PCHC Positive Coping with Health Conditions

Health conditions can have a number of negative impacts on sleep. Sleep can be disrupted by physical symptoms and pain. Worrying about your condition can cause difficulty falling asleep or can wake you up in the middle of the night. Depressed mood can make it more difficult to fall asleep or get enough sleep. Depression can also make your sleep less restorative, so you wake up feeling fatigue. Excessive anger can make it difficult to relax enough for proper sleep.

Sleep disruptions can have a negative impact on your health condition. Fatigue due to inadequate sleep can worsen symptoms. When you are feeling exhausted, it can be more difficult to motivate yourself to do self-care. Improved sleep can help our bodies recover from physical health conditions. So, learning to manage your sleep well is an important part of coping with your health condition.

Solving Problems

Identifying the contributors to poor sleep – that is, describing the problem in detail – helps solutions begin to emerge. Here are some problem-solving actions that have been effective for many people with sleep problems.

Set a Regular Sleep/Wake Schedule

Having regular hours for getting up and going to bed can help set your “internal clock.” Most people are unaware of the importance of having a fixed wake-up time, to “jump-start” their internal clock. It is more important to establish a fixed wake-up time than bedtime: we can control what time we wake up, but we can’t make ourselves fall asleep! If you’re having problems falling asleep, don’t go to bed too early – you shouldn’t get into bed until you’re sleepy. Also, it’s a good idea to eliminate daytime naps. Short daytime naps – although of benefit for individuals who don’t have sleeping problems – can make sleep problems worse. Napping during the day decreases the restorative value – or quality – of your sleep at night. Your goal is to increase the quality of sleep you receive at night, and one main way to do this is to condense all sleep to nighttime hours.

Reduce Sleep-Interfering Activities

There are some common activities that disrupt sleep. Things to reduce are:

Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. It’s particularly important to avoid these in the few hours before sleep, or if you wake during the night.

Exercise before sleep. Regular exercise can help your body get ready for sleep at night. However, strenuous exercise in the few hours before sleep may have the opposite effect.

Watching TV or reading in bed. If you read, keep the lights dim.

Make Your Bedroom Sleep-Inducing

It can be helpful to create a pleasant environment for sleep. Use blinds or heavy curtains to create a dark room. Turn off phone ringers.

Make “Going to Bed” a Soothing Experience

Do not get into bed unless you are sleepy. If you are having trouble sleeping – or wake up and cannot go back to sleep – stay out of bed until you feel sleepy.

Create a pre-sleep routine that you follow each night, which helps you get ready for bed. A routine signals to your brain and body that it’s time to quiet down. This may include some form of meditation or relaxation, a warm bath or herbal teas. Get yourself ready for the next day, dim the lights and then mentally “put away” any ongoing problems or upcoming tasks.

Practicing Relaxation may help soothe you when going to bed. Try listening to the Relaxation CD that comes with this workbook.

Get Out of Bed if You Can’t Sleep.

Remember: do not do anything stimulating while awake. Do not eat, drink alcohol, or use tobacco. Try not to watch TV.

Managing Worry

If you find that worry makes it hard to fall asleep or wakes you up during the night, you might find it useful to apply the Managing Worry skill in this workbook. The last page in that section talks about protecting your sleep from excessive worry.