@ Ease

I am not a military person. My understanding of military protocols is extremely limited. However, I was pondering the phrase “At Ease” and thinking how we could all use this military command in everyday life.

My awesome brother-in-law, Kevin, is a chaplain in the Air Force. He clued me in to the various commands and what they mean (haven’t we all seen these in movies?): Attention! Parade Rest, At Ease, and Rest.

A-Ten-Shun!! We can all imagine a soldier snapping to full attention with chest out, shoulders back, head up, eyes forward, feet together at 45 degree angle. Not a posture you’d want to stand in for very long, but very impressive.

Parade Rest: A transitional posture, where feet are shoulder width, hands clasped behind the back.

At Ease: Another degree of relaxation from parade rest. Now the upper body can relax.

Rest: Freedom of movement.

Although these might be formal commands used in parade formation, inspections and other military exercises, we operate in life like this. Different levels of muscle tension accompany different activities. Moments of challenge and stress will naturally cause us to contract muscles a little harder, for longer, unless we are tuned into our bodies and regulate how much tension we actually need. Tasks requiring a lot of concentration also usually translate to more muscle tension. The other day I found myself squeezing a glass bottle to get a drop of essential oil to come out. How ridiculous is it to squeeze a glass bottle? When I became aware, I realized every muscle from the fingertips to the hand up the arm and into the shoulder were recruited in the effort. All that was needed was patience in that particular case.

Our level of muscle tension is held in our brains. The central nervous system is in charge of muscle contractions. So, we can master our muscle tension with consciousness and awareness. We can decide to lower our muscle tension when we think it’s too high. Have you ever been driving and noticed your shoulders are up by your ears? You were concentrating so hard on traffic and all the other lovely drivers around you that you accidentally tensed up. Arriving at your destination, you might possibly feel stiff and exhausted, partly because of that excess muscle tension.

In massage I can feel a huge difference when someone can consciously relax a part of their body that is otherwise holding a lot of tension, for whatever reason. And when the tension is consciously let go, a lot more work can be accomplished. Sometimes it’s comical, like people who “talk” with their hands. If they are in the middle of telling me a story while I’m massaging their arms, I can feel their arm muscles are anything but “at ease.” The arms are engaged and “helping” tell the story by being tensed, flexed and stiff.

Experiment with muscle tension and bringing your awareness to what level of muscle tension you are carrying at different times during the day. You might be surprised when you find yourself at “attention” when you could be at “rest.”

Lastly, please click over to my Specials & Promotions page where you’ll find my Keep the Chocolates, I’ll Take a Massage Valentines Special. I am now able to sell gift certificates through a site called TheGiftCardCafe.com. You can now shop for a gift certificate at midnight in your pajamas.


sTre$s Part 4 or Relaxation Part 2: the importance of sleep!

I recently heard Denise Byer speak about sleep at a health and wellness seminar in La Cañada. She is a sleep consultant representing a company called Private Quarters. Denise’s facts about sleep re-iterated what I knew deep down – sleep plays a huge role in our health and wellness. I asked Denise if she could share with us some of the amazing information she has learned about sleep and inspire us to get more!

1.  What have experts determined about what happens when we sleep? What are some of the downsides to not getting enough sleep?

So many things go on in our bodies while we sleep, they can’t all be listed here.  But there are a few things that I believe most people would be very interested in.

Very simply put, actual cellular repair occurs while we sleep.  So for our health – sleep is vital.

Our appetite controllers (called peptides) are affected by our sleep.  Ghrelins stimulate hunger and Leptin signals satiety (or fullness) to the brain.  When we don’t sleep well, our ghrelin levels are increased.  And not only are we more hungry, we tend to crave comfort foods, which are usually more fattening.  After a good night’s sleep (which is no less than 8 hours –discussed in more detail below), leptin is increased.  So you actually can sleep away those extra pounds!

And beauty sleep isn’t all myth either.  Growth hormones peak during sleep which contribute to cell and tissue repair.  Collagen 1 production is accelerated during sleep, which helps keep moisture in our skin.  We want that moisture, because when skin is dehydrated it looks less youthful and supple.

During sleep, neurons are regenerated.  Lack of sleep affects the functioning of several areas of the brain.  I find it fascinating that during verbal learning tests on subjects who are fully rested, MRI scans show that the temporal lobe area of the cerebral cortex, which controls language is very active. However, in sleep-deprived subjects there is no activity within this region. The effects of this inactivity can be observed by the slurred speech in subjects who have gone for prolonged periods with no sleep

REM sleep stimulates areas of the brain used for learning and memory. When a person is taught a new skill his or her performance does not improve until he or she receives at least eight hours of sleep. An extended period of sleep ensures that the brain will be able to complete the full sleep cycle, including REM sleep. The necessity of sleep for learning could be due to the fact that sleep increases the production of proteins while reducing the rate at which they are broken down. Proteins are used to regenerate the neurons within the brain. Without them new synapses may not be able to be formed, thus limiting the amount of information a sleep-deprived individual can maintain.

2. What are the stages of sleep, how do they differ, and how long do we tend to stay in each stage throughout the night?

The periods of non-REM sleep are comprised of Stages 1–4 and last from 90 to 120 minutes, each stage lasting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. In more detail:

The first stage is actually a transitional stage.  During this stage, one is very easily awoken.

The second stage is the first real stage of sleep.  However, the person in this stage is still not what you might call “soundly” sleeping and can still be awoken relatively easily.

When a person enters stages 3 and 4, there is no muscle activity.  These stages are considered deep sleep.  It is during these stages children experience bedwetting and night terrors can occur.

The final stage is called REM sleep, which is an acronym for Rapid Eye Movement.  This is the deepest stage of sleep

We’ve heard the phrase “sleep like a baby.”  There is some legitimacy in this.  Infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the other 30% is divided between the other three stages.

3.  How many hours is considered a good night’s sleep?

Sleep loss impairs our judgment, especially about sleep.  In our fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep becomes sort of a badge of honor.  Sleep specialists say that if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, or adapting to, you’re wrong.  And if you work in a profession where it’s important to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.  In fact, losing just 1 ½ hours of sleep a night results in a 32% decrease in daytime awareness.

Studies show that those who believe they’ve adapted to getting six hours of sleep instead of seven or eight actually do poorly on tests of mental alertness and performance.  There is a point in sleep deprivation where we lose touch with how impaired we are.

4. If people want to sleep better, what are some things you recommend?

Bedtime habits and environment are equally important in getting a good night’s sleep.


*        Fix a bedtime and awakening time. Your body gets used to falling asleep at a certain time if it is relatively fixed.

*        Avoid napping during the day unless you can limit it to 30-45 minutes.

*        Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime.  While it has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.  Similarly, avoid caffeine 4-6 hours.

*        Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon can help deepen sleep.  However, strenuous exercise within 2 hours before bed can decrease your ability to fall asleep.

*        Avoid television right before bed.  It is a stimulant which will increase adrenaline levels, making sleep difficult and disruptable.


*        Use comfortable bedding. Uncomfortable bedding can prevent good sleep. Evaluate whether or not this is a source of your problem and make appropriate changes.

*        Have your room at a comfortable temperature. The optimal temperature for sleeping is actually between 63-65 degrees.

*        Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.  Consider ear plugs, a fan or white noise machine and an eye mask.

*        Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.

*        Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.

*        Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.

*        Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.
Bonus Question: Do you have any events coming up that you’d like to tell people about? If someone is already a fan of Private Quarters products and wants to know more about your products, what’s the best way to contact you?

If you are interested in beginning to build a comfortable bed, I host an open house trunk show at my home the first Sunday of every month from 11 am -2 pm.  The next one will be on February 3.  Call for more information: (818) 951-4244.  You can look at my website, www.denisebyer.privatequarters.net for information, or email me with questions denisebyer (at) msn (dot) com.  Additionally, I do one-on-one consultations.