Counting Sheep—The Personal Side

Are you a parent? Ever had the flu? Ever been jet-lagged? Ever drank too much caffeine too late in the day? I am sure at some time in your life you have had trouble falling or staying asleep. If you haven’t, just wait longer. Trouble sleeping affects everyone at some point in their lives—even if someone else is the cause (think children…or even an ill/aging parent).

If you have ever had trouble sleeping, you understand how debilitating it is. Lack of sleep affects our appetites, our moods… even our ability to fight off sickness. Our mental health is directly affected by our ability to get a good night’s rest.

I am a parent and have thus experienced my fair share of sleep deprivation. I have stayed up half the night with a sick baby only to work a 10 hour day the following morning. At times, I have lost sleep for days, weeks—even months in a row. I do not say this for pity as I am sure many of you have done the same and more. I say this only to share that I realize how torturous it can feel to go without sleep for days on end. Walking around like a zombie all day is no way to live. I liken my seasons of sleep deprivation to living in a fog and “shuffling my way through the day” without fully experiencing anything.

If you are living this way, there is help. First, recognize that your lack of sleep may just come with the season of life you are living (having a new baby). Second, see a doctor to rule out any medical issue that may be robbing you of sleep. Third, develop good sleep hygiene. Fourth, see a therapist. You may also choose to develop good sleep hygiene AND see a therapist simultaneously–this is a fool proof way to ensure that you have done everything possible to commence healthful sleeping patterns and enhance your mood.

Sleep hygiene means developing good habits that can help you sleep better. Here are some examples of good sleep hygiene:

1. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water.
2. Limit alcohol and caffeine—especially late in the day.
3. Sleep in a cool AND dark room.
4. Use a noise maker (white noise) if noises interrupt your sleep.
5. Go to sleep at a healthy hour.
6. Limit screen use 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
7. Try to engage in a calming activity before bedtime such as listening to calming music, reading a book or taking a warm bath.
8. Use your bed to sleep not “to work.” Meaning, don’t use your laptop or phone in bed to work. Your bed should be a place of relaxation.

These are just some examples of ways to develop good sleep hygiene. Speaking with a seasoned psychotherapist who can support you as you identify and process your feelings is another way to reduce stress and learn positive coping skills which will over time engender more restful sleep patterns.

If you are having trouble sleeping, a mental health counselor can help you. A licensed therapist can provide the support you need to explore your current life stressors and routines and how these may be impacting your ability to rest. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced therapists.


Yolanda Brailey