Friday, 29 March 2013

To sleep with a clear conscience

“I don’t sleep much, but I sleep with a clear conscience.”
I’ve heard our Prime Minister say this sentence regularly, and since today is the Good Friday, we should take this opportunity to meditate on its meaning.
Today, the Christian world remembers, celebrates and worships the passion and death of Jesus Christ; He who said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the pin of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Pope took a name that no other before him had taken, reminding me of a Francis that abandoned all richness, criticized opulence, protected the poor and spoke with Nature.
She was needy, dazedly explaining her woes. She was thin, nervous, with restless and uncertain gestures. She came from afar in search for the hope of a solution.
She did not sleep. It began a while earlier but got worse as time went by, especially in the last year. Nothing seemed to make her get well, nor help her get some sleep; it was a nightmare not to sleep and having to get up early in the morning. She got up at 6 am, worked from 7 am to 10 pm and got to bed by midnight.
“You know…Things are bad…we can’t have employees…we had to lay off several employees since it’s just me and my husband. We have an employee that helps in the kitchen, since he cooks and I wait tables, and I don’t want to overburden him…”
If we add up the working hours and the sleeping hours, we amount to truly scary results. “Share with the husband?” It wasn’t possible since he got in a lot earlier, around 4am, to cook the restaurant lunches. “At least he sleeps well, despite his snoring”.
I worried with the lack of solutions and the ensuing complications. Her insomnia and borderline depression, and her husband apnea. I hesitate in a not so convincing rationality.
She’s thin, nervous, with uncertain gestures and a tired demeanor. She adds up to the main issue: “We lost our house, which we built 12 years ago. When the business started slowing down, we stopped paying our loan and the bank took our house, which we both built with the money we had set aside back then.”
“Is there no alternative?”
“No… It´s definitive! The bank took it and we’re going to a loaned apartment. This hurts me the most.”
This insomnia followed the general model of the 3 P, with precipitating, predisposing and perpetuating factors … But which behaviors to change? How to teach rules regarding Sleep Hygiene? How to lessen the effects of the existing life events?
Indeed it was not just about the insomnia, but also about the crisis in our daily lives, about the immorality of dominant and dominating finances, about one class’ misery which, being less knowledgeable, was duped by financial cheap shortcuts, about the dramatic indifference to similar situations happening in a quick succession, about an economy’s fate which, tired of leeching from the poor, is now leeching from the middle class as well, about a shameful society that doesn’t secure the most basic rights of her citizens and doesn’t protect the weak, doesn’t regulate markets nor the anonymous investor’s greed, and doesn’t punish neither the big offenders nor those responsible for the current state of events, aptly named a “crisis”.
A society that widens the gap between the wealthy and the poor and that excels in creating more impoverishment every day that goes by.
According to Pope Francis, a society like this cannot guarantee Human Rights, and thus cannot wash its hands like Pilates, and cannot sleep with a Clear Conscience. 

Professor Teresa Paiva
Lisbon, March 29th 2013


Friday, 22 March 2013

Multitasking? How silly!

We’re in the age of multitasking. To do a lot of different things at the same time, the more the better.
The housewives have been doing it for a while, with one child on the lap while scolding the other, and cooking lunch as well as thinking of a groceries list as they go along. This fashion took, and many practice it.
Housekeepers dusting off with one hand, while answering the mobile phone, do it. The intellectuals with their PC, TV, MP3 and cellphones, while attempting to erase any free space for any reverie, do it. Children switching from toy to toy, not to get bored, do it. Teenagers with their iPad, SMS, Playstations while they study for the following day’s test, do it. Those who believe in the benefits of physical exercise, walk kilometers on the treadmill or on the elliptical machine while watching TV, speaking on the cellphone, read reports or study subjects, do it. The executives with multiple cellphones: the company’s, the home phone, the one for the special clients, plus their iPads, and the notes passed along to their secretaries, do it. The politicians, also with multiple cellphones, their PC and innumerous aides, asking strategic questions, giving news concerning “pressing” affairs, or suggesting schedules for tomorrow’s meetings, do it. Journalists, salesmen, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, pharmaceuticals, policemen…almost everyone does it
So many people buzzing around in this cacophony of tasks, running like tired horses, without knowing or wondering about the purpose of the race. 
I usually say that these systematic oscillations between tasks are like walking in a zigzag, with successive refocusing periods, for every single task, which leads to more effort and inevitable fatigue.  Zigzagging takes longer than going in a straight line. Furthermore, one does not think straight, nor does one actually ponder on each subject. 
Would Da Vinci or Einstein have amounted to anything if they spent the entire day plugged to their mobile phones?
Meditation techniques, ever so popular nowadays, are meant to quiet our minds and focus our thoughts, which means an opposite perspective to multitasking. The issue at hand is that after a systematic bombardment of the brain and senses, people want to have a good night’s sleep because they are tired. 
Don’t fool yourselves; the brain is like a muscle: when the fatigue is too great, it cannot rest and…farewell Sleep! 

Sleep comes with tranquility, silence and comfort. 

Prof. Teresa Paiva
Lisbon, March 22nd 2013


Friday, 15 March 2013

In Search of Lost Sleep

This blog is launched this very day in order to celebrate two events: The World Sleep Day and the 30th anniversary of CENC – Sleep Medicine Center. 
This year’s theme behind the World Sleep Day is “Good Sleep, Healthy Aging”. A fitting theme for a country where the old adults are progressively more common than the young.
With aging, the older adult’s sleep tends to worsen, which doesn’t translate to having a bad sleep when you’re old. A healthy elder sleeps well! 
What happens as one gets older? There are more medical conditions, more sleep related disturbances and sometimes more reasons for sadness, more disability, less interests and more seclusion. Put together, these separate factors will eventually lead to a bad sleep. But it does not have to be this way. A healthy elder sleeps well!
What to do? Diagnose and heal any existing condition, take care with medication, reducing if excessive (beware any sedative and hypnotic drugs taken regularly), maintain active interests and occupations, as well as sensible and regular habits, eat well and fresh, go outside and catch some sunlight, keep your brain occupied, work out a little and keep some company. 

CENC – Sleep Medicine Center’s 30th anniversary. Founded in 1983, CENC, where at first only electroencephalography was performed, has since then diversified, becoming one of the references in Sleep Medicine in Portugal. Prizing its clinical and scientific quality, and keeping the patient’s interests at heart, CENC has improved over the years and at its 30th anniversary renovates itself once more. How? By improving its installations and equipment, and creating new services. In 2013, the new Sleep Consultation for Children and Teenagers began its practice, as well as the Exercise and Pain Consultations. CENC will also renovate its website in April (, will publish new books as well as launching this blog. 
“In search of lost sleep” is a bilingual blog (Portuguese and English), with a weekly publication, and which will have the participation of colleagues, co-workers, friends, healthcare specialists, citizens and patients. Its purpose is to help in the search for the lost pleasure of a good night’s sleep, and in search for the individual and social balance that can be found due to the enormous benefits of healthy sleep habits, alongside a sound mind and body. You may find this blog in

Prof. Teresa Paiva
Lisbon, March 15th 2013.