Sleep: Balm of hurt minds

I have begun to assess sleep routinely when I see new clients, particularly those with emotional or attentional problems. Sometimes sleep hygiene is the first area I work with on clients who are depressed or having difficulties with concentration or impulsivity. 

It is very nice to look at the possible roots of depression in childhood or how poor attention is impacting a couple but the fact is that if someone is sleeping poorly, it is very difficult to make headway on feeling better in just about any other area of life. Poor sleep makes life hard for individuals and families and emotional and behavioural difficulties often cause poor sleep and then become aggravated by poor sleep. 

I have two really good resources to recommend for people who are experiencing problems with sleep that are wound up with other things that might bring them in to therapy. 

The first is The Sleep Help Institute's Sleep Help for Those Diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This is geared to parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders and though it gives lots of detailed info about autism spectrum disorders and common sleep problems associated with it including a very readable review of the research on the topic, it also gives really good basic sleep hygiene tips for parents of kids whether they are neurotypical or on the spectrum.

The institute also has a Sleep Help guide for nursing mothers and shift workers, two groups of people who I often see who struggle with mood disorders and sleep problems. They also have areas for specific sleep problems such as sleep apnea. The "About Us" section doesn't give a whole lot of info to understand the Sleep Help Institute's funding stream. They do offer mattress reviews which I haven't checked out and can't evaluate but the sections on sleep problems and good sleep habits are blissfully free of merch placements. 

The second resource is Ellen Forney's wonderful graphic-comic self-help manual "Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life." Though Forney is writing from her experience as a person with bipolar disorder, so much of the book is useful for anybody who would like to live a more harmonious life. It is super invitingly laid out and illustrated. She talks about meditation, self-regulation, working with a doctor around medication as well as a whole section on sleep that is great, practical and easy for anyone to implement (I had one small complaint which was that she gives people who wake at night the option of having a small snack, which I always counsel people to avoid). I have this book in my office and have been showing it to many clients who are struggling with managing their emotions; the section on sleep is just one great feature of this great book.