Sleep And Mental Illness: Stop Staring at the Clock!

February 16, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Easier said than done! I recognize a pattern in my posts: I seem to be telling you what you probably already know. I write that recovering from mental illness is exhausting and that taking psychiatric medication leaves something to be desired. But these topics are important and they need to be discussed.

So, let's talk about sleep.

My Experience with Mental Illness and Sleep

Sure, designate me a narcissist for explaining why I am writing about my experience, but I'm writing it anyway because my experience the last week has influenced the content, the importance, of this topic.

A picture: It's 11 p.m. I have a routine and routine is very important for those of us lucky chaps with mental illness. It can be the very thing that ensures we stay well or a sign things are about to get a little shaky.

Or it can just be insomnia.

I read before bed: I put my I-pad away, kick the pet's out to the living room because my dog, unfortunately, snores and my damn cat has allergies and sneezes. Yes, a cat can have allergies. I read until the book falls flat on my face and smashes my glasses into my nose. I turn the lamp off or I forget. I fall asleep in the average seven-to-twenty-minutes. I wake up early. I write blogs like this one. It is terribly average and terribly important in my recovery.

The past few days: It is 12 a.m., 1 a.m., 2 a.m, and...yes 3, 4, 5...nearly six a.m.! I start to panic at 12 a.m. I keep reading. When the clock hits 2 a.m. I start thinking I am going crazy.

I picture my life falling apart; my life defined by the clock in my room, the clock in my kitchen. My internal clock that is aware of the time even when I refuse to look at the others.

The next night, the same thing. I panic. When you have a mental illness, this reaction is probably normal. We cling to our stability like a goddamn life raft, and we should. Sleep is a huge indicator of our mental health--but stressing out to the point of panic is just as awful. So, what can we do when we can't sleep?

Conventional Ideas for Handling Sleep Problems

Here is what I am not going to exhaust in detail:

-Drinking warm milk

-Having a hot bath

-Drinking mass amounts of chamomile tea

-Jogging in one spot

-Calling random people from your cell phone and complaining you can't sleep

-No drinking alcohol

The latter is obvious. Alcohol messes around with our medication. The milk and tea, well, my mother keeps telling me they work but she's asleep by 9:30 and how lovely for her! Go ahead and try these, they might work, just skip the jogging and alcohol.

Unconventional Ideas for Getting to Sleep

Get up from bed and do something; clean the kitchen, dust some surfaces, just take a break from thinking about sleeping.

-Avoid watching TV, playing around online, listening to upbeat music. These things stimulate our mind and when we need to sleep we need it to slow down a bit. Maybe a lot.

-Read and read and read. Try reading something that isn't particularly interesting.

I subscribe to about twenty-five literary and poetry magazines (I feel it is my duty as a writer, just like tasting the food you make if you are a chef). Sometimes, they are so boring I fall asleep with prose about nature or angst beside my head.

-Pick up paper and a pen. Write until your hand hurts. Or sketch.

Remind yourself that a few nights of insomnia is normal. Remember that if a few long nights becomes a few more, check in with your psychiatrist. Last night, I put my head to the pillow, cursed the rain outside, and fell asleep. Blissfully, on time!

Next week, I want to discuss the flip-side: Sleeping too much.

Sometimes, the best advice...Stop Staring at the Clock!

You can read more about sleep disorders and mental health here.

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APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, February 16). Sleep And Mental Illness: Stop Staring at the Clock!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Terry Green
February, 17 2012 at 8:32 am

Thank you for your post, i found it very interestin. I am a trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, from Liverpool, England. I am writing a report about Sleep Hygiene and what you say has me thinking.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 18 2012 at 7:23 am

Hi, Terry:
I am glad you found it useful!
Thank you for the positive feedback

Angela E. Gambrel
February, 16 2012 at 5:01 pm

I have chronic anxiety and have found these things work for me: taking a warm shower before bed, keeping the room very dark, and most importantly, covering my clock so I can't see the time when I do wake up (it works; I usually just fall back to sleep because I am not worrying about the time.)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 18 2012 at 7:24 am

Hi, Angela:
I agree on all of those. It's so important when we can give each other ideas.

Carol Johnson
February, 16 2012 at 6:26 am

I enjoy your posts and learn from them. I do think it is a shame that you can not or will not refrain from taking the Lord's name in vain. It ruins the whold article after I see that..... Am I the only one that feels this way? I don't think so. You write so well, I just don't understand why you have to use that kind of language. I wish you well and don't mean to cause any hard feelings to you. This is just the way I feel.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 16 2012 at 6:29 am

I agree. You will no longer read this language in my blog, though I do not, in any way, intend it in a negative way---nevertheless, I need to respect my readers! You will not see it anymore.

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