One of my main struggles when I battled severe depression was self-critical and condemning thoughts. A war would rage in between my ears, and I eventually started losing territory on every front. It took time to get severe, but when it did I was dealing with constant mental attacks on my manhood, social awkwardness, lovability, and especially the supposed bleakness of my future. It began as terrible waves that would come over me but that would eventually pass. I knew I was in trouble, though, when they started coming at night. Every night.

In the silence of my bedroom there was nothing to distract me from the thoughts rifling through my head. All I wanted to do was sleep, but my brain was sprinting and I couldn’t slow it down. An antagonized and restless sleep would leave me even more weak and prone to another pummeling the following evening. This is when I knew I was truly in danger and began battling suicidal thoughts. I couldn’t control my own mind. It was like I had been taken over.

I share that story to say that I realize how critical good sleep is. If someone is struggling with one of the other basics, I feel like they’re in long term danger if they don’t change course. However, when someone isn’t sleeping well I feel like the danger is much more immediate. It’s one of the first things I ask people that come to me for counseling. How’s your sleep?

Sleep can be elusive though. It’s so difficult to gain through a direct campaign. You can take medication to help, but that's not a good long term solution.  We all need to have a good night's sleep naturally.  These sleep tips can help, but they're generally not powerful enough in the midst of anxiety and depression.

Due to sleep’s elusiveness, the best way to try and capture it is through the other basics. Eating better and especially avoiding caffeine will help your body be ready for a good night’s rest. Lowering your stress will help you to physically relax, also helping your mind to slow down and stop running through your to-do list. Finally, Benjamin Franklin said “fatigue is the best pillow,” meaning that being actually physically exhausted is a great way to get some much-needed sleep. Exercise also releases pent-up stress, so it works on multiple levels. If lack of sleep is an issue for you, that's a great place to start.

 

Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch--there's not a chance.     Elizabeth Gilbert