Depression and sleep difficulties, they go so nicely together. Why didn’t I think about that? It was mentioned during my education. I’ve seen countless people dealing with depression and mood disorders. I guess you can’t see the glasses on your face, do you? In my defense those people were never admitted due to sleeping problems and were on different medications to help sleep.
In retrospect …. In all honesty I don’t know what is what in retrospect. I was told that I was a ‘difficult’ baby who didn’t want to sleep nor eat. As a child I was excited to read underneath the covers with my flashlight. I never understood why I was caught every night! As a teenager, I didn’t like to wake up to leave for school but who does? I was a late evening bird and not the type that wants the worm. In the evening, when the world calms down and the night is on its way, it feels like a warm blanket. You can tuck the responsibilities away and shush them to sleep. Then it’s your time to unwind, to relax, to enjoy and to let go.
Fast forward, when my psychiatrist asked me ‘Do you feel rested when you wake up?’ I said with a very natural flair: ‘No, off course not’. I thought: who does? People, apparently. ‘Oh, you mean, … now I see’. I needed to sleep first and then get better. He assumed that I had a lack of deep sleep and prescribed sleeping medication with a promise of a quick and significant improvement of my life. Bring it on!
Sleep is nearly always disturbed in depression and it is commonly believed that the pattern of insomnia is typical or even diagnostic of certain affective disorders.
My expectations were set, I was ready to take on my new promised life. It took a while for the medication to work but it did help. I wish I could say that I’m a Sleeping Beauty now. I believed and hoped that they would help me so I started to go to bed before 10 pm. Slowly the results came. Falling asleep was never a problem because I am exhausted most of the time but I do wake up very early. My mind is overactive from the moment I dare to open one eye and it presents me with different tasks I could do but I know I can’t. And that is my problem, I can’t go back to sleep. I need to get up to avoid the ‘voices’ in my head. In order to sleep, I need to relax, see the difficulty here?
Another thing happens when I experience more tension than usual during the day. I’ll have a short night but not the night after the day but the two nights after that one. It’s two nights of resteless sleep for one active day. That is the deal at the moment. It took me a while to figure that out.
While I was still working (and during burnout) I passed out in the evening or late afternoon, skipped meals because of that, but was wide awake at 5:00 am. Or earlier. Still exhausted but unable to relax to fall asleep again. ‘Things needed to be done!’ and I became a very worn out superwoman who wanted to do everything but wasn’t fast nor energetic. What the psychiatrist did explain was that I was in a constant state of tension and that my mind and body didn’t unwind at all. The tension was always higher than that of ‘normal people’. In the early morning it was even more severe and that’s why I woke up. It is the normal procedure but my ‘cue’ to get up achieved the effect way too quickly.
As for today I still need to be on a ‘sleepwatch’. Sometimes I really don’t feel like going to bed early but when I don’t want to feel bad the next day I need to. Loss of sleep means for me that I can be tired, have less motivation, be more emotional or more negative. Add less concentration to that and it becomes vicious circle again. I try to hold myself accountable and when I really can’t sleep I start reading and writing about sleep. Sleep is really undervalued but is a basic necessity to lead a happy life.