Sleep and I have a long, sordid history.
If you have depression, you know how important (and messed up) sleep can be.
I think it’s ironic that one of the signs of depression is either a lack of sleep or sleeping too much, but there it is.
I know that when I don’t get enough sleep, I get really cranky and irritable, I’m more likely to fly off the handle, and I’m more vulnerable to overwhelm. Plus, I generally have to take a nap, and I don’t want to sleep the day away.
THE ELUSIVE GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
I’ve had sleep problems most of my life. When I was very young, I used to stay awake for about two hours every night, staring at the door, waiting for someone to come in and kidnap me. I was a nervous wreck. This lasted quite a while.
In high school and college, I had a lot of lucid dreams that were always very scary. It seems there was always something after me, trying to kill me. I would try to force myself to wake up, but it was so hard. I would often have more than one a night. I still have them once in a while.
And when I was drinking, I always woke up obscenely early. I guess that’s a thing, though I don’t know why. I would pass out in my bed and then wake up four or five hours later, still half-drunk, room spinning.
As an adult, my sleep patterns have run the gamut – everything from ten hours of sleep a night to two weeks of insomnia when I lived in California. The last several months, I’ve been averaging six hours a night, which seems to work for me, although I often need to take a nap.
My sleep usually evens out during TMS. The first two weeks of TMS, for instance, I was getting better sleep and longer sleep. Except for last night – I had several lucid dreams in a row that were nothing but scary. CeAnne kept waking me up because I was thrashing around and making funny noises. She stayed up half the night, worried about me.
HOW TO GET BETTER SLEEP
There are ways to get better sleep, even if you’re in the middle of a depression or an especially stressful time. It’s called sleep hygiene.
I have tried all of these and some help more than others, but they’re worth the effort if you have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early (that’s my problem).
Here’s what the experts recommend:
- Don’t hang out in your bedroom. Don’t lie there and watch TV or read or do crossword puzzles or ponder life. The bedroom is meant for sleep (and sex). You can train your brain to realize that, “Oh, I’m in the bedroom. It must be time for bed”, which can make it easier to fall and stay asleep.
- Unplug for an hour or more before bed. I know this one is hard, but I’ve found it useful. For instance, we watch a lot of news in our house, and it can be hard to fall asleep when all you hear before bed is how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Resist the urge to play with your phone or surf the internet on your laptop or PC. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t play first-person shooter games right before bed! Reading (for fun), coloring, or doing something else that takes little brain power are good ways to relax.
- Cut the caffeine! Now, this one doesn’t bother me – I can drink a Diet Pepsi five minutes before bed and fall asleep within minutes – but I know it’s a big one for a lot of people. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, figure out when is a good time to stop consuming it. I know someone who has to stop all caffeine by about 2:00 in the afternoon if she wants to sleep at night.
- Set a regular sleep schedule. I wake up way early most mornings, which is frustrating. I’m working on setting a regular bedtime for myself to make sure I get the most out of my sleep. Otherwise, I may go to bed at 2:00 a.m. and wake up at 5:00. If I’m going to wake up early anyway, I should really go to bed earlier so I get more sleep.
- Ask your significant other to give you a short (or long!) massage before you go to bed.
- Meditation isn’t as hard as you think it is. It can slow your brain down, especially if you’re having racing thoughts, and generally relax you. Meditation is not about “clearing your mind”; it’s about learning to calm yourself so you can deal. Check out the apps called Stop, Breathe, and Think (FREE!) or Calm (which does not appear to be free, although you can get a free trial) for some guided meditations to help you get started.
- Take your meds. That’s right, it’s important to take your meds as directed. Some of them are to be taken at night precisely because they may make you sleepy. If you’re really having trouble, ask your pdoc or general practitioner to prescribe something like Trazodone. My wife also swears by Melatonin, which is natural and can be found in the vitamin aisle of your favorite store.
There are other methods to help you get a good night’s sleep, but these are some of my favorites.
If you have a method that you swear by, please let me know in the comments.
As always, thanks for reading and keep on Keepin’ it Real!
This post was previously published on Depression Warrior and is republished here with permission from the author.
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