The problem with mental illness is often the complete inability to sleep

One of the most difficult parts of a depressive episode is having the complete inability to sleep. No matter how incredibly exhausted you are, falling asleep is like catching mist. Almost impossible.

When I am at my lowest, I find that I can fall asleep reasonably well, but wake an hour or so later and then toss and turn for the remainder of the night. It’s exhausting and it’s frustrating. When you are lying awake at night you are vulnerable prey to the monster of troubling thoughts. The longer you lay there the more thoughts pervade your mind. It’s completely tormenting.

So, these are the tips that I follow to ensure I give myself the best chance of a good night’s sleep:

  1. No caffeine after 2pm – Caffeine can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine can persist for several hours taking approximately 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated. Caffeine and other stimulants can be found in everything from coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. I steer clear of anything that resembles a stimulant.
  2. Move – During the day and well before bed move your body. It doesn’t matter how or for how long, just find a way to move. I find when I move my body during the day, I feel more naturally tired at night. I hate exercise and going to the gym, so I walk. Sometimes it is the hardest thing to do to get off the couch and walk around the block, but it’s well worth the effort if it means you’re not lying awake at night starting at the ceiling.
  3. Keep bedtime for sleeping. Don’t do other activities while in bed such as playing on your phone or answering emails. Train your body to know that when you lie in your bed it is time for sleeping, nothing else.
  4. Get into a sleep routine. Do the same thing each night as you get ready for bed. It can be a very simple routine like brushing your teeth, going to the toilet, say goodnight to the dog and jump under the covers, but keep it uniformed. This way you are training your brain to go to sleep. Eventually your brain will say ‘oh ok we’re doing the night time routine it’s time to produce sleeping chemicals’, and fingers crossed you will sleep better. Think of your brain like a five-year-old child. It loves routine and thrives when you are predictable. You are responsible for teaching it how to behave. Consistency and routine are key.

So, these are the tricks that help me sleep. There are many other tips and tricks you can you of course. It’s all about finding what works for you. Experiment and see what works because it is amazing what a good night’s sleep can do to your mood. It’s well worth finding what works.

Please share your tips and tricks for having a good night sleep.