Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have the misery of having partied all night… without the satisfaction.

Lynn Johnston Canadian cartoonist

How the Lack of a Good Night’s Sleep can Affect your Life.

Posted by martin.parnell |

I don’t need to tell you that there’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep. It means you’ll wake in the morning feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready to face the day.

Having said that, we also know how rotten we can be left feeling when we don’t get an undisturbed night. When we toss and turn and think we haven’t slept at all and the only thing that tells us otherwise is the fact that we wake up, in the morning! 

Many studies have shown the detrimental effects of lack of sleep. Why else would it be used as a form of torture? I did some reading and it became clear that there are obvious downsides to being overtired, we forget things, we get cranky and we feel less sociable. You have to admit that you don’t function well after a night of poor sleep and work can suffer as a result. That’s because sleep fuels our cognitive processes, attention span, mental alertness, focus, concentration, thinking, communication, learning, and reasoning abilities. 

Some effects that we may not think about are the health issues a lack of sleep can trigger. These include:

Depression - A 2005 sleep study actually found that individuals diagnosed with clinical depression sleep an average of 6 hours a night or less, while those diagnosed with insomnia were approximately 5 times more prone to depression and anxiety disorders.

A decrease in libido - Studies have traced lack of sleep directly to lowered libido in both men and women, due to lack of energy, frustration, and stress. For men with sleep-depriving conditions, testosterone levels may actually decrease.

Weight Gain -Sleep deprivation can lead to poor, sugar-rich, high fat, processed food choices. And when you’re robbed of sleep for a few days in a row, you’re more likely to succumb to hunger and convenience foods while having little energy for exercise, which inevitably leads to weight gain.

If you are a true insomniac, you may be at risk of developing conditions including cardiovascular issues, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Not to mention the dangers it can cause. Nobody should be driving, operating machinery or even doing that spot of DIY, if they are overtired. Mistakes can be made and they can be costly.

Would you want an exhausted person driving your child’s school bus or rewiring your house if they were asleep on their feet? Of course not. So, if lack of sleep is so bad for us adults, what effect can it have on our children?

A recent CBC report highlighted a study published in the current issue of the journal Sleep Medicine, which examined data from two surveys of U.S. adolescents conducted over many years, from 2009 to 2015, "When the mobile technology really saturated the market among adolescents," said Zlatan Krizan, a psychologist specializing in sleep and social behaviour at Iowa State University and co-author of the study. 

They included questions about how many hours of sleep they reported getting. Almost 370,000 adolescents participated. It appears that teens are getting less sleep than they did before smartphones became commonplace, prompting concerns about potentially serious health consequences.

Over the course of that six-year period, they found "a seismic shift in the amount of sleep that a typical teen gets," said Krizan. He and his colleagues found that teens were 16 to 17 per cent more likely to report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night in 2015 than they were in 2009.  The recommended amount of sleep for 13 to 18-year-olds is 8 to 10 hours per night, according to the U.S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers looked at other factors besides electronic devices that might affect the amount of sleep teens were getting, including working after school, homework and watching TV, but the number of hours spent on those activities remained "relatively stable or reduced" between 2009 and 2015. 

"The only factor that also increased during the time that could be responsible for the shortened sleep is social media, news online and the kind of activities that mobile phones are used for," Krizan said. “Teens who used the technology for two hours or less a day didn't appear to suffer any adverse effects on their sleep. But once you get five hours of use a day or more, you really see a heavily curtailed sleep.”   

Getting enough sleep in adolescence is "crucial," the study noted. In addition to immediate effects, such as performance in school, sleep habits established in the teen years can contribute to sleep patterns and health for adulthood. As in adults, lack of sleep in teens, has been linked to health problems ranging from obesity and diabetes to depression and substance use. 

When it comes to younger children, "If children are not sleeping well the consequences may be problems with behaviour, attention, learning, and memory," says Dr. Shelly Weiss, author of Better Sleep for Your Baby & Child: A Parent's Step-by-Step Guide to Healthy Sleep Habits and Pediatric Program Director at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. 

So, it would appear that lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on all of us. I know it’s easy for me to point out the issues relating to lack of sleep, but not so easy to come up with a solution to deal with it.

I have read several suggestions:  herbal remedies, sipping warm milk and honey before bedtime, creating a “sleep-friendly” environment, adopting a bedtime ritual, taking a hot bath, melatonin etc. The list goes on. 

At the end of the day, if lack of sleep becomes an issue with you, talk to your family doctor.  After all, it’s far more sensible than putting your health, safety, sanity or work in jeopardy.

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I believe the world is one big family and we need to help each other.

Jet Li
What a Difference a Year makes, when it's Full of Adventure

What a Difference a Year makes, when it's Full of Adventure

Posted by martin.parnell |

Just out of interest, I decided to look back, through my previous blogs, and see what I’d written about, this time last year. As it turns out, it was probably the one and only time I hadn’t actually posted one, as I was on my way back from Afghanistan. I had gone to the city of Bamyan, to run in the 2nd Marathon of Afghanistan, in support of a group of women and girls who wanted the freedom to run and be able to take part. 

While I was there I met a young university student, named Kubra, who had had her training curtailed due to a bombing at her school, several months earlier. The race was a grueling affair and she had some issues, but I ran with her and we managed to finish with-in the cut-off time. Kubra is now working for Free to Run, as Programme Coordinator. It’s an organisation that supports women and girls, in worn-torn countries, to pursue running and other sporting activities. 

Two weeks ago the 3rd Marathon of Afghanistan was held. This time there were 12 girls and women, supported by Free to Run, in the marathon and they all finished. Kubra was one of them.

On December 31st every year, I host a fund-raising event, my Annual Run/Walk. I invite people to come and run with me, anything from 2km to a full marathon.  On returning from Afghanistan, I contacted Stephanie Case, founder of Free to Run, and asked if the 2016 event could support the girls and women in any way. Stephanie suggested funding a camping and kayaking trip. So, on a cold wintry day in Cochrane, 120 runners and walkers headed out along theBowRiver. We raised $7,000. 

With me on theAfghanistan trip, was film director, Kate McKenzie and in March of this year, a trailer for “The Secret Marathon” documentary was released. We continue to seek funding for the film through donations, grants and corporate investment. We are planning to release the film in the spring of next year. 

Following my trip, I was introduced to the organization, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, who promote the rights of girls and women to pursue an education and, in May, Sue and I attended their Gala evening and met some wonderful people who are really making a difference. 

In June I was a presenter at TEDx YYC. My topic was “Life is a Relay“and I talked about how I think life is like a relay race and we all, in the end, need to “pass the baton”.  On stage, at the end of my talk, I passed the baton to Gitti Sherzad, a young Afghan women who was planning a fund raiser for families traumatized by the May terrorist bombings in Kabul. Gitti’s fund raiser was held in September. “Pillars for Afghanistan” was an evening of Afghan music, dance, art and food and over $8,000 was raised for the families. 

All through 2017 I have been working on the manuscript for the final book in my “Marathon Trilogy”. The first two were “Marathon” and “Running to the Edge”, and so far, “The Secret Marathon” is on track for a September, 2018 publication date. 

But time marches on and I’m only six weeks away from the 8th Annual Run / Walk. This time I’m fund-raising to build an ice skating rink for the Afghan girls in Bamyan. 

It’s always interesting looking back, to see the path that you’ve traveled and now it’s time for me to look forward, to the year ahead. 

I wonder what I will be writing about, this time next year.

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Sometimes, little things make a big difference.

Nino Varsimashvili Actor

Why it's Important to Celebrate the Things we Take for Granted

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last Tuesday, Google commemorated the 131st. Anniversary of the hole punch, a handy little device invented by Friedrich Soennecken who filed the patent, in Germany, on November 14, 1886, for his Papierlocher für Sammelmappen. I must admit, it would never have occurred to me that something like a hole punch would have a birthday and it got me thinking about some of the other little tools and devices that are commonly used and yet we probably take for granted.

How about the stapler?  An American inventor, Samuel Slocum, was raised in Usquepaugh, Rhode Island, where a Mr. William Lockwood, sometime after 1772, first invented the common pin with a head, to keep it from slipping through cloth. Samuel moved to London and become a pin maker. While in England, he invented a machine for the production of pins. These pins later became flat head pins (similar to staples). He later moved back to America and invented a "Machine for Sticking Pins into Paper", which is often believed to be the first stapler. In fact, this patent from September 30, 1841, is for a device used for packaging pins.

Then there’s the toothbrush. In ancient times, twigs and bones were used for the cleaning of teeth. The first tooth brushes were invented in China in 1498, where coarse boar hairs were attached to handles made of bamboo or bone. Boar bristles were used until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced by the company Dupont de Nemours.

There are the bigger items, too. How much time would we spend doing our laundry, if it weren’t for the invention of the washing machine? How many of us remember the days when you had to stoke up the fire to heat the hot water or light a fire in order to boil a kettle or cook a meal? But, let’s not forget, not everyone is so lucky and may not have access to the things that that make our lives a little easier, tasks a little simpler or save us time.

According to the website it is estimated that only 2.4 billion people, or 34.3 percent of the world's population, are Internet users, meaning they have access to the Internet either through a computer or mobile phone. And what about the resources we use? Todd Lindeman’s 2015 article, in the Washington Post, stated that, at that time, 1.3 Billion people, across the globe were without access to electricity.

 The World Health Organisation and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme in 2017, reported that 844 million people in the world do not have clean water and, as we know, some of them are right here in Canada. So, although it may be amusing to contemplate the things we have in our homes and offices  that we wouldn’t think of doing without, let’s be thankful not just for all the things that make our lives simpler, but the things that make our lives so much better compared to many people  in the world.

As we approach the holiday season, why not think about giving a donation to a charity that can improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves?

I’m now going to go into my fitted kitchen pour some clean water from the tap into the kettle, turn on the electricity and, after a few minutes, pour hot water into the teapot and make my tea. When I’m done, I’ll put  my cup into the dishwasher, before jumping into my car, heading off to the gas station, where I’ll fill up my vehicle with a tank full of gas.

And while I’m doing all this, I’ll reflect on this blog and reminded myself of the privileged life I lead.

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Help others to achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.

Les Brown
Building an Ice Skating Rink for Girls in Afghanistan

Building an Ice Skating Rink for Girls in Afghanistan

Posted by martin.parnell |

On December 31st 2017 I will be holding my 8th Annual Run / Walk at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. It all started in 2010 when, on December 31st, I ran my final marathon of Marathon Quest 250, completing 250 marathons in one year. It’s hard to believe that every year since then the community of Cochrane and beyond has come out, often in temperatures of -20C and lower, to help others. The first five years it was to support Right To Play and their play based educational programs in Benin, West Africa. 

In 2015 the funds went to Boma La Mama to build a playground for a Kindergarten class in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. That year we raised $12,000 and these funds provided a swing set, a round-a-bout, teeter totters, a see-saw and a bouncy castle.

Last year we raised $7,000 for Free to Run, an organisation that uses sports to empower and educate women and girls from conflict affected communities. The funds were used for an unprecedented camping and kayaking expedition in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. A group of eleven female participants from multiple provinces in Afghanistan participated. Not only was it their first experience in the Panjshir Valley, but it was the first time they had ever camped outdoors or kayaked. It was also the first time an Afghan female had ever kayaked in the country. 

This year we are again supporting Free to Run. This time we want to raise $10,000 to build an ice skating rink for Afghan females in the town of Bamyan, in the foot hills of the Hindu Kush Mountains. A small rink was built this January for the girls and young women and for the first time ever they got a taste of gliding on ice. Said one young lady from the program, “for me, ice skating was amazing because when I started skating, I was wondering, 'How is it possible to stand on a small blade and keep our balance?' It's another reason we can have confidence; if I can stand on ice with a blade, then anything is possible.” Last year, funding was provided by the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan however this is not available this year.

On Sunday, December 31st registration is by donation and goes from 8.00am to 2.30pm. You pick the distance: Marathon, Half marathon, 10 km, 5 km or 2 km “Cookie Loop”. Volunteers from the Calgary branch of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan will be on the sign in desk and will be providing Afghan music, dance and tea. They will also be selling goods made by women in Afghanistan. 

This is a family friendly event so why not combine it with a swim or session on the bouncy castles. 

So Cochrane, let’s keep these Afghan girls and young women on skates. 

If you can’t make it then please consider making a donation at Just scroll down and hit the big red “DONATE” button on the left hand side. Thank you.

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