Sleep and Brain Health Part V

By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Salesian Cooperator

This is the last discussion from the excellent article authored by Raymond J. Kotwicki, MD, MPH, Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer, hope you have come to a better understanding the importance of sleep and benefited from his tips on getting a good night sleep.

Mindfulness Meditation and Sleep

Mindfulness meditation can be a useful component of a good sleep routine. It can be especially helpful for people with anxiety. The past and the future can be unpleasant bedfellows. If worrying about tomorrow or ruminating over yesterday is keeping you awake, mindfulness meditation can help you focus on the present moment to feel calm and restful.

Techniques like focusing on your breathing or gently flexing and relaxing your muscles can bring your mind’s attention to the present and help you relax. A guided meditation app may be helpful, as long as it is audio only and the screen remains dark.

Teens and Sleep

Developmentally, teens and adolescents need more sleep that younger children or adults. Researchers generally agree that teens should get 9 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night. This helps support brain health during a time when significant cognitive development is taking place.

To Limit Sleep

For you are an adult diagnosed with depression and your mental health professional has recommended you limit sleep to eight hours a night, try setting five alarm clocks, and set them at increasing distances from your bed. By the time to get to the fifth alarm clock you hopefully are out of bed and the chances of going back to sleep are lower. Do something stimulating immediately when you wake up like taking a shower or exercising.

When to Seek Help

If someone is experiencing a physiologic illness related to sleep deprivation, for example high blood pressure or diabetes, and they feel tired during the day to the point that they need a nap, they should see a doctor about their concerns. The doctor may recommend a sleep study.

If someone with a mental health diagnosis, for example major depression or bipolar disorder, experiences sleep disturbance for two weeks or longer, they should consult their psychiatrist. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is an evidence-based therapy that may be helpful, especially for people with anxiety disorders.

For children or adolescents, especially those who are experiencing behavioral problems or a notable change in academic performance, sleep disturbance – especially not sleeping without feeling tired – can be an early warning sign of the emergence of a mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression. Parents should consider scheduling an evaluation with a mental health professional for their child or adolescent.

Residential Mental Health Treatment and Sleep Hygiene

Residential mental health treatment may be helpful for individuals with mental illness who are struggling with sleep-wake habits and other activities of daily living (ADLs). Residential psychiatric treatment provides a structured schedule with established times for waking, purposeful activities, exercise, eating, and sleeping.

Residential treatment also ensures that individuals have support and coaching from mental health professionals as they make behavioral changes to ensure healthy sleep. And weekly sessions with staff psychiatrists can help patients resolve any concerns about the effects of medications on sleep.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: assess your sleep pattern and see if there is something that you can shore up to improve your health.

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