ZZZ: The Role of Sleep in Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the last post in the #AtoZChallenge. For my letter Z post, I have, each year that I got to it, used ZZZ at least among other things. And yes, it’s totally fitting with the self-care theme too. Sleep is so important! Today I’m going to explain a bit about how you can take better care of your sleep hygiene and how sleeping issues can signal other problems.

Most people have some sleeping issues at times. I have had quite a few nights in which I fell asleep late recently.

When I was a child or teen, anxiety would often keep me awake. Since I didn’t get any help for my anxiety then, the issue grew until I had to use sleeping pills for a while at age 20. When I moved into independent living, my insomnia grew worse and it was one contributing factor to my suicidal crisis three months in. The first medication I got, was again a sleeping pill.

Now let me be very clear: sleeping pills are not to be used long-term. When I got my first script in 2006, my GP said to take it no more than two to three times a week. I was taking sleeping pills for a few months early in my psychiatric hospital stay, but I eventually decided less sleep without pills was better than less sleep with pills. I did take sleeping pills on an as-needed basis for a while after that. However, except in extreme cases of severe mental illness keeping you awake a lot, you ultimately need to find other solutions. So learn to practise proper sleep hygiene. I honestly don’t do too well on this now that I write about it.

For example, one tip is to use your bed for sleeping only. Though I do that, I tend to nap a lot too. I am learning to get up after at most an hour, so that I won’t disrupt my night-time sleep.

Also, it is recommended to turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. I’ve heard this is because the blue light of your smartphone or computer screen can stimulate the brain to stay awake. As I always keep my screen curtain on, this isn’t an issue for me and it may not be with dark mode either. However, I do experience that keeping very busy shortly before bedtime keeps my brain awake.

Some people find that hearing some white noise or soft music can help them sleep. I usually turn on calming music when I’m struggling to fall asleep, but eventually turn it back off as it seems to lead to a more restless sleep.

Having a soft toy in bed does help me too. Occasionally, I diffuse some lavender essential oil. There’s no scientific proof that it works, but it may help.

In addition to insomnia, sleeping too much is also an issue. I find that I sleep way too much when I’m depressed. This, of course, in turn worsens my depression.

Lastly, waking up unrefreshed can happen even when you get the right amount of sleep for you. This can be caused by a number of factors, including medications you may be taking or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If this happens a lot, it may be time to see your doctor. Then again, doctors can be incredibly dismissive where it comes to fatigue.

14 thoughts on “ZZZ: The Role of Sleep in Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

    1. Hi! 👋 Thanks for stopping by. I don’t get hypomania but I do get shorter periods of overactivity and lack of sleep (like just a few days). Then when I experience depression I indeed get hypersomnia. I’m sorry you are dealing with this too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh okay. I was a night owl as a teen too, but now that I take high doses of psych meds, I cannot usually stay up late. I never was an early riser.

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  1. Congratulations for finishing the #AToZChallenge! You did a great job with it. 🙂
    I’m not great at sleep hygiene and keeping a consistent sleep routine either, though I’m trying to as it clearly makes things easier with my two biggest sleep related issues – sleep paralysis and ever-changing sleep patterns, both in terms of sleeping-waking times and the amount of sleep I need. – I used to take melatonin for the latter, as I don’t have light perception so thought that would be helpful, but it gave me some pretty awful nightmares and didn’t work much at all anyway. While I think my default sleep-wake mode is a night owl, it’s really difficult to say for sure because it’s shifting so much. I feel lucky that the only psych med I am on for now is anti-anxiety medication, and it can also work as a sleeping pill on an as needed basis for me. I have mostly embraced my “jet-lagged” brain nowadays, especially that my life is very flexible, I don’t have strict working hours or any other schedule like that, so I can sleep when and as much or as little as my brain needs it and don’t have to when it doesn’t feel like it, usually, and I’ve found some small tricks that help me influence my biological clock slightly.
    Because of my “sensory anxiety, I don’t deal particularly well with complete silence, it’s much easier for me to sleep with some music quietly on, or sometimes just radio, and I don’t even set sleep timers or anything like that, it just plays in the background while I’m sleeping but it can’t be too loud.
    I also experience something similar to what you wrote in the comments, that sometimes I get slightly hyperactive when my mood is also a bit higher than my normal, and then I don’t need much sleep or struggle with insomnia, and sleep tends to be my favourite way of escaping the world when I feel really depressed, but then I can sometimes also have insomnia due to depression as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Sleep paralysis sounds horrible. I’ve had some sleep-related hallucinations but never as bad as those with sleep paralysis tend to get. I understand about the constantly shifting sleep-wake cycle. As a teen, I was clearly a night owl but now I need a lot of sleep except when I am in these slightly-elated moods (which might just be being my normal self now that I think of it).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For a long time, my problem has been hypersomnia—getting too much sleep. Way too much sleep. Part of my solution has been to reverse some of the advise they give about not using the phone or computer in bed. I have a Sudoku app on my phone, and so as early as I can manage it, I grab my phone and start playing. It gets my mind engaged, and I’m sure the blue light from the screen helps too.

    Liked by 1 person

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