Living with mental illness means a lot of things have to be in order for you to feel good. First and foremost, you have to meet with your doctor and you have to take meds; next you have to maintain your routine and keep on top of being a functioning member of society.
I talked about routine last time, and one the biggest parts of routine which can do the most good is sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Why is sleep important? Aside from being nature’s mood stabilizer, sleep helps you function at your best throughout your day. Getting too little of it can throw off your day and even your week and can make you drowsy, it can make you feel ill, and it can cause your behavior to be affected in bad ways.
I’ve been in the boat of getting too little sleep, and I know I don’t feel good at all the next day. Aside from that my whole next day is wasted because I’m too tired to do anything, and I don’t feel good. Suffice it to say that of all of the parts of my routine, I value sleep the most and I try to make sure it comes first in regards to maintaining my mental health. I have nights here and there where I can’t sleep and, aside from making me feel anxious and worried that I can’t sleep, I feel completely off the next day as if I’m nursing a hangover.
I can remember when I was first diagnosed: I could barely sleep four hours a night. I was so mixed up and delusional that at one point I walked for nearly four hours around an industrial neighborhood simply because I couldn’t sit still.
Sleep is essential. It cools off the complicated thoughts you have the day before, and it processes all your emotions into packages that can be neatly organized instead of the web of chaos that you all too often experience when you lay your head down on the pillow. I’ve had many days that were taxing mentally. You feel dense and buzzy as if there’s a short circuit in your head. It’s as if there’s something not functioning properly and you’ve completely blown your fuse.
On nights like those sleep is especially important and, while it may not come easy for everyone, there are habits you can follow that help. Everything from limiting electronics, to organizing your thoughts to deep breaths can make the process of falling asleep easier, and sometimes it’s okay to take medication if you have to. Feeling optimal is the goal, and sleep is your first step towards that. It can reduce anxiety, it can sort your delusions and paranoia out, it can stabilize your mood, and it can just plain feel good to sleep.
I could go into how strange it is that in order to function we have to shut down and restart our bodies for one third of our lives, but the fact remains that if you want to get better, if you want to become more stable with your mental illness, sleep is the first place to start. Whether that means making a schedule or keeping track of it or simply just allowing yourself to do it, it’s benefits far outweigh the urge to stay up just a little bit longer.