The Importance of Sleep!

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By Anita Manley

I have always needed a lot of sleep — more than my peers, it always seemed. When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness back in 1997 (at the age of 32), and was prescribed medication to take every day for the rest of my life, I asked my psychiatrist if I could drink alcohol while taking this medication. He said I could, as long as the alcohol did not interfere with my sleep. Then I asked, how much sleep should I get every night. His response was simply, “Enough sleep”. What does that mean? He said, “whatever is enough for you.”

Since that time, I have learned that enough sleep for me changes throughout the month. But I, for sure, need 9 hours minimum a night, and occasionally, more like 10 -13 hours. I know that the medication I take makes me sleep longer hours, but it is necessary to keep me well. When I do not take my medication, I can get by with 8 hours a night regularly, but then I am mentally unwell. Without medication, I experience frequent and persistent delusions.

Last week, I did not get what my psychiatrist would call enough sleep. I had a fun weekend listening to live music, however, I was out Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, getting only between 6.5 – 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Then on Tuesday night, I only slept 4.5 hours. I had commitments later in the week, so I couldn’t even sleep in to make up for the lost hours. I found that I responded to events throughout the week much more emotionally than I would have if I had enough sleep. My emotional reactions were exaggerated. After one incident last week, my husband, whom I have been with for over 4 years, said he had never seen me so angry before. Also, I was doing more emotional eating than usual, and had no energy to do regular tasks like preparing healthy meals or cleaning up dishes. Nor was I going to the gym. Everything was done quickly, and for convenience — whatever didn’t take too much time. Then on Thursday, I felt the need to leave my volunteer job early, as I had become completely unraveled, feeling unwell.

Finally on Friday night, I was able to catch up on lost sleep. I slept for 13 hours,and that was after a 5 hour nap in the afternoon. Then I slept some more on Saturday night. I am now back to my usual self, ready to continue my regular routine. But did I ever pay a hefty price for not taking better care of myself last week! Making sleep a priority for me is a big part of my self-care. I think the last time I had felt that much sleep deprivation was when I had been living in my car during the winter, back in 2009. Let’s hope I have learned that lesson now, and plan my social activities accordingly. Sometimes it is difficult since my husband is a night owl; so I always have to remind myself that I cannot keep up with his late hours. A learning opportunity, for sure.

How much sleep is enough for you? Only you can evaluate the number of hours. Are you getting it?

Getting enough sleep is paramount to my self-care routine.

The Importance of Self-Care

Written by Anita Manley

I wouldn’t be where I am today – living a life in recovery from a severe and persistent mental illness – if I did not choose to take action for my own good, every day.

Self-care is meant to restore your energy and to make you the best version of yourself. It is so important to take at least half an hour every single day to do something good for yourself – to add fuel to your fire.

There are many forms of self-care and it is imperative that you opt for something that you love doing.

Here are Forty Favorites of mine to help inspire you to refuel daily:

  1. Say no and be OK with it. Setting clear boundaries is healthy and essential.
  2. Unplug! Technology has us frazzled – unplug for an hour daily – especially before bedtime.
  3. Enjoy a cup of tea.
  4. Read a book, or peruse a used book store or library.
  5. Go to the movies/a play/a musical.
  6. Knit or do other crafts (scrap-booking/ crochet/ sewing etc.)
  7. Journal. Get your thoughts down on paper to free your mind.
  8. Garden. I live in an apartment, but I have a lovely balcony garden which includes fresh herbs and tomatoes.
  9. Give yourself a manicure/pedicure.
  10. Take a beautiful photograph.
  11. Exercise. In addition to walking 10,000 steps per day, my doctor says 30 mins x 5 times per week. Get heart rate up to 120. I’m trying!
  12. Go for a nature walk/ bird watch/ feed the birds.
  13. Take a refreshing bath/ shower.
  14. Prepare and eat a healthy meal while listening to relaxing music.
  15. Play an instrument.
  16. Sing!
  17. Dance!
  18. Write a letter to an elderly relative… or anyone.
  19. Go to the hairdresser.
  20. Go shopping.
  21. Do a crossword/ Sudoku/ puzzle.
  22. Have a nap.
  23. Chat with a friend.
  24. Reassess you friendships. Purge toxic relationships.
  25. Do a good deed every day! It makes you feel good too.
  26. Spend time with your pet or pet a cat/ dog while out on a walk.
  27. Practice daily meditation.
  28. Listen to your favorite music.
  29. Donate things you no longer need/ use.
  30. Declutter/ tidy up.
  31. Hydrate – drink lots of water.
  32. Write daily gratitudes.
  33. Practice positive self-talk.
  34. Laugh with gusto and often!
  35. Spend time with your children/ grandchildren/ nieces/ nephews and get to know them well.
  36. Take a ride on a bus and get off and explore new areas of town.
  37. Go to a museum or art gallery.
  38. Go for a bike ride and pack a picnic.
  39. Kayak, canoe, swim, go to the beach.
  40. Cuddle on the couch with your loved one(s).

There are so many other nourishing things you can do – this is just a start to help you feel inspired to make daily self-care a priority in your life every single day.

Give it a try! Start making self-care a priority! You’ll be glad you did.