fear and get my mind to a point where it would forget what panic attacks were.

Nutrition was also important.  My body was being swamped by adrenaline during these attacks and I was encouraged to remove any other stimulants to my nervous system.  Caffeine and sugar were the obvious ones.

Exercise and an emphasis on controlling my breathing were addressed with regular Pilates sessions.

Aside from these lifestyle changes, I also had what I fondly refer to as my panic attack first aid kit which comprised a few things that gave me the confidence to continue as normal, safe in the knowledge that if something did happen in public I could manage it.  A bottle of water to splash on my face, a brown paper bag to manage my breathing and a barley sugar to remove the nausea became permanent accessories in my handbag for when the attacks came knocking.

Collectively all this helped get me to a point where the attacks not only no longer scared me, but became shorter in length as a I learnt how to manage them and then eventually they occurred less frequently, until such a time as I wasn't experiencing them at all anymore. There is no real danger to someone from a panic attack other than the one that their mind may create and that is why it is one of the most treatable anxiety issues and where the phrase mind over matter has never been more pertinent.  My key piece of advice for what it is worth, is don't dismiss panic attacks as a phase, seek help early and take control before they control you.

 

Have you suffered from a panic disorder or know someone who has?  Do you have any experiences or tips to share?

 

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Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

"Why on earth would I want to end my week by going to see a play about a man having sex with a goat?"   This was the question asked by a very dear friend as we set off to the theatre last week.

The play in question was Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? with Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo.  Avid theatre goers, we have all enjoyed many a memorable night together, but none quite like last week.

It divided and united us in equal measure which to me at least is an indication of a good play.  Theatre is not about pure entertainment it is about provoking a reaction, encouraging the audience to ask questions of themselves and society and The Goat Play as it is fondly known did just that.

I would be lying if I said the actors weren't largely responsible for getting me through the door, but so too was my natural curiosity.  I was not familiar with the play before attending last week so went albeit with some doubts simmering beneath the surface, a relatively open mind.

Enjoying drinks in the Oscar Wilde bar before the performance, we listened as the waitress regaled everyone with stories on audience reactions since opening, including those about some finding it all too much and leaving mid-performance.  In all honesty as we settled into our seats we were expecting our dear friend to join them.

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The play is a quasi Greek tragedy.  It is the story of Martin, a married, middle-aged man and successful architect and his tragic fall from grace and the consequences upon his family, when he falls in love spiritually and physically with a goat.  Not only is this an unquestionably absurd story line it is evidently repugnant.

Bestiality is not an easy subject matter.  Shock is the predominant reaction of both the other characters in the play and the audience, as simultaneously you find yourselves experiencing the full emotional gamut of disgust, horror and anger, recoiling with every moral fibre in your body.

However, the play is not about bestiality, it is merely a means to an end.  By using a subject matter so unnatural and divisive, what the play does brilliantly is highlight how intolerant as a society we are and question how far we have really come in our seemingly progressive thinking.

The play is not asking us to accept bestiality but it forces us to hold up a mirror and look at our own prejudicial weaknesses.  Who is to say what is tolerable and what is not?  This is accentuated superbly by Martin's own incongruous response to his gay teenage son's sexual preferences, which he finds difficult to comprehend.

Albee said in an interview at the play's New York premiere "I want everybody to be able to think about what they can’t imagine and what they have buried deep as being intolerable and insufferable."

By shining the spotlight on those living outside the conventional, it is a play about the limits of our tolerance and who we really are.

Our tweens and teenagers are growing up in an increasingly more tolerant and progressive society than the one we inhabited at their age, yet still Albee's message is pertinent.

No-one likes to think of themselves as being prejudiced but we all have our own individual views on what is acceptable and what is not and and thereby unless we all share the same views, prejudice in some shape or form will exist and nowhere is this more prevalent than in relation to our sexual preferences.

"How would you feel if one of your friends came out as a Lesbian?" "Who knows what it means to be Gender Neutral?" "How accepting do you think you would be of a transgender woman at school?" were among the many questions asked of my daughter's class during lessons and debates marking LGBT History Month.

Homophobia in our schools is described as being at epidemic levels and it is commendable that there is a concerted effort at breaking down these barriers early, educating out prejudice and encouraging a more open-minded society, yet how easy is it to influence a change in opinion later in life?  Only last week Caitlyn Jenner was subject to transphobic abuse whilst leaving the British LGBT awards, demonstrating that even in an environment where tolerance should be high, there is still a way to go in our seemingly liberal society to being more inclusive.

There is no doubt though that there is a commitment to challenging the limits of our tolerance and even the big consumer brands are getting in on the act.  Heineken's new Worlds Apart campaign partners groups of strangers with a variety of opposing views including a transgender woman and a right-wing guy who thinks it's "wrong," and in doing so attempts to overcome barriers in our polarized world.

In the meantime, plays like The Goat, will continue to entertain and shock in equal measure and force us to question our own moral judgment of a variety of social taboos, not just sexual ones.  As for us, well we left the play agreeing to disagree on whether that is possible, but the mere fact we debated it went some way to achieving Albee's purpose of forcing us to stand back and consider a different stance to the black and white version.

 

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Sleepless Nights – Tackling Insomnia in Menopause

"How did you sleep darling?" is the habitual morning question from my husband. How "well" and particularly how "badly" we sleep is not only a subject of marital discussion but is also a national and international obsession.

Obviously, sleep requirements vary by individual but most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night.  Sleeping well is vital for looking and feeling good, regardless of our age. It doesn't matter if we lead a healthy lifestyle or are as fit as a fiddle, we are only as good as the amount of sleep we get and a bad night's sleep will almost certainly leave us feeling lethargic, unable to concentrate, bad-tempered and in some cases depressed.

There are a multitude of reasons why people don't sleep, worry and stress of course being the most common.   Personally, I have suffered a range of sleep issues in my lifetime each with their own set of challenges, including being married to a prolific snorer .

According to the Great British Bedtime Report, however, I am not alone and "partner disturbance" as it is aptly called is the UK's second most common cause of disrupted sleep with women more likely to be affected than men (31% compared to 19%).

Partner disturbances like child disturbances are similar in that over time your body and mind develop their own coping mechanisms. The same cannot be said, however, of the shift in sleeping patterns that accompanies the transition to menopause - which is when women start to commonly experience really significant changes in the quality of their sleep and I am no exception.

Going to sleep is not a problem for me, the issue is that I wake up during the night often at 3am and then have difficulty returning to sleep again, if at all.  This inability to stay asleep is known as "maintenance insomnia".

A Fitbit devotee for some time now, I became obsessed with checking my sleep stats and was horrified to see that on average I was clocking up just 5 hours sleep a night and that I was restless or fully awake anywhere between 16 and 20 times a night.

According to the Sleep Council  "A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours: and a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours".  To deepen my misery I completed the Council's Great British Sleep Survey and was not surprised to learn that my sleep score was 3.75/Low.

For women like me on the journey from peri-menopause through menopause, the hormonal fluctuations occurring in our bodies at this time throw our body's chemistry completely out of kilter.  This can wreak havoc with our emotional and physical state and disrupt sleep enough to induce insomnia and because the shift to menopause can last a number of years insomnia symptoms can go from transient and temporary to chronic and severe during this time.  It is also a vicious circle because the more sleep you lose the worse everything else is.  Fun it most certainly isn't and it can have a significant impact upon your family.  This was my husband's white flag email:

"Darling, been reading a lot of websites and articles. This one seemed to make the most sense to me.  Let's talk when you want to.  Supporting Your Partner During Menopause  https://www.verywell.com/supporting-your-partner-during-menopause-2322673"

I have written previously about my quest to attempt to address various lifestyle issues arising from my menopause and this email was probably an incentive to get on with it.  Along with increased irritability, insomnia was one of the primary reasons I sought expert advice earlier this year.  Yes as a parent I have known debilitating tiredness, but the exhaustion from insomnia in menopause is totally unforgiving.

During my consultation, the results of my hormone tests,  showed I was lacking in progesterone, the happy hormone, whose primary function is to relax us and keep us calm, all of those qualities we need to not only keep us balanced, but also to ensure restful sleep.

Declining estrogen at this time also has a role to play and whilst my tests showed my decline in estrogen wasn't as marked as my progesterone, estrogen does help to deepen our sleep and therefore could be the reason I couldn't stay asleep.

It is now 3 months since I was first prescribed a course of bio-identical hormone therapy and during this time I have returned for a follow-up consultation.  The initial prescription went some way to addressing my symptoms, with my husband in particular noting an improvement in my moodiness or as he fondly calls it a reduction in my flash to bang and I was also managing to stay asleep at night more than I had previously.

Everything that happens on the course to menopause is down to your hormones and you quite simply can 't control your hormones without medication, but equally hormone therapy is not for everyone, so hormones aside, what are the best ways of combating insomnia in menopause and getting a good night's sleep?

  • Invest in a decent bed.  Given that we spend a third of our lives in bed, a comfortable bed is vital regardless of whether you are menopausal or not.  Obviously the quality of the mattress has a big part to play in this and the Sleep Council recommends that we replace our mattress at least once every seven years.  The choice is extensive now and is no longer just about soft or hard either, new to the market foam mattresses adapt to all body shapes, sizes and sleeping styles.
  • Use natural bedding.  Avoid synthetic fabrics to ensure you keep cool whilst you sleep, which if you suffer from night time sweats during the menopause is a great help.  Good ventilation in the bedroom is also advised.
  • Sleep schedule. Make sure to only go to bed when you feel sleepy, and get up if you find yourself awake for longer than quarter of an hour. By reducing the time in bed you spend awake you can improve your ‘sleep efficiency’, and as a result your sleep quality.
  • Sleep hygiene.  Keep all electronic devices from the bedroom.  It is really tempting to just check your "instagram" or your "twitter" before nodding off but it all acts as unnecessary stimulation. The best advice for a restful night's sleep is universally to go to bed at a set time, avoid caffeine before bed and opt instead for a calming drink (my personal favourite is Pukka night-time tea) and do something to help you relax whether that be relaxation techniques or simply reading.
  • Keep moving.  Whatever your life-stage, exercise is important full stop to combat a range of physical and mental health issues but a sedentary lifestyle in menopausal women is strongly associated with insomnia.  Regular exercise will improve it.  Find something you enjoy, try new things and keep it varied.
  • Mindfulness.  A bad night’s sleep often makes you feel irritable the next day, but it also works the other way around - feeling low can increase your risk of future sleep problems. Being aware of what is going on inside us and around us can help to lift our spirits when we are feeling low.  Mindfulness can help as can meditation with developing awareness of your breathing.
  • Supplements.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to a poor night's sleep.  It is known that magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia and a lack of potassium can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.  In addition Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to excessive daytime sleepiness, so if menopausal insomnia is an issue it is worth investigating including these supplements in your diet.  The other fail safe one I would add to this is Evening Primrose Oil.

 

Sleep and physical health have a two-way relationship. Ill-health can make it hard to sleep but equally poor sleep can also increase our risk of future illness.   As well as employing all the recommended ways of ensuring I get a good night's sleep, my hormone dosage has been adjusted according to my last meeting.   A month in and in terms of my sleeplessness it has been limited to maybe a handful of nights which whilst they have made me feel totally miserable, when I think back to where I was at the beginning of this  year is a big step forward.

I am as my consultant has told me still "work in progress", after all the peri-menopause can last for a number of years.  For now at least though the quality of my life is improving because fundamentally I am sleeping better and as my family can vouch the well-being of the household is dependent upon my sleep!

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?  If so I would love you to share them.  

 

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Win Free Grand Designs Live Show Tickets, with CLC World Resorts & Hotels

Who doesn't love watching Channel 4's Grand Designs? For me it combines two of my favourite pastimes - indulging my fantasy for picture perfect designer rooms in my house, as well as getting a glimpse into the real agony and joy of others on their quest to make their own grand design happen.

The plus of course is Kevin McCloud,  design guru and silver fox of the interiors world.   Do I need to say more?

Based on the hugely successful TV series, this year's Grand Designs Live show runs for 9 days from 29th April - 7th May at Excel London.

The show offers visitors a unique opportunity to see all the latest trends for the home including many products never seen before.

Packed with over 500 exhibitors, across seven different sections, it promises to be a show not to be missed.

What's not to like? It ticks all my boxes and if like me, you harbour dreams of a grand design project, hopefully it will tick yours too.

The good news is to help make your dreams a reality, I  am really excited to have tickets to giveaway courtesy of CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Europe's largest independent resort operator and developer who are also providing the main prize of the show ....so if you are in the middle of planning a small or grand design of your own and are in need of some inspiration or expert advice, this is the giveaway for you.

The entry requirements are really simple and please don't forget to leave a comment on my blog letting me know about your own Grand Design plans, past or present, small or large, I would love to hear about it.

Good Luck!

 

How To Enter - Rules

Leave a comment on this blog.

Follow me @motherofteensuk on Twitter

Retweet the competition post on my Twitter page

Follow @clcworld on Twitter or visit their facebook page CLC World Resorts

 

Terms & Conditions

  • Competition details form part of these terms and conditions.
  • Entry is open to residents of the UK except employees (and their families) of CLC World, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions.
  • The entrant(s) must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required.
  • Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification.
  • The competition opens at 12.00am on 20th April 2017 and ends at 12.00am on 27th April 2017. Entries that are incomplete, illegible, indecipherable, duplicated or which contain profanity will not be valid and deemed void.
  • To enter, applicants must follow the rules outlined above.
  • All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition.
  • No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, due to computer error in transit.
  • The prizes are as stated and comprises of two tickets for Grand Designs Live (valid between the 29th April – 7th May) to be awarded to one winner. The prize is not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
  • Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers' terms and conditions.
  • Prizes will be posted to the winner within 48 hours of them providing their postage details.
  • The winner will be contacted via Twitter on 28th April.
  • Entrants must be prepared to be able to organise their own travel to Grand Designs Live on a date between the 29th April – 7th May , in the case that they are selected to win the competition.
  • The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions at any time and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.
  • In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
  • The winner(s) agree(s) to the use of their name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by Mother of Teenagers and/or CLC World, relating to any post-winning publicity.
  • Unless stated otherwise the winner(s) will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material 27th April 2017.
  • Reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winner(s). If the winner(s) cannot be reached within 24 hours of being notified of their win, or they are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random, or in the event that the promotion is being judged, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the runner(s)-up selected by the same judges.
  • Confirmation of the prize will be made via online correspondence to the winner.
  • Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize.
  • Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered over this decision.
  • Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is The Real Value of Sport To Our Children?

With one teenager finishing last term with a hockey tour and one starting this term with a cricket tour, I am reminded of the value of sport in my teens' lives not only from the obvious perspective of benefiting from exercise, but also more universally in helping to prepare them for life beyond the playground.

Like many other parents I have stood on my fair share of pitches, but despite the sometimes untold agony of getting them up on time, the arguments about lost kit, the moaning about unfair referees and umpires plus the occasional tears at not being selected, I believe it has been worth every minute and equipped them with some valuable life lessons.

Children do not enter this world "naturally" sporty, it requires effort from us as parents to introduce them to exercise and start shaping their attitude to physical activity.   This starts as early as the toddler years with the interminable games of "catch" and trips to the playground in all weathers - albeit as an underhand means of ensuring our children are completely exhausted in time for bed.

The primary school years, however, are when it starts in earnest.  School sports days sort the wheat from the chaff on the athletics track among the children and the parents, in a bid for the unspoken but cherished title of  "most sporty family".  It is also the first time that our children are chosen for teams based on their ability and start to understand the value of healthy competition, because let's face it competitive environments are everywhere in life.

Then there is the scrum for places at local sporting clubs, some of which can involve a wait of several years for a space to come free.

Once your child has their place and has been accepted into the inner sanctum of the local sporting elite, even if they absolutely hate it, throw regular hissy fits on the field or are just down right rubbish, you stay put, resolute in the belief that as well as getting them out of the house, it is a learning ground for those all important life skills of teamwork, leadership, responsibility, discipline, coping with failure and last but not least "strategic thinking".

Yes who would have thought sport could be credited with providing our offspring with such a vast array of cognitive functions?

Surely there was an age when sport's primary purpose was enjoyment at being active, but that is certainly not the case now.  Being sporty is a badge to be worn with pride and demonstrates a prowess unattainable to any other group theatrical or musical, despite all requiring many of the same skill sets of co-operation, stamina, flexibility and dedication.

Woe betide you if are one of those parents on the sports field that dares to say the immortal words to your child that it's not about the "winning" but the "taking part". This suggests a lack of resilience and commitment and will provoke an array of reactions from eye rolling and tutting to full on ostracization.

In what other extra curricular activity does your child get exposed to such open criticism?

Despite my glibness though, I confess to being one of those parents who champions the importance of sport and fall genuinely into the camp of mums who just want my children to "take part".

As a fair weather exerciser I am not a tiger mum by any stretch of the imagination, but over the years I have carefully cajoled and manipulated my teens from an early age into sporting positions they may not naturally have gravitated towards themselves.

I signed them up for local sporting clubs before I knew if they were interested or even capable.  I offered my services when needed to serve tea and bake cakes for tournaments (admittedly under duress) and have even flown the flag of loud supporter on occasions, if sometimes for the opposing team!

Equally though I have stood and cringed on the sidelines as my children made innumerable mistakes, let down the team and themselves and of course embarrassed me!  It is all part of life's rich parenting tapestry.

But regardless of all this I gritted my teeth, rose above it and reassured them that "at least they tried their best", only to go home, drink copious glasses of wine and rant to my husband.

My husband however is the true champion, investing true blood, sweat and tears into our children's sporting lives.  He has patiently taught Teen 1 how to handle a rugby ball and coached at his local club for years. He has also spent hours of his life he will never get back teaching him how to bowl and has regularly run training sessions for Teen 2's hockey club.  This is before we even count the hours of driving,  sometimes half way across the South of England to get them to matches or to pick them up, before returning home and doing a quick turnaround to catch a plane - all whilst I just prepare lunch!

From my view on the sideline though, I think that what sport does best for children is break down barriers and open up opportunities.

Our local sports clubs are full of children from different backgrounds and with a range of abilities and the same is true at my teens' schools.  Diversity is essential to all walks of life but a love of sport unifies people in a way that nothing else can.

Sport England has launched its own series of initiatives Towards An Active Nation to increase the number of people getting active in response to the Government's own Sporting Future strategy.

Its vision is that everyone in England regardless of age, background or ability feels able to take part in sport and a significant part of this is to increase the proportion of young people (11-18) who have a positive attitude to sport and being active.

At secondary school there is no doubt that it is all far more competitive as everyone jostles for a place in the 1st and 2nd team and the chance to represent their school and perhaps earn a much coveted place on a sports tour.  It is easy for children to drop out of exercise during this period.  The challenge at this stage as Sport England recognises is to keep our children doing sport and make exercise a natural part of their life to keep them active well into the future.

Watching my own children over the years I can resolutely say that they have grown from sports shy individuals to competent young players who genuinely get a buzz from being part of a team and being active. What sport does really well is give children a sense of worth, bring them together and give them a common purpose. Your prowess in the classroom or the playground is irrelevant to what happens on the sports field.

Sport encourages children to move outside their comfort zone and mix with others they would maybe not normally interact with.  In this ever changing and reactive world this is surely a good thing, irrespective of ability.

So as I drove my eldest and his mates to their first pre-season training cricket match and listened to their "bants" I was reminded of identical circumstances this time last year.  My husband away on business and a car full of jesting teenage boys with their "that's so jokes" comments,  looking forward to a season's cricket amidst the pressure of their exams.

It reminded me that actually the real value of sport to our children is not the cognitive strategic skills they come away with but the comaraderie, the genuine enjoyment, the escapism from the pressure of performing in the classroom and most importantly of all, the memories of when they got it wrong as well as right, which are truly irreplaceable.  After all life is built on memories, they stay with us forever and hold us all together.

What do you think about the role of sport for our children?  Does sport play a big part in your lives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this article please give it a share. 

 

This post was featured on #Global Blogging

My favorite for the week is written by JoMother of TeenagersWhat Is The Real Value Of Sport To Our Children. We are definitely a sporting family! I love seeing kids outdoors and releasing energy. I also have a kid that is not too sporty but they love being on the sidelines rooting the rest of them on! It sure beats sitting inside!!

 

 

 

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