Thursday, January 10, 2013

Insomnia and Depression

Insomnia and Depression

Everyone has times in their lives where they feel depressed.  This is different from the clinical definition of depression.  Those who suffer clinical depression also can have great difficulty with sleep.  A lack of sleep then complicates the depression even further.  People who are bi-polar also have symptoms aggravated with a lack of sleep.  Come to think of it, all of us need proper deep sleep.  Without the deep sleep that our brains demand, physical and mental ailments are increased.

Our brains need three components to function properly.  These include increased blood flow, proper nutrition, and deep sleep where the brain is allowed to dream.  The expected result of deep sleep is to allow the body to heal - both physically and mentally. If we do not reach REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, then we suffer.  Daily stressors will be magnified.  Our poor mental states will slip backwards like sliding on ice.  Without REM sleep, there is reduced healing physically and mentally.

  Increased blood flow is attained in part from exercise.  Nutrition is attained with proper diet. You can locate all types of articles about 'brain foods' on the internet.  Deep sleep is a problem for many with depression.  I was one of those.  Notice, I used the word 'was'.  Until six months ago, I never slept all the way through a night for some twenty five years!  It was common for me to wake from a sleep and be up for hours.  There were times when I would drive to the car wash and then return home to wax my car, clean the engine, vacuum the interior - all in the middle of the night.  Other times I would drive for a couple hours and then return home.  I woke tired, I worked tired, and I had difficulty functioning.

What was my secret?  First I had a thorough physical exam.  I was referred for a sleep study and the results showed I suffered from sleep apnea. If you snore - you NEED a sleep study! I was prescribed a C-PAP breathing machine.  I also suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome and was given medication to control that.  Lastly, because of clinical depression and anxiety syndrome due to PTSD I was given medication to help me sleep.  All of it worked!  I finally wake up rested and no longer feel like I am in a 'fog'!

In the Community I started on Google Plus, called "Mental Health Issues", I see reports from many members having difficulty sleeping.  I tell them what worked for me.  I avoid caffeine after noon.  Alcohol can reduce sleep patterns. I use my C-PAP all night long.  If I am having an 'event' that creates stress for me, I will write about it or talk about it.  My goal is to purge that stress from me the best I can.  I may use deep breathing techniques.  I may also perform positive visualization in my mind.

In the past I tried many homeopathic remedies.  I tried listening to sounds of a rain forest. On one occasion, all was well until that Howler Monkey started screaming!  That didn't work so well.  I then tried sounds of the ocean (monotonous), rain on a tin roof (irritating), classical music (great until the drums and cannons were fired in Tchaikovsky's piece).  I soaked in a hot bath only to be even more awake!  I tried hot chocolate and warm milk only to gain weight.  I rolled to different positions and changed sides of the bed (then, even the cat left the room).

My advice is try to purge negative thoughts, get a physical exam to rule out medical problems, and get plenty of exercise.  Now if it's the middle of the night and you feel you need to exercise, drive to a high-crime area, park your car, and see how long before you have to run like a zebra!  You will return home and sleep just fine. 

 I mentioned deep breathing.  As a physical therapist, I taught the following technique many times in my forty year career. First off, avoid what are called 'burp foods' after the noon meal.  These are foods that create increased abdominal gasses and push against your diaphragm.  Eating these can make it difficulty for some to breathe.  Anyone who has any form of COPD should avoid these at all costs.  The include: broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and some beans.  Again, I refer you to the internet.  The two best sources I have found are the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.  Now back to proper breathing.  Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for six seconds and then blow out like you are blowing through a straw - not a tailpipe on a 1957 Chevy!  Do this six times and you may indeed find a tremendous calming result. This pursed lip breathing will help lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and develop a sense of calm.

Positive Visualization is also helpful in stressful times.  This was best reported by Rebecca Anhalt in her Blog at or you may find her at She has many excellent articles.  There are two that relate to my Blog here. "Change your Thoughts, Change your World" and "Top 10 Negative Thought Patterns and How They Affect You!"  In a nutshell, what you put into your mind is what will come out.  Positive will be positive.  Negative will be negative. I would recommend everyone follow her Blog.

Lastly, I mentioned writing or purging by venting.  I find writing more useful.  If I am having an issue with a person (dead or alive), I will write a letter to that person and I write until all negative feelings are gone.  I will say anything I want and in any way I want.  When I feel better, I tear the material up and throw it away.  This is a great technique if you are having trouble with a spouse or significant other.  Just be certain to throw it deep into the trash.  If it is discovered, you will have a whole new set of problems.

In my novel, "The Shade Tree Choir" the main character, Krame has great difficulty sleeping due to the physical abuse he suffers from his alcoholic father.  At this age of eight, he develops what is called a neural pathway in the brain.  That pathway becomes what his body feels is 'normal'.  As Krame ages, sleep loss is a normal routine for him.  How would I know what Krame experiences?  I am that character!

If you want to help others, join my Community, "Mental Health Issues", on Google Plus and share what works for you.  If you want to help me, BUY my novel!  Thanks


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  3. Thank you for being truly open and honest about your journey and recovery. It's an inspiration.

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