“If only,” for some of us. Many people suffer from sleep problems. In fact, according to the July 2009 issue of the Harvard Health Publication, 10 to 18 per cent of adults in the general population (US) have chronic sleep problems. Combine mental illness with sleep problems and the number rises to 50 to 80 per cent affected.
There is evidence that not enough sleep can not only be a symptom of mental illness, but also a cause. Sleep problems are especially prevalent in those with depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and anxiety.
Chronic sleep problems worsen negative thinking, and negative thinking at night can worsen sleep! As well, lack of sleep can trigger mania or relapse of depression. REM sleep, the sleep where we are dreaming, is essential in learning, memory and emotional health. Those suffering from chronic sleep problems are often deficient in this area. But there is hope.
Lifestyle changes can be the first step to a restful sleep. Avoiding alcohol or nicotine right before bed, or better yet, altogether, can aid in sleep. Using one’s bedroom only for sleeping or sex sets the stage for slumber. Removing electronics, television and computers, also can help. Regular aerobic exercise can work wonders, as long as not done too close to bedtime. Therapy to help deal with issues during the day so as not to be worrying at night is another option.
If all else fails medication may be the route to go. See your doctor for possibilities.
It would also be a good idea to get checked for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. Various devices can be used to help achieve better sleep.