Sleep recharges the brain and allows the body to relax and heal. This is accomplished in several ways:
· During sleep the blood supply to the muscles is increased which helps to repair muscles.
· The body's metabolic activity is at its lowest, and the pituitary gland's secretions of growth hormones are peaked in deep sleep, which allows for tissue growth and repair.
· The body increases our immune response to infections during sleep.
· REM sleep plays a major role in facilitating memory storage and retention, organization and reorganization, as well as new learning and performance. When sleep is disrupted, the brain's ability to transfer short-term memory into long-term memory is impaired. If the body is not recharged and ready for the day, stress levels can increase.
SLEEP DEBT The term “sleep debt” is commonly used to describe any loss of sleep. If your body needs 8 hours of sleep per night and for the last 5 nights you have only slept 4 hours each night, your sleep debt is 20 hours. This debt does not disappear; it is cumulative. In order for your body to fully recover from this loss of sleep, you must get that sleep back over time.
Too little sleep means: · Stress, anxiety and loss of coping skills · Reduced immunity to disease and viral infection · Feelings of lethargy · Mood shifts · Impaired judgment · Reduced productivity. Reduction in cognitive functioning and reaction time including: · Ability to concentrate, remember, handle complex tasks, think logically, assimilate and analyze new information, and think critically · Decision-making skills · Vocabulary and communication skills · Creativity · Motor skills and coordination · Perceptual skills You may not be getting enough sleep if you: · Fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed · Cannot wake up in the morning at the appropriate time without an alarm clock. · Feel sleepy during the day · Struggle to get out of bed in the morning · Fall asleep in meetings and lectures · Need caffeine to keep you awake · Often sleep extra hours on the weekend · Fall asleep watching TV · Have trouble concentrating and remembering · Fall asleep after heavy meals or after one or two alcoholic drinks
GOLDEN RULES OF SLEEP
Get adequate amounts of sleep every night. Most people in the United States can use at least one more hour of sleep per night. In fact, we need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep to function at full capacity and be wide awake the following day. Identify the amount off sleep you need to be fully alert all day long. Get that amount of sleep every night.
Establish a regular sleep schedule.
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up without an alarm clock at the same time every morning, including weekends. Your biological waking and sleeping clock is not programmed for weekends. Even slight changes in sleep cycles can cause problems.
Get continuous sleep
For sleep to be rejuvenating you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block. Six hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is better than 8 hours of disrupted sleep. It is also better to get a good night’s sleep than a light night of sleep and naps during the day. If there are disruptions in your sleep, find ways to eliminate these disruptions.
Make up for lost sleep
Pay back your sleep debt in a timely fashion. Make up for any lost sleep as soon as possible. Occasionally it is all right to have a late night; however, it is important to note that reducing sleep by one hour for seven nights has the same effect as staying awake for twenty-four consecutive hours once a week. You cannot make up for lost sleep in one night or on the weekends. Sleep was lost over time, and it must be repaid over time as well. In order to do this, go to bed earlier rather than waking up later.
Exercise has a wide range of physical and mental benefits, which improves sleep. Exercise is most beneficial on sleep when it occurs within 3 to 6 hours of bedtime.
Other Important Sleep Tips
· Stop smoking · Reduce caffeine intake · Avoid alcohol near bedtime · Try relaxation techniques · Maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom · Value your sleep and make it a priority
KEEPING A SLEEP LOG
Every night track the amount of sleep you get and any interruptions that occur. The goal is to maximize the amount and quality of sleep. If there are interruptions assess your sleeping area and creatively find ways to reduce and eliminate them.
Daily Survival with Depression
Daily survival plan in hell
What do I mean by hell? I define it as "relentless physical or emotional pain that appears to have no end."
This was my experience of living with chronic, unremitting anxiety and depression. I found that the best way to cope with such intense discomfort was to live my life one day at a time.
Whenever I contemplated the prospect of dealing with my pain over the long term, I became overwhelmed. But if I could reduce my life to a single 24-hour segment of time - that was something I could handle. If I could tread water (or, being in hell, tread fire) each day, then perhaps I could survive my ordeal.
Working together, my therapist and I created what I called "my daily survival plan for living in hell." The central idea was simple-to develop coping strategies that would get me through the day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
Because I was fighting a war on two fronts, I had to devise and employ techniques that would deal with both the depression and the anxiety. I used my coping strategies to create four categories of support, which I have summarized.
These categories are:
- physical support;
- mental / emotional support;
- spiritual support; and, most importantly,
- people support.
What follows is a brief outline of my daily survival plan. I have rewritten it in the second person so that you can adapt it to your individual needs. Remember, the goal is to identify coping strategies that will keep you safe and get you through each day until the pattern of the depression shifts.
1. People support
Social support is a key ingredient in dealing with emotional pain. Find a way to structure your daily routine so that you will be around people much of the time. If there is a day treatment program in your area, some form of group therapy, or depression support groups at your local hospital, attend them.
Don't be embarrassed about asking for help from family members or friends. You are suffering from an illness, not a personal weakness or defect in character. My own sense of connection with people gave me a reason not to harm myself.
I did not want to afflict my friends and family with the anguish that would result from my self-imposed departure. A lifeguard at the pool where I swam agreed with my thinking. "Other people are a good reason to stay alive," she affirmed.
Support is critical in helping people to cope with all kinds of extreme circumstances.
Survivor researcher Julius Siegal emphasizes that communication among prisoners of war provides a lifeline for their survival. And for those who are prisoners of their inner wars, support is equally crucial.
In chronicling his own depressive episode, novelist Andrew Solomon wrote: Recovery depends enormously on support. The depressives I've met who have done the best were cushioned with love. Nothing taught me more about the love of my father and my friends than my own depression.
2. Physical support
The second aspect of your daily survival plan consists of finding ways to nurture your physical body. Here are some suggestions:
- EXERCISE Research has shown that regular exercise can improve mood in cases of mild to moderate depression. Exercise is one of the best ways to elevate and stabilize mood as well as improve overall physical health. Pick an activity that you might enjoy, even if it is as simple as walking around the block, and engage in it as often as you can (three to four times a week is ideal).
- DIET + NUTRITION Eat a diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and protein, avoiding foods such as simple sugars that can cause emotional ups and downs. Try to stay away from foods that have chemical additives or preservatives that may create ups and downs for chemically sensitive individuals.
- SLEEP Adopt a regular sleep schedule to get your body into a routine. If you have trouble getting to sleep or suffer from insomnia, there are behavioral techniques as well as medication that can help you to sleep. The book No More Sleepless Nights by Peter Hauri is a good resource.
- HOMEOPATHIC MEDICATION Take your medication as prescribed. Check with your homeopath or health care professional. Be patient.
3. Mental/emotional support
Every thought and feeling produces a neurochemical change in your brain. Although you may not always be able to control the painful symptoms of depression and anxiety, you can influence the way you think and feel about those symptoms.
Monitoring one's self-talk is an integral strategy of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a talk therapy widely used in treating depression. You may wish to work with a therapist who specializes in cognitive therapy. He or she can help you to replace thoughts of catastrophe and doom with affirmations that encourage you to apply present-moment coping strategies.
For example, the statement "My depression will never get better" can be replaced by the affirmation "Nothing stays the same forever", or "This, too, will pass."
Switching from negative to positive self-talk is a process that may have to practiced once, twice, sometimes ten times a day. Since the depressed brain tends to see life through dark-colored glasses, monitoring one's inner dialogue provides a lifeline to healing.
Keep a mood diary
One of the survival techniques I used to stay alive in my hell was to keep track of my anxiety and depression on a day-to-day basis. To this end, I created a daily mood scale. Somehow, the simple act of observing and recording moods gave me a sense of control over them.
I also used the mood diary to record daily thoughts and feelings.
Be compassionate with yourself
Once again you can turn to the affirmation process. Whenever you start to judge yourself for being depressed you can repeat, "It's not my fault that I am unwell. I am actually a powerful person residing inside a very sick body. I am taking good care of myself and will continue to do so until I get well."
Focus on the little things
In the middle of my episode I asked my therapist, "If all I am doing is trying to survive from day to day, how do I find any quality to my life?"
"The quality is in the little things," she replied.
Whether it is a kind word from a friend, a sunny day, a beautiful sunset, or an unexpected break from the pain, see if you can take in and appreciate these small moments of grace.
Having such moments is akin to making deposits into an "emotional bank account." When the dark periods return, you can draw upon these stored memories and affirm that life can still be beautiful, if only for an instant.
Above all, no matter how bad things seem, remember that nothing stays the same forever. Change is the only constant in the universe. One of the most powerful thoughts you can hold is the simple affirmation "This too, will pass."
4. Spiritual support
If you believe in God, a Higher Power, or any benevolent spiritual presence, now is the time to make use of your faith. Attending a form of worship with other people can bring both spiritual and social support. If you have a spiritual advisor (rabbi, priest, minister, etc.), talk with that person as often as possible.
Put your name on any prayer support list(s) you know of. Don't be bashful about asking others to pray for you. (A list of twenty-four hour telephone prayer ministries in provided for you in my section on prayer.)