We’re not really sure why we sleep, but we are sure that’s it’s really important. When we doze off our bodies enter an anabolic state and busy themselves repairing and rebuilding all the necessary bits and pieces. Adults should aim to get 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night, but this isn’t always that easy if you’re feeling down. Depression can cause insomnia (too little sleep), or hypersomnia (too much sleep). Neither of these side-effects are particularly helpful if you’re trying your best to get into a regular sleep pattern. If you are having trouble sleeping then you should always speak to your doctor about this. In more severe cases they may prescribe you with a course of medication to get your sleep under control. If your doctor does recommend this course of action then you must follow it. Sleeping tablets can leave you feel a little groggy when you first wake up, but the side effects are temporary and a small price to pay in exchange for a night of deep, solid sleep.
Whatever state your sleep is in you can take some practical steps to ensure that it is not being adversely affected by your environment. Namely, that of your bedroom. In a depression we can get so caught up with in the agonising frustration of not being able to sleep/ sleeping too much that we begin to ignore the obvious. The bedroom is, after all, the place where we do most of our sleeping, so it makes sense to stop and evaluate how well it’s doing its job. Aside from the physiological distractions of the illness, a poorly set-up boudoir can also interfere with the duration and quality of our sleep. Here’s a simple, five-point checklist that you can use to evaluate your slumber pad:
- Are you comfortable in bed? Sounds simple, but an uncomfortable mattress can cause all kind of disturbances to your sleep. If the answer to this question is no then you need to take some immediate action. You could treat your self to a new mattress (expensive, but worth it if you have the cash). Memory Foam mattress are excellent and provide support for body parts you didn’t even know you had. A cheaper option is a mattress topper. These are nifty slices of mattress that you place over your existing arrangements. If you’re living in rented accommodation you should speak to your landlord and just ask for a new mattress, particularly if you’re paying London rent prices.
- Is you bedroom cluttered? It’s amazing how much a bit of mess can be on the back of your mind. If you’re feeling down then chances are, perfectly normally, that your housekeeping has taken a bit of backseat. Don’t beat yourself up about this, but do try to have a bit of a clear out when you feel able to. Even if the rest of your gaff remains a bit Men-Behaving-Badly, your bedroom can act as a bit of a sanctuary for you to escape to. There’s also a good chance that this positive feeling will help you relax a little in your attitudes and thoughts towards sleep.
- Is there too much light in your room? You need darkness to sleep. It’s a primordial requirement, so let’s not quibble with it. Cavemen needed it, and so do you. Unfortunately the average person doesn’t have access to a moonlit-only night-time. Today our darker hours are more like glowing, light polluted hazes. We make things worse by filling our bedrooms with various LED gizmos. Solution: cover the windows and remove the gizmos. This is pretty easy to do. Start with curtains and blinds on the main windows. If you’re still left with uncovered windows then you need to improvise (Practical Depression has an annoying door to a balcony complete with big window in its bedroom). All you need is some tape and something translucent (you could use coloured cellophane or, failing that, sheets of A4 paper). Tackle the tech a little more ruthlessly. If it’s emitting light when you are trying to sleep then it is probably distracting you. Unplug, cover, and turn off. You should also put your mobile phone of flight mode. If you’re not expecting any life or death Whatsapp’s then the messages can probably wait until tomorrow.
- Hot between the sheets? Good news if you are romping, bad news if you are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Try sleeping naked (PJs are a bit 1950’s as well as being quite warm), or taking a hot bath or shower before bed. The last suggestion might seem a bit counter-intuitive but it appears that it really does work! The hot water raises your temperature when you are bathing, but will allow your overall body temperature to regulate and drop way down once you are out. This is excellent and means you can combine the coolness of listening to Stevie Wonder in the bath with a cool night’s sleep.
- Good air quality? Hang on city dwellers, we know that the piercing freshness of an alpine atmosphere is something of an unreality for urban living, but despair not! Firstly, open your window. Even if you live on a main road a little air circulation will do you good. The pollution is a bit annoying, but a slight breeze will undoubtedly make you feel less claustrophobic and stuffy. Secondly, get some plants. Buying some greenery is a really cheap way to freshen up your bedroom, and indeed your whole place. Plants truly are unsung heros. They spend their days producing oxygen, look pretty, and smell nice. Grab some flowering pot-plants (and maybe a cactus if you are feeling adventurous) and add the strangely enlivening process of photosynthesis to your bedroom.