3am, 4am, 5am…these are times of the day I have no desire to gain knowledge of, but which are in fact becoming increasingly familiar to me, as I lie staring at the ceiling, hearing the ‘tick tock’ of the clock and watching the shadows of the trees creeping across the walls. Depression and anxiety have always gone hand in hand with tiredness, as the stress on the brain is exhausting, plus the illness can lead to bouts of insomnia, and the little sleep that is achieved is usually unrefreshing.
As this article from the National Sleep Foundation says (link): “Depressed individuals may suffer from a range of insomnia symptoms, including difficulty falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia), difficulty staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia), unrefreshing sleep, and daytime sleepiness”. I tend to be able to get to sleep with few problems, but end up waking in the early hours, unable to sink back into oblivion, and instead watching the hours come and go, while ruminating on thoughts and anxieties in my mind. This leads to a constant feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, and an appearance reminiscent of a zombie that would be at home in a horror movie.
It’s a vicious cycle; the anxieties and worries can precipitate the insomnia, which in turn generates a feeling of exhaustion, which then leads to more anxiety and low mood. As the article perfectly summarises:
“the relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. For some people, symptoms of depression occur before the onset of sleep problems. For others, sleep problems appear first.”
It’s another example of the cyclical nature of depression, and attests to why its so difficult to escape the vicious cycles that the illness poses. It’s amazing how many techniques I’ve tried that have not solved the insomnia problem: drinking alcohol, avoiding alcohol, eating early, reading before bed, working out at the gym, and yet no luck to be had. It may merely come down to the fact that a busy mind cannot switch off, and there is never any downtime. In fact ‘downtime’, in the form of lying in bed, just provides a basis for the brain to come alive and ruminate to its hearts content. The perpetual tiredness that this produces ensures that it’s extremely challenging, and often impossible, to find the motivation to engage in activities (social or otherwise) during the day, or even the ability to function in everyday tasks, as a yearning for sleep and rest is so strong, and attacks the body and mind at its core.
The article suggests some techniques for tackling tiredness:
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
- Get into bright light soon after waking in the morning
- Get some form of exercise every day
- Avoid afternoon naps if you have nighttime insomnia
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Ask loved ones for help – you should not face depression alone
I must confess that caffeine is weakness of mine. I could never give it up completely, and in fact wouldn’t want to, but I will try to limit my intake. I will also attempt keep a record of my sleep to see if there is any correlation between factors such as alcohol, exercise, state mind, and what affect they have on my sleep. Should I manage to maintain the diary, I will aim to include the results on here at a later date.
For now I will have to persevere with my hope for an end to the insomnia, and the discovery of a source of energy for both body and mind. Although the lack of sleep has been the main focus of this blog, it can’t be underestimated how tiring and draining the thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety are, regardless of much sleep has been achieved. It sucks the energy and life out of you, and leaves you feeling detached, disconnected and constantly on edge, and not to mention with a total inability to relax. Let’s hope tonight I may reach the seemingly unattainable paradise…that of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
Don’t forget to ‘follow’ the blog, and also if there are any aspects of the illness you would like me to examine, then just let me know.