Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

As a result of the pandemic many students have experienced remote schooling and periods of time when they were quarantined to stay home. These changes resulted in a change in their schedules. Many teenagers were able to start school later and some were able to set their own daily schedules. As a result, many teenagers sleep patterns were changed. Many teens became use to sleeping in later, staying up later and taking naps during the day because they were bored. Most teenagers thought this was fantastic!

Now that teenagers are having to attend school again on a regular basis and many restrictions due to the pandemic are being relaxed, parents are having difficulties with their teenagers sleep schedules. They report their teenagers are having a tendency now to want to sleep in later and are sleeping more hours on average. Many parents are stating that their teenagers are taking naps on a regular basis. Parents are telling me that they are trying everything they can think of, but they are not being too successful at changing their teenagers sleeping schedules.

A very interesting fact is that teenagers are telling me the same thing during their sessions. Many teenagers are reporting since remote schooling started and most people were confined to their homes, they are sleeping more than they did before the pandemic. Many teenagers are also saying they don’t want to be sleeping as much as they are but they can’t seem to change their pattern of sleeping more since the pandemic.

This is an unique situation when parents and teenagers are agreeing on a problem behavior. Additionally, both acknowledge that they are trying to reduce the number of hours they are sleeping but nothing seems to be working. For many teenagers, not being able to return to their pre-pandemic sleep habits is very annoying. They are reporting having difficulties doing everything they need to do in their lives because they can’t change their current sleep schedule and they are sleeping too much.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Anxiety symptoms are being reported at epidemic rates by teenagers since the pandemic. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

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Good sleep is vital to teenagers mental health

Good sleep is vital to teenagers mental health

Parents are usually arguing with teenagers about how much sleep teenagers are getting and the quality of their sleep. Turns out that parents are right. Getting enough good quality sleep is vital to teenagers mental health.

Research has shown Sleep is necessary for good physical and mental health. This article outlines the benefits of getting enough good quality sleep. Teenagers may want to disagree bet the research is consistent on this fact.

Here is another study outlining the benefits of sleep. The Science of Sleep: 10 Surprising Health Benefits | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/202108/the-science-sleep-10-surprising-health-benefits.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

Helping Teenagers Get Enough Sleep

It’s getting close to the end of summer and for many teenagers will be returning to school soon. For most students they will be returning to their school sites. This means no more remote learning and students will need to be getting school on time in the mornings. In order to do so they need to get a good nights sleep. However, many parents have been reporting that with the remote schooling students were able to sleep in because school was starting later. As a result, many teenagers have developed poor sleep habits such as staying up later at night and taking naps during the day. Many parents are concerned how they are going to get their children and teenagers back to a health sleep pattern so they can function at school and get up on time for school.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Due to the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place, many kids have been using computers, IPads and smartphones to entertain themselves. Also many teenagers state this is how they can still communicate with friends by texting, FaceTime or Zoom. Since it’s summer many parents are allowing their teenagers to use electronics more because there is not much to do as a result of the coronavirus. Additionally, many families have had to cancel or drastically change vacation plans due to the pandemic. This all makes sense and is appropriate given the situation we are living in and the limited number of options children and teenagers have to enjoy the summer.

While most parents are fine with the increase use of electronics over the summer, they are worrying about what happens when school resumes. Many families are still waiting for final decisions to be made by school districts. However, it appears based on medical advice and the recent increase in the spread of the Coronavirus that most children are teenagers will not be returning to their schools and instead they will resume online schooling like they were doing at the end of school last year. Whether they are returning to the physical school structure or doing school online, they still need the appropriate amount of sleep. Many parents are concerned with relaxing some of the rules around electronics, how will their children respond to less electronic time when school resumes and if there are difficulties, how will it impact their children’s sleep if they are using electronics prior to bedtime.

Research studies have shown the electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating to children and teenagers brains. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.
Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.

Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.

How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep:
Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep and you may want to consult your pediatrician about the appropriate amount of screen time before bedtime. Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.

As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep. Additionally, when you bring your electronics into their bedrooms, you are sending a mixed message about not using electronics before beds. This may result in teenagers trying to use electronics in their bedrooms, when you think they are asleep. It is not uncommon for some teenagers to stay up until 2am texting or watching movies on their smartphones.

Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.

Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep. Therefore, try to develop a nightly routine for yourself where you stop using electronics before you go to bed. By modeling appropriate behavior regarding electronics before bed, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will follow your example and you also decrease the likelihood of arguments because you are not asking your children to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How Much Screen Time is Appropriate before Bed?

How Much Screen Time is Appropriate before Bed?

How much time a child or teenager spends on electronics is always a big debate between parents and their children. Many teenagers act like they cannot live without them. Also teenagers tend to argue there are no negative side effects to computer screens. Many parent feel differently and have research to back up their point of view. However, most teenagers dismiss their parents opinions and they feel their parents are overreacting.

One of the major concerns parents have is what do electronics do to a child’s sleep. Many parents feel if a child or teen uses electronics up until the time they go to bed, the child will have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. By the way, parents are correct based on all the research in this area. Parents also are concerned about teenagers watching YouTube or texting on their phones until 3 or 4am in the morning and then being to tired the next day for school or anything.

During the quarantine this probably has become a bigger issue in some households because kids don’t need to get up for school. I have written previous articles recommending that electronics be limited and definitely not before bedtime. I did some more research in this area and found the following information by Lori Lite maybe helpful in determining how much screen time is appropriate before bed. She runs a program and website regarding helping kids to relax and control anger.

First let’s start by looking at how electronics impact children and teenagers brains. Electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.

Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.

Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.

How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep

Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.

As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep).

Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.

Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teens Not Sleeping Due to Cell Phones

Teens Not Sleeping Due to Cell Phones

Here are good tips to cope with a common problem. Teens staying up all night on their cell phones. Here are some tips to get them to put the phone down and sleep. Are you setting a good example to your child when it comes to phones and bedtime? https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/children-are-losing-sleep-because-of-their-phones-heres-how-to-help_uk_5c508613e4b0d9f9be698e31?ncid=other_twitter_cooo9wqtham&utm_campaign=share_twitter

Why Teenager’s Need Sleep

Why Teenager’s Need Sleep

This week is dedicated to children’s mental health. A new study was just published again showing how important sleep is for children and teenagers. Here is the link to the study ChildrensMentalHealthWeek.org.uk/Research. Sleep is very important for children and teenagers. In fact, as you see research shows that sleep has a big impact on our mental health and physical health. Research continues to show that sleep deprivation can cause a person to suffer a psychotic break or if the depreciation is really severe it can even result in a person’s death. I received some very good information regarding sleep and mental health. It was provided by Jenny Thompson who is associated with http://www.bettermattressreviews.com. Given it is children’s mental health week, I think it is valuable information for everyone so I have provided it below.

Mental health and sleep are closely related. Sleep problems frequently accompany mental illness, and can even be the first warning sign of a disorder. In turn, lack of sleep worsens mental health symptoms, creating a vicious cycle.

Mental illness is common, with almost 20 percent of Americans suffering from at least one mental health disorder. While only 10 to 18 percent of the general population experience sleep issues, as many as 50 to 80 percent of people with mental illness have trouble sleeping.

Mental health disorders are the largest cause of insomnia. 40 percent of insomniacs and over 46.5 percent of hypersomnias have a comorbid mental health disorder. On the other hand, only 16.4 percent of people have a mental health disorder without any kind of sleep issues.

Sleep problems are closely correlated with ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Below we’ll review how sleep affects several mental health disorders, and provide tips for getting better sleep.

Schizophrenia and sleep

Schizophrenia affects 1 percent of people, or 3 million Americans. Onset often occurs in late adolescence or the early 20s. Individuals with schizophrenia suffer from psychoses such as delusions and hallucinations, and experience difficulty focusing their thoughts and expressing themselves.

Up to 80 percent of people with schizophrenia have sleep problems, including:

Irregular sleeping hours. They may fall asleep anytime during the day or night rather than during the typical overnight sleep period of most people. They may have consistently delayed melatonin release that shifts their sleep pattern later than normal, slowly shift their circadian rhythm later and later each day, or follow no consistent sleep-wake patterns at all.

Irregular sleep quantity. They may get too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia) sleep, as a result of medication side effects, fear or anxiety due to hallucinations (which may cause them to sleep more to escape, or conversely to be afraid of nightmares), or the irregular sleep hours cited above.

Sleep apnea. Individuals with sleep apnea literally stop breathing during the night, due to blocked airways or a miscommunication between the brain and the breathing muscles.

Less refreshing sleep overall. Due to the issues described above, people with schizophrenia experience less refreshing sleep overall because they have trouble getting sufficient amounts of REM sleep.

For many people with schizophrenia, an onset of sleep problems can be a warning sign that psychosis is starting or returning.

A 2012 study of mice found that abnormalities in the SNAP-25 gene are linked to schizophrenia as well as disrupted sleep-wake cycle, suggesting that resolving sleep issues may less or resolve schizophrenia symptoms.

Anxiety disorders and sleep

Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobias, and PTSD are all associated with having anxious thoughts while trying to fall asleep at night and related insomnia.

Source: The National Academies Press

Panic episodes may waken an individual with panic disorder from sleep, thus disrupting their overall sleep quality. Likewise, individuals with PTSD are prone to vivid re-experiencing traumatic nightmares which heighten their bedtime anxiety and also cause interrupted sleep.

Individuals with mood and anxiety disorders may be prescribed various medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers which can further interfere with sleep.

Insomnia not only accompanies anxiety; it can cause it. When individuals experience chronic sleep deprivation, it disrupts their serotonin and gamma-Aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter levels, which can result in anxiety. One study found that having insomnia increased one’s risk to have yet another mood or anxiety disorder one year later.

Depression and sleep

Insomnia is one of the biggest risk factors for depression. Lack of sleep worsens mood, and the effect is even worse for individuals with a mood disorder. Depressed people with sleep issues have a higher risk of suicide than depressed individuals without sleep problems.

Treatment is also complicated. While antidepressants boost mood and alertness to help treat depression, that same alertness makes the insomnia persist – and not addressing the insomnia can make individuals less responsive to treatment. But certain prescription drugs for insomnia, like Rozerem, may worsen depression. The key is to find a treatment plan that helps both issues, but not at the expense of either.

Depression and sleep issues are bidirectional. That means the problems of one can worsen the other. The good news is, that also means the improvement of one often fixes the other. For example, 35 million Americans suffer from mild depression (dysthymia). For many, their comorbid insomnia goes away once they begin taking antidepressants.

Bipolar disorder and sleep

Bipolar disorder affects 3 percent of Americans, or 6 million adults. In addition to severe changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels, individuals with bipolar disorder may also experience the following sleep problems:

Insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep

Hypersomnia, or oversleeping, especially during depressive episodes

General sleeplessness, where individuals feel fine even when they’ve had significantly less sleep, although this abnormal sleeping pattern eventually catches up with them

Delayed sleep phase syndrome, where the individual has a delayed circadian rhythm, causing them to naturally start to fall asleep or wake up later than others and experience excessive daytime sleepiness as a result

Irregular sleep-wake patterns from manic episodes and related hyperactivity at night

REM sleep issues like vivid nightmares

Sleep apnea affects one-third of individuals with bipolar disorder, resulting in less restful sleep overall and excessive daytime sleepiness

For individuals with bipolar disorders, different sleep issues may arise depending on when they are in a manic or depressive state.

In fact, for 75 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder, sleep problems are one of the biggest warning signs that they are about to experience a manic episode. For example, sleep loss from chronic sleep deprivation or even a night of jet lag can induce a manic episode. Manic periods are so arousing that individuals can go for days without sleep, or sleep drastically less amounts than usual and not feel tired. However, that lack of sleep makes its mark in other ways, as they’ll still experience the other symptoms of sleep deprivation felt by everyone, including increased irritability, trouble focusing, reduce judgment, depressed mood.

As they enter depressive episodes, bipolar people may experience insomnia or hypersomnia, both extremes which cause further imbalances in mood and increased anxiety.

In between manic and depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder experience poorer quality sleep, occasional insomnia, and interrupted sleep.

Sleep tips for individuals with mental health disorders

There are various psychotherapies that treat mental illness, sleep therapies for sleep problems, and other behavioral changes that can help individuals with mental health disorders sleep better at night.

1. Practice good sleep hygiene.

It all starts with good sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene includes keeping the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, and limiting stimulating activity before bed, such as watching television, using the computer, or engaging in heavy exercise. Heavy meals, as well as alcohol, drugs, and caffeine, should be avoided in the early evening and late night hours.

2. Be careful with napping.

For individuals with excessive daytime sleepiness, power naps of 20 minutes can help give a sense of refreshment. However, naps longer than 20 minutes should be avoided as they can contribute to insomnia later that night.

3. Try sleep therapy.

There are various psychotherapy options that assist individuals with mental health disorders. There are also many specific therapies designed to treat comorbid sleep problems.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven very effective for treating insomnia. CBT first helps the patient recognize their harmful or disruptive thought patterns and habits. Then, they learn to replace them with positive thoughts and better ways to cope so they can calm anxieties surrounding sleep as well as the rest of their lives. One study in particular found that six 20-minute sessions of CBT resulted in a nearly 50 percent decrease in insomnia, 20 percent decrease in depression and anxiety, and 25 percent decrease in paranoid thoughts, and 30 percent decrease in hallucinations.

Sometimes taught as part of CBT, meditation and deep breathing exercises can soothe anxious thoughts and help relax the body for sleep. You can find audio files of guided meditation and relaxation exercises on the MIT Medical website.

Sleep restriction therapy involves setting a strict bedtime and waketime, and only staying in bed for that allotted amount of time, regardless of how much sleep the individual actually enjoys. Eventually the body gets used to the new sleep-wake cycle and begins to sleep and wake at the proposed appropriate time. A small 2013 study found that sleep restriction therapy improved sleep and reduced symptoms of insomnia for patients with bipolar disorder.

Chronotherapy works similarly by gradually adjusting the bedtime and waketime. It’s a newer therapy and the research is still bearing out.

Bright light therapy helps reset a person’s circadian cycle and make them feel more awake in the morning. Exercising outside in the morning in areas of bright sunlight can provide a similar effect.

4. Explore natural remedies.

Melatonin supplements help kickstart melatonin production in the brain. These can be helpful for insomnia or anyone who has difficulty falling asleep due to a period of mania or delayed sleep-phase syndrome. Valerian root can also help induce sleep. Both melatonin supplements and valerian root are widely available at pharmacies.

5. Keep a sleep diary.

If you’re concerned you may have a comorbid sleep disorder, a sleep diary can help you track your sleep habits. Note when you fell asleep and when you woke up, the total amount of time you were asleep, and anything abnormal that happened during your sleep, such as nightmares or snoring. If you find you’re not getting enough sleep, you can meet with a sleep specialist for a diagnosis and share your diary with them.

You may also want to consult a mental health professional for an evaluation and/or your primary care physician.

Dr. Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating children and teenagers. Many children and teenagers have undiagnosed sleep problems. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.