by Muffy Walker, MSN, MBA
Muffy Walker, of the International Bipolar Foundation, writes a mental health column for KRL every other month.
Did you know most people spend one third of their lives sleeping? Healthy sleep patterns are an important part of our life, especially for those who have bipolar disorder or other mood disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disturbance is a core symptom of bipolar disorder. The diagnostic criteria indicate that during manic episodes there may be a reduced need for sleep and during episodes of depression, insomnia or hypersomnia can be experienced nearly every day. Therefore, good sleep hygiene, a pillar of the treatment plan, is very important.
Here are some helpful tips to improve your sleep.
1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants that interfere with Sleep. Try not to use any of these 4-6 hours prior to your bedtime. Some people may associate alcohol consumption as sleep inducing, but actually after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and generally decreasing the quality of sleep later in the night.
2. Prepare for bed. In order to prepare for bedtime, avoid foods high in sugar or fat, and avoid stress or stimulating activities (TV, online gaming, discussing emotional issues). Instead, ease yourself into sleep with relaxing activities; read a book, take a warm bath, listen to calming music or practice relaxation exercises, such as meditation.
3. Keep your internal clock set with a consistent sleep schedule. It’s important to try to go to bed at night and rise in the morning at approximately the same time. This will help set your internal clock.
4. Exercise, and do so early in the day. Exercise will help you feel more tired at the end of the day, but don’t do it too close to bedtime or cortisol levels (a stress hormone) will rise.
5. Use light to help wake you. Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. So let the light in first thing in the morning and keep your bedroom dark at night for sleeping.
6. Keep your bedroom a room for sleep. Keeping your bedroom comfortable; cool, dark and noise-free should help with sleep induction. It may help to limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.
Still can’t sleep?
1. Don’t be a clock-watcher. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get up and go to another room to read or listen to soothing music.
2. If you have a lot of thoughts going through your head, write them down and clear your mind.
3. The following foods may assist in inducing sleep:
• Traditional milk products, yogurt and soy milk, almonds, walnuts, cashews, turkey and hummus are high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by the body to make serotonin, which is a brain chemical that plays a large role in mood and can help to create a feeling of well-being and relaxation.
• Cherries, along with nuts and oats, are a natural source of melatonin and, when eaten regularly, can help regulate your sleep cycle
• Chamomile herbal tea
• Bananas have magnesium and potassium which serve as muscle and nerve relaxants
If you consistently have difficulty with your sleep hygiene (difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too much or too long), this could be a problem remedied by talking to your doctor.
Good night and pleasant dreams!
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles.