Why Normal Sleep is Essential, Part 1

Is normal sleep important to someone with clinical depression?

Normal sleep is essential for everyone regardless of their physical and mental condition.

Unfortunately, people with mood disorders tend to experience more sleep disturbances than the average healthy individual. Mood disorders like clinical depression have a tendency to interrupt the normal patterns of sleep. The patient may feel overly sleepy or quite the opposite – he/she may not get a wink of sleep at night because of his/her condition.

How does depression disrupt sleep?

The most common pattern of disruption in people affected with mood disorders is frequent awakenings in the middle of the night, followed by the inability to fall asleep quickly. Compared to “half awakenings” when a person needs to empty his bladder, a full blown sleep disturbance can render a person fully awake for no reason before he can get sufficient rest at night.

Now, some depressed individuals suffer from abnormally long hours of sleep. For example, the person may fall asleep late at night and may continue to sleep past noon.

When he wakes up, he still feels mentally and physically fatigued. As a result, he will go back to bed thinking that he needs more sleep. No amount of sleep will help a person with a severe sleep disturbance because lack of sleep is not the causative agent. The causative agent in this scenario is the person’s mood disorder.

How can a depressed person improve his sleeping patterns?

If you’re presently battling depression and would like to improve your overall sleeping habits, you need to develop better sleep hygiene. You must also improve your environment and make it conducive for healthy sleep. Below are some guidelines that will help you get started on the right track:

  1. Turn in early. Sleeping late is never a good idea, unless you’re a healthcare professional assigned to a local emergency room. The body needs plenty of rest and the earlier you sleep in the evening, the better you will feel in the morning.

Our natural body clock requires us to sleep early and wake up early, too. Sleeping late and waking up late is completely against the natural rhythm of the body. We know that it’s a tall order to turn in early every night so just try to get to bed early at the same time every night so your body will have a more natural sleeping and waking rhythm.

What if you’re used to sleeping late?

If you’ve been sleeping late for many years now, sleeping early might be a bit more challenging in the beginning. However, it’s not impossible to modify your sleeping patterns in a few weeks’ time. Trust that your body knows how to adjust itself and allow your sleeping pattern to change.

  1. Consistency is key. If your sleeping patterns are already abnormal, you have to exert effort in controlling your sleeping and waking hours again. For example, if you used to sleep at 1 AM and wake up at 5 AM for no reason, only to feel fatigued and sleepy the whole day, you obviously need to sleep earlier and wake up at just the right hour in the morning.

A sample solution to this disturbed sleeping pattern would be to sleep early (at around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.) and set an alarm for 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. Every night the person must exert effort not to sleep beyond the target hour. He must also wake up in the morning at the same time regardless of what happens in the middle of the night. The use of an alarm is highly recommended. Even if the person gets only two hours of solid sleep because of the frequent awakenings at night, he must continue to wake up at seven or eight in the morning. Eventually, the new sleeping schedule will begin to influence the person’s body clock and the disturbances will be corrected.

It is still highly recommended that you consult with your psychiatrist regarding the sleep disturbances as he may be able to prescribe sleeping medication to help smoothen out your sleeping pattern. If the problem is severe, your psychiatrist may refer you to a sleep clinic where you will be examined in full to determine what could be causing the sleep problems.

Sleep clinics are found throughout the United States and elsewhere and the doctors there all specialize in bringing back normal sleeping hours to people who are suffering from all kinds of mental disorders, including those who suffer from clinical depression.