Sleeping is supposed to be easy, right? Too bad depression makes it so. Damn. Hard.
During the throes of depression, I would fall asleep within minutes of going to bed – the best and only good part of my entire sleep cycle. But inevitably, within a few hours I was jarred awake with an onslaught of racing thoughts. Then I’d lie awake for several hours, until I fell asleep again – usually just before my alarm went off. To catch up, I’d nap at 4:30 p.m. for about an hour-and-a-half.
I felt terrible all the time. My wonky sleep cycle was causing my depression to worsen, but my depression was making it hard to sleep well.
By the time I sought treatment, my sleep patterns were in shambles. I was prescribed Trazodone – an antidepressant often used as a sleep aid – to help reset my schedule. But the meds were more of a quick fix; I also had to practice proper sleeping habits for the long-term.
Sleep: How To Do It Right
Think of how you feel after a good night’s rest. Even when you’re depressed, things just don’t seem quite as unbearable. Now, imagine having several nights of solid rest. You’ll begin to regain mental and physical strength, making it easier to manage your treatment and take the right steps for your health.
Here’s some sleeping advice from McLean Hospital:
Sleep Only When You’re Tired
Lying awake in bed can lead to rumination. Reduce these chances by only going to bed when you’re actually feeling tired. If you are still awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring (I was once told to read my refrigerator warranty as a way to nod off quickly – it worked). Try to avoid bright lights or the glow of your phone.
Napping and depression often go hand-in-hand. To avoid feeling brutal sadness or anxiety, we try to sleep the pain away. But try to fight the urge to crawl into bed during the day – it will only make falling asleep at night so much harder. If you must nap, do it before 3 p.m. and don’t sleep for longer than an hour.
Your Bed is for Sleeping
Binge-watching Netflix or doing work in bed can actually affect your sleep. When you get into bed, your body (and mind) should know it’s there to sleep (sex is among the only exceptions to this rule, and let’s be honest, it’s a pretty solid mood-booster).
Create a Ritual Before Bed
Some experts recommend giving yourself an hour to wind down before bed, others say 15 minutes is just fine. No matter how much time you need, create a nightly ritual that involves calming activities including shutting down your phone, reading, listening to music or stretching.
Stay on Schedule
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. A regular schedule will prevent lethargy and make you feel better overall.
Get Some Sun
Here’s another reason to exercise outside in the morning: Getting 15 minutes of sunlight when you first wake up can help regulate your biological clock and help you sleep at night.