I am glad you reached out for support at this time. I am sorry you are struggling at this moment. I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles. If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process. I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even though you may feel like you are alone at this time. During the therapy process, you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having. If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through your struggles and be able to ask for support from others.
After reading your questions about struggling with sleep I wanted to send you reading and skills on insomnia and how it may impact you, and how you can overcome that with some tools. Insomnia—difficulty in falling or staying asleep—affects as many as 1 in 3 people, and almost anyone could do with better, more restorative sleep. Insomnia usually becomes a problem if it occurs on most nights and causes distress or daytime effects such as fatigue, poor concentration, and irritability.The relationship between insomnia and depression is far from simple, as insomnia can both cause and be caused by depression. Insomnia not only predisposes to depression but also exacerbates existing depressive symptoms, making it harder to pull through. Insomnia also predisposes to other mental disorders such as anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders; to physical problems such as infections, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes; and motoring and other accidents.Aside from depression, common causes or contributors to insomnia include poor sleeping habits, other mental disorders such as anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders, physical problems such as pain or shortness of breath, certain prescription medications, and alcohol and drug misuse. The most important causes of short-term insomnia (the commonest type of insomnia) are a stressful life event, a poor sleeping environment, and an irregular routine.If you are suffering from insomnia, there are a number of simple measures that you can take to resolve or at least reduce the problem:1. Set up a strict routine involving regular and adequate sleeping times (most adults need about seven or eight hours sleep every night). Allocate a time for sleeping, for example, 11pm to 7am, and don’t use this time for anything else. Avoid daytime naps, or make them short and regular. If you have a bad night, avoid sleeping late, as this makes it more difficult to fall asleep the following night.2. Devise a relaxing bedtime routine that enables you to wind down before bedtime. This may involve breathing exercises or meditation or simply reading a book, listening to music, or watching TV.3. Enjoy a hot, non-caffeinated drink such as herbal tea or hot chocolate. In time, your hot drink could become a sleeping cue.4. Sleep in a familiar, dark, and quiet room that is adequately ventilated and neither too hot nor too cold. Try to use this room for sleeping only, so that you come to associate it with sleep. In time, your room could become another sleeping cue.5. If sleep doesn’t come, don’t become anxious or annoyed and try to force yourself to sleep. The more aggravated you become, the less likely you are to fall asleep. Instead, try to clear your mind and relax. For example, I find that making myself feel grateful for something soon sends me off to sleep. Alternatively, get up and do something relaxing and enjoyable for about half an hour before giving it another go.6. Exercise regularly. This will also help you with your low mood. However, don’t work out too close to bedtime as the short-term alerting effects of exercise may make it harder to fall asleep.7. Reduce your overall stress. At the same time, try to do something productive or enjoyable each day. As da Vinci said, a well-spent day brings happy sleep (and a well-spent life brings happy death).8. Eat a wholesome evening meal with a good balance of protein and complex carbohydrates. Eating too much can make it difficult to fall asleep; eating too little can disturb your sleep and decrease its quality.9. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, particularly in the evening. Alcohol may make you fall asleep more readily, but it decreases the overall length and quality of your sleep.10. If insomnia persists despite these measures, speak to your doctor. In some cases, insomnia has a very specific cause such as a physical problem or an adverse effect of your medication that requires your doctor’s attention. Lack of sleep can have major consequences on your mood and productivity at work, and even life-threatening dangerous implications for commuters or individuals operating vehicles or heavy machinery. Lack of sleep has also been linked to the emergence and worsening of many chronic health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.How can you get better sleep to perform better at work and in life? Here are the 10 steps you can take.1. Minimize DistractionsBan TVs and computers from the bedroom. TVs and computers emit blue light that tricks the body into believing it’s daytime, making falling asleep more difficult. They are also distracting and might keep you awake even when you’re feeling tired.2. Avoid CaffeineSteer clear of caffeine in beverages and food for six to eight hours before bedtime.3. Minimize Alcohol ConsumptionDrinking may help you feel drowsy, but it has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and create a lower quality, less restorative night’s rest. Don’t have alcohol close to bedtime— it can wake you up three to four hours later. (A drink with dinner is OK.)4. Develop a RoutinePick a bedtime and awake time and stick with them from night tonight. Signal to your body that it’s time for bed taking a shower or bath, playing soft music, doing a light reading, or eating a small snack.5. Establish a Bedtime“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may sound inspiring, but sleep should be a top priority. Designate seven to eight hours in your daily schedule for sleep.6. Create a Safe SpaceOptimize your bedroom for a good night’s sleep by keeping your bedroom comfortable, dark, and quiet. Clean bedding, cool temperatures, and serene quiet can make a big difference in helping you fall asleep.7. Use Your Bed Exclusively for SleepJust because you are in bed doesn’t mean that you’re asleep. Many people use their beds as a comfortable place for lounging, browsing the internet on their laptops, and scrolling through social media on their phones. Reserve your bedroom exclusively for sleeping and sex. This will help you associate your bed with sleep.8. Power Down the ElectronicsTwenty to 30 minutes before bedtime dim your lights and switch off electronics. Like TVs and computers, cell phones and tablets emit blue light, tricking your body into believing it’s daytime.9. Practice Relaxation TechniquesTry relaxation exercises at bedtime if you need to unwind before hitting the hay. Some activities that can help you fall asleep include yoga, deep breathing, or guided meditation.10. Avoid Lying in Bed AwakeFew things feel worse than lying in bed for hours trying to sleep. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed, leave the bedroom and try some of your calming before-bed activities again. Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night's sleep — from work stress and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as illnesses. It's no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.While you might not be able to control the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple tips.1. Stick to a sleep scheduleSet aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don't need more than eight hours in bed to achieve this goal.Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle.If you don't fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you're tired. Repeat as needed.2. Pay attention to what you eat and drinkDon't go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.3. Create a restful environmentCreate a room that's ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark, and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan, or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.4. Limit daytime napsLong daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.If you work nights, however, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.5. Include physical activity in your daily routineRegular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however.Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.6. Manage worriesTry to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities, and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety. How can I get a better night’s sleep?Sleeping well directly affects your mental and physical health. Fall short and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight. Yet many of us regularly toss and turn at night, struggling to get the sleep we need. Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize. Just as the way you feel during your waking hours often hinges on how well you sleep at night, so the cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine.Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you tossing and turning at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight. But by experimenting with the following tips, you can enjoy better sleep at night, boost your health, and improve how you think and feel during the day.Tip 1: Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycleGetting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better. If you keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, you’ll feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bedtime when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn. If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime.Avoid sleeping in—even on weekends. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the worse the jetlag-like symptoms you’ll experience. If you need to make up for a late-night, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping in. This allows you to pay off your sleep debt without disturbing your natural sleep-wake rhythm.Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.Tip 2: Control your exposure to lightMelatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.How to influence your exposure to lightDuring the day:Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Have your coffee outside, for example, or eat breakfast by a sunny window. The light on your face will help you wake upSpend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move your desk closer to the window.If necessary, use a light therapy box. This simulates sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days.At night:Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software such as f.lux.Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audiobooks instead.Don’t read with backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also, consider covering up electronics that emit light.Keep the lights down if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom or using a small flashlight. This will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.Tip 3: Exercise during the dayPeople who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.· The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality.· It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.For better sleep, time your exercise rightExercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but too close to the bed and can interfere with sleep.Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier. Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.Tip 4: Be smart about what you eat and drinkYour daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.Limit caffeine and nicotine. You might be surprised to know that caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it! Similarly, smoking is another stimulant that can disrupt your sleep, especially if you smoke close to bedtime.Avoid big meals at night. Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.Avoid alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out.Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening. Drinking lots of fluids may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.Nighttime snacks help you sleepFor some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. For others, eating before bed leads to indigestion and makes sleeping more difficult. If you need a bedtime snack, try:· Half a turkey sandwich· A small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal· Milk or yogurt· A bananaTip 5: Wind down and clear your headDo you often find yourself unable to get to sleep or regularly waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. Taking steps to manage your overall stress levels and learning how to curb the worry habit can make it easier to unwind at night. You can also try developing a relaxing bedtime ritual to help you prepare your mind for sleep, such as practicing a relaxation technique, taking a warm bath, or dimming the lights, and listening to soft music or an audiobook.Problems clearing your head at night can also stem from your daytime habits. The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be to slow down and unwind at night. Maybe, like many of us, you’re constantly interrupting tasks during the day to check your phone, email, or social media. Then when it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain is so accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation, it becomes difficult to unwind. Help yourself by setting aside specific times during the day for checking your phone and social media and, as much as possible, try to focus on one task at a time. You’ll be better able to calm your mind at bedtime.A deep breathing exercise to help you sleepBreathing from your belly rather than your chest can activate the relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels to help you drift off to sleep.· Lay down in bed and close your eyes.· Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.· Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.· Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.· Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.To follow along with a guided deep breathing exercise, click here.A body scan exercise to help you sleepBy focusing your attention on different parts of your body, you can identify where you’re holding any stress or tension, and release it.· Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, eyes closed. Focus on your breathing for about two minutes until you start to feel relaxed.· Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Notice any tension while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for at least three to five seconds.· Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. Then move your focus to your right ankle and repeat. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg. From there, move up your torso, through your lower back and abdomen, your upper back and chest, and your shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that feels tense.· After completing the body scan, relax, noting how your body feels. You should feel so relaxed you can easily fall asleep.For a guided body scan meditation to help you wind down and clear your head at bedtime, click here.Tip 6: Improve your sleep environmentA peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.Keep your room dark, cool, and quietKeep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Earplugs may also help.Keep your room cool. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide more or less support.Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. By not working, watching TV, or using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex, which makes it easier to wind down at night.Tip 7: Learn ways to get back to sleepIt’s normal to wake briefly during the night but if you’re having trouble falling back asleep, these tips may help:Stay out of your head. Hard as it may be, try not to stress over your inability to fall asleep again, because that stress only encourages your body to stay awake. To stay out of your head, focus on the feelings in your body or practice breathing exercises. Take a breath in, then breathe out slowly while saying or thinking the word, “Ahhh.” Take another breath and repeat.Make relaxation your goal, not sleep. If you find it hard to fall back asleep, try a relaxation technique such as visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation, which can be done without even getting out of bed. Even though it’s not a replacement for sleep, relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body.Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity. If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity, such as reading a book. Keep the lights dim and avoid screens so as not to cue your body that it’s time to wake up.Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve. Similarly, if a great idea is keeping you awake, make a note of it on paper and fall back to sleep knowing you’ll be much more productive after a good night’s rest.
I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space. I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.