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The Importance of Sleep

Strategies for depression, anxiety, anger and stress

Getting proper sleep is vital to both your body as well as your mind.

Sleep is one of those things in life that we feel like we have little control over and just have to deal with what we get.  However, getting proper sleep can help improve several symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress or anger.  If you find that you’re only getting about 4 hours of sleep each night and are constantly waking up throughout the night, I guarantee you’ll notice a difference once you start sleeping more soundly and for a longer duration.

Maybe you find that you’re sleeping throughout the day.  Overcome with depression, you don’t have much energy and don’t feel like doing anything.  So, you lay in bed all day nodding off from time to time.  When it comes time to sleep for the night, you find it very difficult to initially fall asleep and perhaps wake up throughout the night.

Depression itself can also cause sleep problems as well as sleep problems can influence depression.  Insomnia, for example, is very common among depressed, anxious or stressed individuals.  They could have problems falling asleep, difficult to stay asleep, waking up exhausted and not refreshed, and being sleepy during the day.  Along with this, having sleep apnea can influence depressive symptoms and research has shown that those with this illness are five times more likely to suffer from breathing issues during sleep.  This is why I recommend going to see your medical doctor first to rule out any possible medical symptoms.  If you’re sleeping pretty poorly, then I would also recommend having a sleep study done.  If you do a Google search for your area, you’re very likely to find a place near you.

There’s also been research which has shown that those who suffer from insomnia are more likely to have very severe and/or longer lasting depression symptoms.  This same research illustrated a direct correlation between mood disorders and sleep issues.  In fact, among those diagnosed with depression, stress or anxiety issues, 73% had problems with their sleep.

Sleep is also the main time when your body heals and restores itself to a normal state.  If you have problems getting to sleep, having your sleep disrupted, or not enough sleep, this can lead to higher levels of stress, vigilance and anger issues.  Getting inadequate sleep will lead to fatigue during the day.  More fatigue equates to less physical activity and then leads to a sharp decline in your level of fitness.  This all builds until you’re in a never-ending cycle of inactivity and sleep issues, which will worsen both your physical well-being as well as your mental health.

If you see your medical doctor and mention problems with your sleep, they are likely to prescribe something to help you sleep.  Some antidepressants can help with sleep as well as treat your anxiety, depression, stress or anger.  There’s also hypnotics, normally called sleeping pills, such as ambien, lunesta, restoril, sonata or rozeram which can lead to better sleep.  Make sure to talk with your doctor as well about possible side effects as well.

Some things you can do yourself can help you to fall asleep naturally:

1.       Listening to relaxing music or reading a book can hasten relaxation and calm your thoughts.

2.       Exercise is a huge factor in the quality of and ability to fall asleep.

3.       No caffeine, alcohol or nicotine after dinner is also a good rule to follow.  This is especially true if you have anxiety or stress issues.

4.       If you find that you can’t get to sleep and are restless, get up out of bed and go do something till you do feel very tired.

5.       Taking a nice bath or hot shower before bed can also help.

6.       Ambient sound, nature or a white noise machine can not only help distract your thoughts (a good thing if you have anxiety) as well as influence your sleep.

7.       Finally, make sure that the room is completely dark and you’re not too hot when in bed.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to list them below.

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5 comments

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  1. Leigh Ann

    I feel like sleep is one of the first things that is sacrificed when people are feeling anxious, stressed etc. Yet, it’s one thing that I forbid myself to overlook. Like you said, sleep is a time for the body to heal and restore; I think this is true both for the physical body and for the mind.

    1. admin

      Completely agree that sleep is one of the first things that suffer when dealing with depression, anxiety, anger or stress. Not only sleep, but several things we take for granted become forgotten: eating properly, being active, having positive relationships, or just practicing basic hygiene. It’s a loss of these basic things that can add up and hasten a persons symptoms.

      Thank you for your comment and your perspective.

  2. Beth

    Hello,

    While reading your article on the importance of sleep I noticed an error in fact #4;
    4. If you find that you can get to sleep and are restless, get up out of bed and go do something till you do feel very tired.

    I believe you may have intended it to read ” If you can’t get to sleep”, hope this is of some help.

    1. admin

      Oops, good eye! Just corrected it.

      Thanks for letting me know!

  3. Georgina

    A tip that works for me is to switch the lighting in my environment an hour before bed to dimmer lighting.

    One key to that is to try and make sure I am off my computer an hour before bed as computer screens (like televisions I suppose) are actually blasting a lot of light directly into your eyes and so will keep you up.

    On a MAC you can actually go into the settings, then into the energy saving section and on the schedule set a time for your computer to shut down every night. It doesn’t shut down automatically, you get a ten minute warning during which you can cancel if you wish but at least it lets you know: Hey it’s ten o’clock! You might want to shut me down now. (My guess is there’s a way to do this on most tvs and pcs too :) )

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