September 1, 2013, 19 pounds lost
Sleep is very important to those of us who take psych meds, such as antipsychotics. First of all, sleep is a major component of mental health. Good, regular sleep is necessary for mental and emotional stability. Secondly, getting good, restful sleep every night can help you keep your weight down.
If you are having problems getting the right amount of sleep, you should examine the causes and remedy the situation preferably by natural means, or if that doesn’t work, you really should see a doctor.
The Importance of Sleep and Mental Health
People tend to think of sleep problems as a symptom of a mental disorder. This may be true, but sleep problems can contribute to psychiatric disorders, also.
Neuroscientific studies show that getting a restful night’s sleep can help both mental and emotional resiliance.
On the other hand, insomnia and restless sleep can cause negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.
Most people with depression also have a sleep disorder. And having sleep problems can aggravate depression.
I know from personal experience that sleep and bipolar disorder are linked. When I had a manic phase, I would sleep very little or none at all. During a depressive phase, I would sometimes sleep incredibly excessive amounts.
Through trial and error, I learned to help control the symptoms of bipolar by managing my sleep. I take two medicines that cause me to be sleepy as a side effect. I also try to go to bed at a reasonable hour every night and do things conducive to sleep.
Scientific studies show that insomnia is a risk factor for the development and/or recurrence of anxiety disorders and substance abuse. This is interesting to me because I see overeating as being almost a type of substance abuse.
Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, studies circadian rhythms, the internal 24-hour clocks that govern when we sleep, and that are partially regulated by exposure to light. He and his colleagues have found extreme sleep disturbances in patients with several different diagnoses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Getting regular, restful sleep helps us be more calm and stable. And when we feel more calm and stable, we are more apt to stick to a weight loss program.
Sleep and Weight
Over several decades, obesity rates have risen to epidemic proportions in the US. Along with this rise in weight, there has been a problem with chronic sleep deprivation. In 2005, only 26% of adults in this country got eight hours of sleep per night.
Evidence supports that the role of short sleep duration as a risk factor for weight gain. Feeling fatigued may lead to less physical activity. Sleep deprivation might also have neurohormonal effects that increase food intake.
When we are sleep deprived, we tend to eat food with high calories to get the energy we need to get through the day. The unintended effect is that those calories make us gain weight.
So, should we sleep as much as we can?
“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.
Also, if you are like me, when you get depressed or down, the last thing you want to do is exercise. In fact, sometimes a day in bed sounds awfully good. However, if those days add up, you can possibly gain weight from inactivity. That happened to me before. I would be manic in the summer and lose weight, depressive in the winter and gain weight.
Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to your physical health in other ways, too. It’s been linked to high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, diabetes, and even cancer.
So, now that we have determined that disturbed sleep patterns can be a detriment to your mental health, your weight, and your physical health, what are some strategies to get a good night’s sleep every night?
Ways to Get Good, Restful Sleep
1. Get on the right medicine for you. The right medicines for me are Seroquel and Klonopin. Both of their side effects are sleepiness, so that really helps me get enough hours of sleep at night, especially when I’m teetering toward mania. Luckily, the Seroquel also helps with depression, too, so that I don’t spend the whole winter in bed. I still sleep more in the winter than in the summer, but the medicine does help the symptoms. If you have a mental health disorder and are taking medicines but are still not getting the right amount of sleep, you need to talk to your doctor.
2. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, if possible. Chances are, if your sleep patterns are disturbed, your circadian rhythms are out of whack and need to be reset. Be as defensive about your sleep times as you need to be. If you don’t have a nightly and morning time, make some and keep to them as best you can. This regularity is essential.
3. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. These are the qualities of a bedroom that is conducive to sleep. Try blackout curtains, earplugs (Mack’s are my favorite), eye masks, fans, white noise machines, or anything else that can encourage sleep.
4. Don’t watch TV, use your phone, or use your computer a few hours before you go to bed. The bright lights of these screens hit the back of your eye and give your brain confused messages about whether it is daylight or not. It messes with your circadian rhythms. I have to admit, this one is the hardest for me because I spend so much time on the computer. It’s easy to start writing in the evening, lose track of time, and wind up writing into the middle of the night. Bad girl!
5. Don’t exercise or eat a heavy meal before bedtime. These activities can make it hard to go to sleep.
6. Here’s a good article that tells you foods that promote sleep, such as poultry, dairy, tuna, bananas, and others. It also lists foods that can keep you awake, such as caffeinated foods and beverages, alcohol, spicy foods, and others.
Sleep is so important. Nobody is completely sure why, but it is essential to our bodies and minds.
I love to sleep. It feels so good, and when I don’t get enough of it, trouble can ensue! Luckily I have good medications and (mostly) good sleep habits.
How’s your sleep? Have you noticed what helps you sleep and what interferes with it?