An Explanation of the Relationship between Sleep and Mental Health
The mental health and sleep are tied together closer than you might think.
Mornings… Those of you who hate mornings put your hands up- I know I just put mine up! You wake up and you have the overwhelming longing to stay there. Nothing happens in your bed: it is a place of complete serenity, your Zen point. This is how feels for me. However, this feeling is completely shut down when I look at the clock and groan. I see that I have to get up. Sadly, I am already thinking: “Gosh, I am already done with today.”
Putting aside the sleep apnea, mental illness, especially depression drains the sheer life force out of you. I marvel at the fact that I survived my mission; I had to get up at 6:30 every morning. I think back to when I was a teenager, and I had to get up at 5:00- 5:30 for early morning seminary. (Seminary is a religion class that is an extra-curricular activity.)
Although, I just have to say this: what teenager doesn’t have a hard time getting out of bed? I got up that early because I took freaking forever to get ready! Seminary wasn’t even till 7:00! Gosh, I have lost so much sleep and life just getting ready in the mornings. Now it takes me 45 minutes- tops. If you take a long time to get ready, you are beautiful. I admire you for your diligence to your overall grooming.
However, the struggle to get out of bed grew worse and worse over the years. I tended to stay in bed longer than the average Joe. My parents commented that I was often dragging my feet in the morning. This was when I discovered it was a whole lot more than not being a morning person; this is where sleep apnea makes its grand entrance, peeps.
Having a hard time getting up in the morning (leaving that nice and cozy atmosphere) is a sign of having a mental illness, or a sign of a sleep disorder. Now, I am not saying that this is the case every time, but if you are having mental health issues, explore your “sleeping experience.”
With mental illness or sleeping disorders, it is not a bad morning here and there. It is a constant slew of ‘it’s-hard-to-wake-up’ sort of mornings. It’s a struggle not to overexert yourself. (Yes, it’s a very grey area of how far to push yourself.) For me, I would have hardly done anything the day before and be exhausted when I woke up. I shudder at the memory of where I was at lunch time as I would be every definition of exhausted. No wonder I took so many naps.
As I have worked my way through mental illness, it has been painful to have the desire to face the day. I would have slept my life away if I was given the opportunity. I didn’t want to get up and spend the energy that I didn’t have! Talk about being in the negative of a“life battery” charge.
For months, my “here comes the sun” wake up time was 9:00. My mom would come in to wake me up and coax me out of bed. A lot of days I wasn’t able to leave the house until noon, let alone get up. This didn’t just happen a day here and there, but every single day consistently. She would make sure that I took my meds on time (as some were and are time sensitive) and she would bring a granola bar or a banana. It was basically breakfast in bed everyday… But not exactly in a good way. I wasn’t strong enough to get out of bed to go eat downstairs at the table.
I dreamed of being able to wake up by myself, at a reasonable hour, and eat breakfast downstairs at the table every morning. Working through all of this took time and effort, but slowly I improved with the help of medication, therapy, and the discovery that I had sleep apnea.
I don’t fit the stereotype for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea tends to be associated with middle aged men who are comfortably overweight. From seeing all my pictures on my blog, you know that I don’t fit that description at all (I promise you I am not trying to be vain or a narcissist… Though I know I am gorgeous). Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing multiple times in the night. Your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, which leads to other health problems.
It turns out that my neck is too skinny, and my nose and mouth are really small. (The dental hygienists and dentist always complain about the size of my mouth: I can’t open it to the desired width.) Sleep apnea is hereditary, so the chances of me getting it were high (not to name names, but thanks, Dad).
When I participated in a sleep study, they found out that I have severe sleep apnea, and I have pressure twice as high as my Dad’s. It was funny, because they had to turn down the pressure of the air in my mask because it was blowing off my face and I couldn’t breathe. Oh, the irony of it all.
Sleep apnea was the one thing that was making it harder for me to wake up. It was the root of my sleepiness. When I slept, it didn’t repair my mind like it was supposed to. That was the cherry on top of my tired cake.
It’s so important to remember with mental illness, or even on a blue day, that there is something to get out of bed for. Simply making the goal to get out of bed is okay. For me, the bed became a place I would wallow in self-pity. It was a huge temptation for me to take a nap, but I knew that I would want to stay there forever. It was a cursed refuge for me. I was in a vicious cycle of “Yes I want to sleep, but right now I can’t.” I had to sleep responsibly, enough to heal, but not too much. Otherwise, I wasn’t moving forward.
For my mind, it was so important to get up, go through my routine, and get out once a day. No matter how small it was, I could check of the list: “I did something more than just be in bed all day.” For me, getting out of bed was the beginning of becoming happy. My bed makes me very happy all night, and it’s empowering to know that I can leave it in the morning.
Here are some websites that provide more information of what sleep apnea is in a more science-y way. You could have it, or your neighbor, or your mother! It could happen to anybody!
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with…www.webmd.com
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