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Worried (Tired and Depressed) in Wyandotte

  • Posted on May 15, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Dear Christine,

I’m feeling what I usually call depressed or hopeless.  I feel tired and sleepy from work and it’s a physical job.  I was hungry and I just ate.  How do I differentiate between depression, hunger and tiredness? 

Signed, Worried (Tired and Depressed) in Wyandotte

Dear Worried,

Most of my clients would not need my services if they were able to achieve all the basics of self-care.  Getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals and exercising on a regular basis are these basics.  Today, I will focus on sleep.

Sleep:    The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep is essential (  Americans on average report sleeping 7.5 hours a night, sleeping 40 minutes longer on non-work days.  23% of women and 16% of men report not feeling rested after they awaken, and  35% report “only fair” or “poor” quality sleep.

If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night you are probably sleep deprived and that can feel like apathy, depression, irritability, lack of focus and being overly sensitive and reactive to stimuli.  You can rectify this problem by adding in naps.  It’s important to get anchor sleep of 4-6 hours at the same time of night (or day if you work night shift) every day.  Then, supplement with naps.

If you have a history of depression or bipolar disorder, you might be prone to oversleep, more than 9 hours per 24 hour period.  And if you are in hypomania  or full mania, you might not feel you need as much sleep as usual.  In fact, sleep changes can be an early warning sign that a bipolar episode is on the way.

*Try to regulate your sleep and your moods by getting up at the same time of day every day, no matter how well or poorly you slept.

*Reset your wake/sleep cycle by getting 30 minutes or more of full spectrum (sun) light early in the day.  Blue light in light boxes will also help.    People who travel across several times zones can utilize this to reset their body clock on whatever time zone they need to adjust to, also.
*Don’t use substances:  Caffeine is a stimulant and can linger in your body for 10 hours!  Don’t smoke for at least 2 hours before bed, as that is also a stimulant, even if you experience it calming you down.  Avoid alcohol.  Though it may make you sleepy initially, it also may cause wakefulness later in the night.

*Keep your weight down.  Being overweight causes some disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.  Eat a healthy diet and exercise.

*Talk to your doctor about melatonin.  This hormone regulates your body’s readiness for sleep.  It is an over-the-counter medication that doesn’t interfere with bipolar disorder.

*Limit light before bed.  Stay away from bright lights for 2 hours before trying to sleep.  If you use a phone or laptop, make sure to install a blue light filter, as the blue light will reset your body clock to make you more awake.  In fact, some 10000 Lux lightboxes that are used for a couple of hours in the morning to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder in the norther latitudes from November through April, are either full spectrum light (like the sun) or may be blue light, as that color targets the wake/sleep cycle mechanism in the brain.

*If you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, get out of bed and do something soothing in low light.  When you are tired, go back to bed, but get up at the same time every day, anyway.

*Power napping can help you combat daytime sleepiness.  Keep these naps to 30 minutes or less and use an alarm.

If you snore, particularly if it’s loud, or if you have excessive sleepiness during the day, or you have physical pain that interrupts your sleep, talk to your doctor about seeing a sleep specialist.  If you have sudden changes in your sleep, tell your doctor immediately, as these could be signs of health problems developing, or depression or manic phases starting up.

Next week, I’ll address the importance of eating a healthy diet.

Christine Cantrell, PhD.