I had another breakdown earlier this year, and the thing that should have alerted me earlier that my mental health wasn’t 100% was the fact I was having difficulty sleeping.
Having Bipolar Type II meant I had plenty of experience of not sleeping because of depression and the negative thoughts throughout the night. This time, however, my lack of sleep was due to an unnoticed period of mania.
I’d wake up in the night with 100’s of thoughts vying for my attention and then I’d be unable to get back to sleep. This led to my mind going off in lots of tangents and suddenly my alarm was going off. But, I was feeling well-rested, so I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs until it was too late.
The first thing I had to do was to try and encourage the return of a sleeping pattern. I visited my supportive GP and was given a 10-day course of sleep medication. My GP was adamant that the medication stopped after 10 days to avoid any risk of addiction. Taking sleeping pills carries with it a certain stigma but, when taken correctly, they can be a major help in combatting insomnia. I have never been ashamed to admit I must take all sorts of medication to allow me to live my life.
After the 10 days, my sleep was a little better but I was worried it would once again become disrupted. So, I investigated other options and I was in luck; the BBC were due to air a documentary called The Truth About Sleep. It was a fascinating watch which included Dr Michael Mosley discussing what happens if you didn’t get enough sleep and he also looked at some unorthodox sleeping aids. I decided to try two of them:
- Eating 2 kiwi fruits an hour before bed; and
- Having a dose of prebiotics daily.
Kiwi fruits are high in serotonin and their antioxidants are said to promote a good kip. Alongside this, I am now an expert in how to eat the fiddly fruit.
Prebiotics encourage activity in our good bacteria and it comes as a tasteless powder, so was a simple addition to my daily routine. I put the prebiotic powder in my evening cup of decaffeinated coffee. Whilst on the topic of drinks, I stopped drinking caffeine after 12 noon as its effects can last 4 – 6 hours.
"I don’t often wake up in the night, and when I do I am able to get back to sleep quickly. This in turn has had a positive effect on my mental health."
I also put into place some practical things I had read about. My phone was banished from the bedroom, I stuck to a set bedtime (even at the weekends), and I started using a white noise app (on my wife’s phone as I didn’t have one to hand).
Did all these things work? They seem to have had a real effect on my sleeping pattern. Of course, I don’t know if I succumb to the placebo effect, but I don’t care. I don’t often wake up in the night, and when I do I am able to get back to sleep quickly. This in turn has had a positive effect on my mental health.
I know these techniques may not work for everyone, but by my being open to trying some unorthodox solutions I regained a regular sleep pattern.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @gordondon
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