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Insomnia - The Effect of Sleep on Your Mental Health

Sometimes when we talk about sleep most people like to talk about the lack of sleep that they get. Sleep is rather a rare commodity these days for a lot of people. What exactly makes kind of sleeplessness qualify as insomnia? Insomnia is actually more of a general definition of an inability to sleep. You just can't sleep at all. I think that's what we generally think about when people say they have insomnia. They're staying up all night and they just stare at the ceiling. But it can also be defined as inadequate or poor sleep quality that goes on for more than four days at a time. When you define insomnia that way then a lot of people probably fall into the category of experiencing insomnia. Myself included at times; many of my clients, friends and colleagues have difficulty falling asleep. They have difficulty staying asleep. They may wake up frequently in the night and then have trouble getting back to sleep. Sometimes people just wake up way too early and many people wake up feeling still tired even if they've gotten eight hours or more of sleep. So what causes insomnia? Well a lot of the research shows that it's very closely related to anxiety, stress, and depression. It can also be related to a bunch of other mental health or physical issues but anxiety, stress and depression are the most common reasons. So we have to ask ourselves “what makes sleep so important and how does the anxiety, stress and depression impact our sleep?”

What Are The Stages of Sleep?

First let’s explain why sleep is so very important. Sleep is a foundational need that every person requires to be a functioning human being. We have to eat. We have to drink. We have to sleep. If we don't eat and we don't sleep or have water we’ll die. It's a foundational need. Sleep is the time when our body is repairing itself. Our body is making physical repairs when we are in a the stage of deep sleep

Another sleep stage is REM sleep. During REM sleep we are processing all of our emotional experiences either from that day, the previous day or sometimes it's from long time ago. Things that have not been properly processed can come up in our dreams during REM sleep. To feel emotionally and mentally healthy we've got to get into REM sleep. REM sleep is the third stage of sleep. People will go into a light sleep, dip into deep sleep and then come up into REM and then you repeat the sleep cycle of Light, Deep and REM. If you're not getting enough hours there's a possibility that you're only getting one cycle.

Why Is Sleep Important?

If you are sleeping for a long period of time and don't feel rested it's possible that you're stuck in too much light sleep. That's the transition between REM and deep sleep. There are a lot of different reasons why sleep is important. Number one is to get to that REM stage of sleeping for your emotional well-being. When our minds and our bodies are working together to process our emotions during sleep you'll notice that you have dreams and sometimes you can make sense of them. But sometimes you can't. When we dream it's often in metaphors. It's taking bits and pieces of our experience and it's trying to make sense of it and package it away. Once it's packaged away properly it goes into storage and we have a memory or we have an experience. Sometimes when things don't get processed or packaged properly they get stuck and so that's when we have recurring dreams. When we have these recurring negative dreams it's usually because we're trying to process something and it's not quite getting packaged properly. This is common if you had trauma like PTSD, any kind of emotional, physical, or sexual trauma. These are the types of events that can get stuck. They can also create a situation where we want to avoid sleeping because we're having these dreams and trying to process things that feel really uncomfortable. But it's a really important and natural part of having a healthy body and healthy mind. Studies suggest that there is a high correlation between people that have any kind of mental illness and also having insomnia. Part of your treatment plan is going to be getting enough sleep. Whenever we're not feeling well getting sleep is a high priority. To help yourself feel better emotionally you have to rest your body allow it to repair itself physically and allow your mind to process during REM sleep. What are some tips or “Life Hacks” to help you get better more restful sleep? First there is actually a special type of cognitive behavioral therapy just for insomnia and we happen to have a therapist on staff that has been trained in this. Her name is Summer Myers So if you're interested in finding out more about CB T for insomnia please go to our website and contact Summer. She'd be happy to talk to you about it

Set Up A Sleep Routine For Better Sleep

Second try to create a nice and consistent sleep routine. When we create a sleep routine we are trying to go to bed at the same time and trying to wake up at the same time every day. This can be a challenge, especially if you're really busy or you're working in a job that has you working night and weekends Even if this is the case try to the best of your ability to create a sleep pattern where you go bed right at the same time and you try to wake up at the same time. Another easy thing would be to reduce the amount of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol that you intake. Sometimes people feel like well when I have a cigarette or I smoked some weed or I have a drink before bed, it helps me sleep. Well it might put you into light sleep but it's not really allowing your brain to settle down into deep and REM sleep. It's a good idea to try to cut back on some of those things. I actually have a client that swore up and down that the only way he could sleep was if he smoked pot before bed and he would need to do that every day. Then one day he decided he was just going to be clean and sober and stop smoking pot. Now he says he gets the best quality sleep of his life. He had no idea that what he thought was helping was actually creating more of a problem for him. Really consider reducing any kind of stimulants, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

Get Better Sleep by Reducing Screen Time

Also you want to consider maybe a reduction in screen time. When you're in your bed, the bed is for sleeping. It's not for watching television, checking Netflix or your phone looking at social media. You want to associate lying down in your bed with sleeping. Another thing you can try at home is to create a nice and comfortable sleep environment. Maybe that means the room needs to be a certain temperature. Maybe that means having an extra blanket or less blankets or a fan. Maybe that means having a white noise machine. Maybe that means having a humidifier. Really think about what you need to feel comfortable when you're sleeping. I know somebody that has a very unique sleep routine. She will take a shower, wrap her hair in a towel, put on pajamas and a hoodie and socks and then lay down in the bed with her blankets. It works for her. Take the time to figure out what works for you and when you find something that works please continue to do it. Last thing that you can try to do to help your sleep is to limit the amount of naps that you take during the day. I love taking naps. However, I do notice a difference when I take a nap during the day that in the evening it's a little bit harder to get to sleep. So try to avoid naps in the day. Try to eliminate screen time or electronics. Create a sleep routine or pattern where you find something comfortable. You figure out what feels good and try to stick with it. Reduce your caffeine reduce stimulants, reduce nicotine reduce alcohol. And if all else fails consider CBT for insomnia.

(Transcribed from a 6/6/19 Facebook Live)

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