By: Brandy Higgins, RN,BSN
National Sleep Awareness Week is March 10-16, 2019 this year! I love to sleep. Unfortunately, I have battled all of my life to sleep normally. My mental illnesses make it really hard for me to sleep like an average person. I have insomnia.
When I’m depressed, I will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. When I do finally fall asleep, I will sleep 12+ hours a day. When I am manic, I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and I sleep less than 8 hours a day. When I have a euthymic or “baseline” mood, I still struggle with insomnia but I sleep 8-10 hours a night.
Sleep became my #1 priority when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Trouble sleeping is well-known to cause manic symptoms. At the time, I had a newborn so getting sleep at that time was touch and go. However, I have always noticed that I function better and my moods are more even when I get enough sleep.
Keeping a normal sleep routine is so important for me to stay well. Sleeping less hours over a few days will cause me to have manic symptoms. Contact your mental health provider if you are having trouble with your sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep is considered important self-care. Below are the tips I use to get a good night’s sleep. For more great information on sleep check out the National Sleep Foundation and Sleepeducation.org.
● Keep a regular sleep schedule. Wake up at the same time every day even on weekends and vacations.
● Go to bed at a time that allows you to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night and stick to it.
● Limit naps to 30 minutes a day. Naps do not make up for lost sleep
● Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
● Make your bedroom quiet, dark and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature. I have room darkening curtains and a sleep mask to help with that.
● Use your bed only for sleep.
● Do your best to get enough natural light during the day.
● Turn the lights down a couple hours before bed. Use a blue light filter on your screens like your phone or laptop.
● Turn off electric devices an hour before bed. Spend this time reading a book, take a shower, or pray/meditate.
Exercise and Nutrition
● To improve sleep, stop eating 2 hours before bedtime.
● Exercise regularly at least 3-4 hours before bed.
● Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
Some signs of poor sleep hygiene include waking up throughout the night and being sleepy during the day. Just a few changes in your sleep hygiene can make all the difference. I strive to get 8 hrs a night but I haven’t been successful without medications. In the past, I have used herbs, but some medications make me sleep ten-twelve hours a night. That is one downside of using some sleep medications. There are many herbs, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications for sleep. Remember, no matter what you use, that you discuss it with your mental health provider so you know it is safe to take with your other medications.
Sleep is so important to our mental wellness. I would love to hear if my sleep tips helped you. Follow me on my blog – Live Mentally Well for more great information. Leave questions and comments below.