<Sleeping graphic from HowStuffWorks.com>
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this tip before. Probably because I haven’t mastered this and should really follow my own advice about it. Plus my dad likes to harp on me about my problem with this a lot…which just irritates me. On with tip 10.
10) Sleep. You need it every day. You need it regular. Not too much, not too little.
Okay, I admit that I still haven’t mastered getting the right amount of sleep at the right time. Sometimes it seems like I will never get this basic thing figured out. And, it is so basic I get mad at myself for not doing it correctly. The truth is that sleep is not an option. As humans, we need sleep, just like we need things to eat and drink. You can actually die from a lack of sleep! Did you know that? It is true!
The longest I’ve ever gone without sleep was one time when I was psychotic I woke up on a Friday afternoon and didn’t sleep until Monday night! I was not high on anything, I was just psychotic. I think that most, if not all, people with mental illness struggle with some form of sleep dysfunction. Anxiety can keep people awake late into the night and so can depression or mania or psychosis. Sometimes it is the other way around and you are so depressed all you do is sleep or take naps throughout the day. Sometimes people taking sedating medications will be very sleepy throughout the day or sleep longer at night.
You’d think it would be easy just to go to sleep and wake up 8 hours later, but it really isn’t, unless it is easy for you! What I’m saying is: some people do it automatically and they have no sleep problems, the rest of us struggle with having some kind of normal sleep pattern.
There are many many kinds of sleep disorders that are not classified as mental disorders. Things like delayed sleep phase disorder, insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, sleep walking, sleep apnea, etc. Often sleep disorders co-occur with mental illness though. Maybe it is because there is something messed up in our brains and it throws other systems out of wack. I don’t know.
I do know that I have terrible sleep issues. If it weren’t for my sleep issues, I’d probably be able to hold down a full time job. Right now I am not on any regular sleep schedule. I have previously been diagnosed with sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase disorder, but those don’t account for my not sleeping for 36 hours and then sleeping for 24 hours at a time! Really, I stay awake for longer periods than everybody I know, but I also sleep more than anybody I know. I usually sleep for 14 hours at a time!
Well, what inspired me to write this post was the great sleep I got just before I woke up. I had been awake from Sunday night until Tuesday morning and I didn’t really realize how exhausted I was. I also got my antipsychotic injection on Monday night and I doubled up on the oral antipsychotic medication I took before sleeping, because it had been some time since I had taken my meds. WOW! I have to say it was the best sleep I have had in quite some time! I slept long and hard and it felt good to wake up. I wasn’t sleepy at all when I woke up. I just felt refreshed!
Well, this bit of good sleep reminded me of how important good sleep is to good mental health. You need to sleep every day if you want to maintain good mental health. Your body needs it, even if you don’t think it does. And, sleepless nights can really lead some people into having more manic and/or psychotic symptoms. Well, sometimes it seems like the mania and/or psychosis causes the sleeplessness. I don’t know which one is the chicken and which is the egg. I think it is more like a negative feedback loop. One occuring makes the other one worse and it spirals down and down.
If you aren’t getting the sleep you need, there are things you can do to improve your ability to get sleep. Here are some tips that I know about, most of which I never use, but I know do help.:
1) go to sleep at the same time every night
2) wake up at the same time every morning
3) avoid taking naps during the day
4) avoid caffeine after 3pm
5) go to sleep in a dark room
6) go to sleep in a quiet room
7) do not have a heavy meal before going to sleep
8) try some warm milk to help you get to sleep
9) do not do anything else in your bed besides sleep (except for sex), so no TV watching, no reading, no office work, etc.
10) do not lay in your bed staring at the ceiling awake for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. get up and do something to relax yourself then try to sleep again.
11) do not sleep in a room that is too hot or too cold if you can
12) try listening to relaxing music or nature sounds or nature cds
13) if you can’t sleep, don’t focus on not sleeping, focus on something else to take your mind off the sleep issue
16) avoid excess sugar
17) get tested for a sleep disorder if you have ongoing sleep problems
18) prescription sleep aids can help, but they are often highly addictive, so be careful
19) try using melatonin or benadryl for non-prescription sleep aid help
20) talk to your doctor if you are having sleep issues, it could be a sign of other problems
So, yah, I really need to follow my own advice on this one, but I have a really hard time. I don’t get sleepy at night and I can’t wake up in the morning. I’ve had sleep issues really all of my life. I’m surprised I made it through high school really. And, yes, I did sort of take naps in class…well, I was half awake! I just remember being constantly tired in high school. The mornings were the worst. And when I worked a 8am-5pm job it was a disaster. They were going to fire me for being late all that time and calling in sick too much, but I quit instead. When I did make it to work, I could barely stay awake and I would usually spend my lunch hour asleep in the women’s bathroom where they had a couch.
So, I hope you have better luck than I do with your sleep patterns. Hopefully your sleep issues are short term too or can be fixed with medication. Just remember, try to sleep every night if you can. It is important for good functioning and good mental health.