Searching for that Elusive Sleep




Something is worrying me but I don’t know what.

I am anxious and drained emotionally. I have never suffered with anxiety before it is a new sensation and not one I am particularly comfortable with. An example of this is when I went to the chemist to get my prescription and had taken the wrong form in. When the man told me I could feel myself panicking, getting short of breath and couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of home.

I am surviving on around 6 hours sleep a day at the moment which may sound a lot but it is broken up into 4 hours at night and, at best, a couple of hours around 3pm if I am lucky. Of course this is a vicious cycle because sleeping during the day is going to make me find it more difficult to sleep at night but when I am exhausted my body tends to just shut down anyway so even if I try to stay awake I could just go at anytime.

I would give anything for a nice long 12 hours (or more!) of uninterrupted sleep. Nothing to disturb me, to disconnect my brain and just fall deeply into a peaceful void of nothingness!

No silly dreams, no over thinking, no stress about money and especially no stress about not being able to sleep!

As your aware by now I like to sprinkle my posts with information that I find over the internet to educate myself and hopefully you as well, after all my sense of humour will only get me so far!

I found this information from Netdoctor

What sort of sleep problems can affect people with depression?

People with depression can have many types of sleep problems. Generally, these involve getting less sleep than usual and include:

  1. difficulty getting off to sleep – often because of lying in bed with thoughts going round in your head
  2. frequently waking up during the night
  3. waking early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep.

Even if people with depression do get a reasonable number of hours’ sleep, they often wake in the morning feeling ‘un-refreshed’ and feel tired through the day.

Occasionally, people with depression sleep too much, finding it hard to get out of bed and spending much of the day there. Again, this does not tend to lead to these people feeling any less tired.

How common are sleep problems in depression?

Probably more than 80 per cent of people suffering from depression have problems with their sleep, usually not getting enough.

Is it a problem not getting enough sleep?

We are all aware that if we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we are less effective the next day. Important body processes occur during sleep that help to ‘recharge our batteries’. If we get less sleep than we need, we are more at risk of having accidents in the home, at work or when driving.

In people with depression, not being able to sleep (especially when this involves spending hours lying in bed awake) can cause other problems as well. During this time, people tend to dwell on their problems.

If you are depressed, everything seems black and dismal. Such bleak thoughts going round and round your head can cause your mood to get even lower. A lower mood makes the thoughts even bleaker and a vicious circle can occur.

Severe sleep problems in depressed people are associated with an increased risk of suicide. On the other side of the coin, an improvement in sleep often indicates an improvement in mood.

How much sleep is enough?

Everybody’s needs are different. The range of time people sleep normally is as wide as 3 to 10 hours.

As a general rule of thumb, five to six hours sleep is probably a minimum below which your performance at work, when driving, etc will be affected.

Most people need between seven and eight hours sleep a night to feel refreshed. Generally, people require less sleep the older they get.

Normal sleep

Sleep can be assessed by measuring the electrical activity that occurs in the brain. By doing this, sleep can be divided into a number of different stages: we tend to go through stages one to four when we fall asleep and the reverse when we wake up.

However, through the night we also make transitions between the different stages. Stages one and two are regarded as light sleep. Stages three and four are deep sleep.

During deep sleep various restorative processes go on throughout the body. If we do not get enough deep sleep we feel tired and ‘washed out’.

A fifth stage of sleep is called rapid eye movement sleep (REM) because although our eyes remain shut, they move around a lot during this stage. REM sleep is the time that we dream when we are asleep.

Dreaming has important psychological effects, helping us to put ‘things in order’.

The content of dreams often includes things that have recently happened to us or that we have recently been thinking about. Dreams may be a way of making sense of all of this.

The various stages of sleep can be plotted on a graph called a sleep hypnogram.

We normally undergo several cycles during the night moving through the various stages of sleep. We have most of our deep sleep in the first half of the night and REM sleep (when we dream) occurs later on. This explains why if you doze back to sleep in the morning, you will often wake and be aware of dreaming.

It’s not uncommon to wake during the night. Normally, these wakenings are so brief that we are unaware of them.

The pattern of sleep in depression

The sleep pattern of somebody with depression is very different:

  1. it takes much longer to get off to sleep
  2. the total sleep time is reduced
  3. there is little or no deep sleep
  4. REM sleep occurs earlier in the night
  5. there are more frequent wakenings during the night, which may last long enough for the person to be aware of them. The person wakes up earlier in the morning. The person wakes up earlier in the morning and can’t get back to sleep, even if feeling very tired.

What can I do about my sleep problem?

It can be extremely distressing not being able to sleep.

Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to try and improve your sleep.

These suggestions are not miracle cures, and they do require some effort. This is good advice for anybody who has a sleep problem.

  1. Get into a routine with your sleep times. Get up at the same time each morning, even if you have not had a good night’s sleep. Don’t sleep during the day, and don’t go to bed early to try and get more sleep – you are likely just to lie in bed thinking over problems. Go to bed in the evening when you are tired.
  2. Take some physical exercise during the day. This helps to make your body more tired in the evening and makes it easier to get to sleep. Exercise is good for you physically, and there’s also research that suggests that exercise can itself be antidepressant.
  3. Avoid exercise two hours before bedtime. This is because exercise ‘activates’ the body, which can make it difficult to get off to sleep.
  4. Avoid watching disturbing or violent films prior to bedtime.
  5. Avoid drinking caffeine (tea, coffee, cola) in the evening after 6pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and can prevent sleep. Drink no more than four cups of tea, or of coffee, or cans of cola in a day.
  6. Drink herbal teas or milky drinks such as Horlicks in the evening. Herbal teas don’t contain caffeine and milky drinks have been shown to be as good as sleeping tablets for many people. However, be aware that chocolate or cocoa milk drinks often contain caffeine.
  7. Avoid heavy meals two hours before bedtime. It can be extremely difficult to get off to sleep with a full stomach.
  8. Avoid alcohol in the evening. While alcohol is sedative, it is not a good idea to try to use it to sort out a sleep problem. This is because alcohol does not lead to normal restful sleep. In addition, alcohol causes you to pass increasing amounts of urine, which further disrupts sleep. Unfortunately, a significant number of people with depression develop an alcohol problem from using alcohol to help them sleep.
  9. You should associate your room with sleep: avoid having a TV or radio in your bedroom.
  10. Your bedroom should be warm and familiar with a comfortable bed and duvet, etc. Ideally, the room should be decorated in a relaxing way. This all helps in associating the room in your mind with restful sleep.
  11. Use aromatic oils in the bath or on your pillow, such as lavender, which can help relaxation.
  12. Use relaxation techniques, which you can learn from books, audiotapes or CDs. Reading in bed helps some people, but it can prevent others from getting off to sleep. If you do read in bed, only read light-hearted books or magazines.

If you are kept awake, or wake up worrying during the night, try the following.

  1. At least two hours before bedtime, write down the problems that keep you awake. Also write down the next step you need to take towards resolving each problem.
  2. If you find yourself thinking over the problems in bed, tell yourself you have the matter in hand and that going over it now will not help.
  3. If a new worry occurs during the night, write it down or commit it to memory and deal with it the next day.
  4. If you still do not manage to get to sleep, or you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep – get up. Do not lie in bed tossing and turning. Go and do something else like listening to relaxing music, having a warm bath or making yourself a milky drink. Go back to bed when you feel tired again.

Many people become preoccupied by sleep itself. In this case:

  1. do not try to fall asleep
  2. tell yourself that sleep will come and that relaxing in bed is nearly as good
  3. try to keep your eyes open. As they naturally try to close, tell yourself to resist for just another few seconds. This should tempt sleep to take over
  4. if unhelpful thoughts pop into your mind, try and visualise a relaxing or pleasant scene.



Is my current anxiety caused by lack of sleep? One thing I do know is the more anxious I get the worse my IBS becomes. I have been awake just shy of 3 hours and have already been to the toilet 5 times! It’s is something I really need to see my doctor about as this not helping my depression!

How do you deal with insomnia? I would like to dissect the information above into how it works, or doesn’t, in my case but that will be for another time when the mind is more focused. I would love your feedback on this!

Garry “the sleepy Moose”

11 comments on “Searching for that Elusive Sleep

  1. That’s the unhealthy routine I’m in at the moment. One that I always fall into when fighting thick depression. I stay awake late because of feeling too much anxiety/distress to sleep which means I sleep in late and nap during the day which then means I’m not tired come bed time so stay up late again. Countless times I have had to kick myself out of this by being strict with myself. Especially when I have to go to work. I don’t function well at all when I don’t get good sleep. The last time I slept well and thru the night? I don’t even remember. Have you tried any over the counter sleep medication? I used to take sominex for a week to try and sort my routine bck into something more functional. X


  2. Try’s cheap and all natural. It won’t mess with other meds and it will help you to sleep. Sorry you are having trouble, rest it really important when dealing with any type of illness. So I do hope you can get it worked out. 🙂


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