Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How to Beat the "Black Dog" of Depression and Have Better Sleep - By Wendy Owen

Almost 10% of the US population suffer from depression at any one time. Similar statistics would be expected from other developed countries.

Depression can affect our sleep in many ways. Some of us sleep longer and others find themselves waking up in the early hours of the morning, unable to go back to sleep.

Insomnia can be one of the many symptoms of depression, so it’s best to treat the depression itself and usually the sleep problems will resolve themselves.

Depression can affect not only the sufferer but also family and friends who are often at a loss as to how they can help. We should let them and not try to shoulder the burden ourselves.

We have to be careful whom we chose to confide in though as some people still have the mistaken belief that depression is a "malingerers" complaint. The last thing we need when depressed is someone telling us to, "Snap out of it" or "Pull yourself together"!

Depression is a clinical complaint and a genuine illness. Symptoms of depression can include fatigue, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability and even physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive upsets.

Depression can be severe (major depression) which can completely disable the sufferer, or moderate (dysthymia) in which sufferers can function from day to day but never really feel content or happy.

Then there is bipolar disorder which is less common. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder can swing from a high (manic) state to a low (depressed) state seemingly without cause.

What causes depression? It could be several things. Depression may run in the family, or start after a chronic illness. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalance which is why so many women fall victim. A person's thinking pattern may be prone to depression, for example those with poor self esteem.

"Cures" for depression are many and some more effective than others. There is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) while sounding like something from the torture chambers of the inquisition, is an effective aid for severe depression.

Prescribed medications like lithium can be effective but can also have side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, constipation and more…

Herbal remedies are a viable option and have many less side effects while being remarkably effective and cheaper. Recommended are St John's Wort and Passiflora.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are also important. Make sure there are plenty of B vitamins in the food you eat or take a supplement. Include foods which help raise serotonin levels (Oats, milk turkey and pasta) This will have a beneficial effect on your sleep too.

Cognitive or behavioural therapy can greatly assist by changing behaviour and thought patterns that may have led to the illness.

To summarise - Share your problems with a trusted friend or paid counsellor, watch your diet, exercise regularly, take appropriate medication or enrol in behavioural therapy. Help yourself defeat the "black dog" of depression.

Copyright 2006 Wendy Owen

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