Welcome back, readers! Did you have a good week?
Today, we continue exploring self-care in my “Self Care is for Everyone” series. I hope you got a chance to read the beginning of our series last week. You don’t have to have read it to understand what’s going on, but it would be really cool of you if you did.
Make your way to “The Ultimate Flex” here.
This week, we have to talk about something we all do with varying degrees of success. Something we will all be doing for the rest of our lives and is inescapable. Something that influences your mood, performance, mental state, and physical wellbeing.
I’m speaking, of course, about sleeping.
You are not Alone
I have a tenuous relationship with sleep, personally.
I love the idea of sleep. During any given depressive episode, sleeping is my preferred reality avoidance activity. Sleeping after an arduous day can be the best feeling in the world. The problem comes with the falling asleep part. I can’t always turn my brain off at night. I must think about every problem I’ve ever had and formulate mock solutions. If I manage to get to sleep, my brain will find some reason to wake up during the night. Interrupted sleeping is just the norm in my world.
Does anyone else imagine terrible scenarios just to upset themselves and stress out about things that could never happen? Do you fantasize about driving off bridges or random explosions? Terrible accidents where your special person never comes home? Perhaps you imagine something awful befalling your children and you are helpless to stop it. Do these scary thoughts keep you awake for days on end?
No, just me. Oh.
When I manage to get to sleep, I have some volatile dreams too.
I have “normal” dreams at times. Once, I dreamed that I couldn’t get a story right because I being too rigid. It was a picture book that I couldn’t get the pictures right in and the words weren’t working. My creativity wasn’t flowing right because I was blocking myself. My High School English teacher was very disappointed.
Another time, I was looking for my husband. We were on vacation in a place I’ve never been. There were extravagant gardens and architecture. It looked like someplace in Europe, Greece perhaps. I ran around calling his name, my panic growing stronger every moment. I thought I could hear him calling me back as I darted around corners and various trees. I never found him and ended up crying on what appeared to be a very expensive carpet.
Often, when my dreams are clear and memorable, they are usually nightmarish. I have dreams about being chased by murderers regularly. Other people are getting taken out in terribly violent ways around me and I can do nothing about it. I’m not the victim most of the time, but the murders always happen in front of me. The murderer makes a game out of chasing me and killing the ones I care about.
Happens all the time.
There was one dream where I was shot in the head during a convenience store robbery. I’m not sure how I ended up there, but it was clear as daylight in my head. I felt the shot and felt myself falling, but the dream continued. I watched the robbery continue and the criminal escaping as I was bleeding out on the ground. I think I woke up just after that.
I know that my more violent dreams are manifestations of my anxiety. I’m constantly being pursued and blind-sighted in my dreams and I can recognize those feeling from my waking life. I know how it feels to be under a deadline but unable to get things done. I know the fear and uncertainty of what might happen at work the following day. I can see how my brain would remind me to think about my stressors during the night as well.
Why We Need Good Sleep
I learned about the importance of healthy sleep from my therapist. She told me that the brain works all day to process the things happening around you, but it has to take in more information at the same time. While you are sleeping, your brain has a chance to “catch up” and clean out all the junk that accumulated in your psyche during waking hours. That is what dreams essentially are. Your brain is clearing out the gunk that builds up in your head during the day. Stress, anxiety, problematic thoughts, and other stuff you might need to work through get processed while you sleep.
This is part of why sleep is essential. Your brain needs time to clean house. Otherwise, the gunk gets built up and you can’t think properly. There are physical effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Cardiovascular health can suffer, and the immune system can become compromised easier. When you are sleep-deprived, your body might be fatigued, but your brain is the true victim. Sleep-deprived people can’t use their executive functioning as well as a rested person. The working memory is affected as well. Sleep-deprived people can’t remember things easily. Response times are slower, and people can begin to hallucinate if the deprivation gets bad enough.
Insomnia is a common symptom associated with depression and anxiety. Since the brain is really good at sabotaging itself, being anxious about falling asleep keeps folks awake too. You know, worrying about not getting enough sleep doesn’t let you get enough sleep. Imagine that! There is also the fun tendency to wake up in the middle of the night to worry. Nighttime is a great time for your personal demons to come knocking and remind you that you are a garbage person. 2 am seems to be the optimal time for me to take a refresher course in “I’m terrible and no one will ever love me 101.”
Tips for Better Sleep
Having good sleep hygiene is important for busy people. We deserve to rest and your body will let you know when it’s’ had enough of your foolishness. The body and mind will start to shut down and behave abnormally when they aren’t cared for correctly. Here is a couple of ways that you can start improving your sleep hygiene for better mental health.
- Have a night routine—You always hear about having a morning routine and how crucial it is for some folks to have a good day. Why should bedtime be any different?
- Sleep only in the bedroom—Having a designated resting area helps to signal to your brain that sleepy time is approaching. Don’t work in bed.
- Darkness is your friend—Keep your sleeping space free from lights that might startle you out of your sleep. Keep televisions off and devices charging in another room if possible
- Get some exercise—Wearing yourself out is still an effective way to get better sleep. Getting a workout in during the day can help that nighttime rest a little deeper.
You Can Sleep Better!
Improved sleep leads to improved mental health as well. Using these good sleep habits can go a long way toward getting a better night’s sleep. However, if nothing helps after two weeks, it may be time to speak with a doctor. Sleep apnea and chronic insomnia are very common in society. Some doctors specialize in sleep disorders and can help you feel more rested.
Remember, you deserve to rest. You deserve to sleep and to sleep well. Self-care takes many forms and sleeping is high on the list. Take the time to care for your sleep hygiene and build better bedtime habits.
What does your nighttime routine look like? How do you wind down? What helps keeps you awake at night? Or keeps you asleep? Let me know in the comments below.
Pleasant dreams, friends.
36 thoughts on “Lights Out”
I really have problem with sleep especially in high stress periods. It is awful. It is hard to survive next day.
To overcome it I try to exercise when possible so that I get physically tired.
It is a great post. Thank byou for sharing
Thanks for reading!
I love to sleep but can’t and when I do it usually results in nightmares or vivid precog dreams so I totally get you!
It can be a wild ride.
My sleep pattern was awful to say the least. A routine was what I needed and I stand by it. First its my warm bath, then lotion up, the fan has to be on low (for some reason a fan noise soothes me) I gotta rock to and fro no more than 5 min. Then I’m out. LOL it’s my thing and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for the helpful tips in this blog post.
Glad to be of service!
I love it!All about sleep health
Thanks for reading!
Great post! Like you I love idea of sleep, but I have a hard time quieting my mind enough to actually do it. Ever since I was young, I’ve been a bit of an insomniac. Having a night time routine does seem to help though. Thanks for. sharing!
I’ve had lifetime sleep issues as well. I think they can be hereditary, but I can’t prove that. Thanks for reading!
A really informative post! My wind down routine includes reading for a few minutes before turning off the light and sticking to a sleep schedule.
Reading can be a great wind down activity, depending on what you read. I couldn’t read a thriller or a horror novel before bed. My imagination does not need that much help with making scary dreams! Thanks for reading!
Good seep is essential, and I feel like too many people just don’t recognize that. Thank you for sharing! I always function better when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and I’m a total wreck when I don’t. And it never fails, I get terrible sleep if I have an early morning appointment or something exciting happening the next day.
Not resting because I was too excited has gotten me more than a few times as well. Thanks for reading!
Sleep is evading me at the moment due to some serious stress, etc but this was a really useful read with some helpful ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps!
For some reason I’ve not had a good night’s sleep since about August 2020. I don’t know what caused my sleep to suddenly become disturbed, but instead of being able to stay asleep once I fall asleep, I now wake up multiple times a night. The sleep disturbances seem to be taking there toll on me as well, there’s just no way to fix it
My current night routine is very intentional as I too struggled with depression, anxiety and as a result insomnia. My current routine is evening yoga and sound meditation as I fall asleep. I wind down on the couch to watch a movie, I don’t watch shows during the day. Background nature sounds help me fall asleep but when my mind is particularly busy I like to fall asleep to a sitcom.
Nicely written post dear Xx
Thanks for reading!
Writing before bed helps me. Journalling.
That’s very helpful.
Have you tried turning some of your nightmares and worst-case scenarios into fictional stories to release them? My mind works in that way too. Not too many nightmares, but during my waking hours. It’s partly why I thought I’d make a good engineer. Imagining all the worst-case scenarios and planning ways to prevent them. It’s a useful thought process when channeled positively instead of turning it against ourselves. I’ve battled insomnia and sleep problems for most of my life as well. Getting my sleep apnea treated has helped me over the past year to get more restful sleep when I do sleep.
I hadn’t thought about turning my nightmares into stories. Thanks for the idea!
A good journaling braindump helps me too.
It can really be helpful to rest.
Really helpful post here! I know I definitely suffer from some really strange dreams and I think I might start up a nightly routine and exercising more to help remedy this. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading
My sleep schedule has been messed up since the pandemic started. I can relate with dreams, I have some serious vivid dreams and I’ll scare myself awake. I’m trying to stick a nightly routine to help myself out. I’ll try doing some exercise too. Great post!
TheQuietGirl | http://www.quiegirlblog.com
Thanks for reading!
I feel you – there are nights where falling asleep is the more tiring than just staying awake! When I am in that weird mood where I cannot turn my brain off, I try to do meditation and shut off – not easy, but it seems to be working slowly x
Slowly is better than not at all! Thank you for reading.
Great post! Sleep really is so important for our well-being. I get to sleep pretty easily but I struggle staying asleep and tend to wake up a few times every night. My dreams are so vivid. Always have been ever since I was a kid – it’s pretty amazing actually!
Staying asleep is a tough one. Guess my brain gets too full! Thanks for reading!