Sleep Like a Tiger (Caldecott Medal - Honors Winning Title) by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski.
April Morris, LCSW, provides therapy for adolescents and adults. She enjoys working with clients from all walks of life, and is honored to join them on their mental health journey and help them build skills to adapt to life challenges. She loves building relationships with people and is dedicated to helping them become their best selves.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.
Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is April Morris. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 14, primarily adults. April, it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind. Our topic is insomnia. However, before we get to the topic, there's a question I love to ask all of our guests, and that is why do you do what you do?
It's a very rewarding job to get to be part of people's journeys and experiences and very humbling to be able to provide support to them. And I just can't imagine doing anything else.
I love the answer of helping others, taking 'em on their journey. I just love that. Thank you for that. Now the topic, this is a big one. This is a big topic. Insomnia. What is insomnia and why does it happen?
Sure. So insomnia is defined by people having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, frequent waking, waking early, not being able to go back to sleep. A lot of those sleep-wake issues. Of course, it can be challenged by other medical conditions. So when we are looking at insomnia, it is important to consider, have you talked to your primary care doctor? Have we ruled out other medical conditions/medications that could be causing these sleep issues as well? But we do know that it is its own beast to manage and can often be residual from anxiety and other mental health disorders, as well. So, you know, you're looking at either acute or chronic insomnia, right? Acute can be just a couple days to a few weeks. And chronic is really looking at, it happens three nights a week, at least, and over three months, and is impacting those areas of functioning, the relationships, work, school, health, ability to complete daily tasks.
So that's kind of the brief discussion of that. There's a lot of details that you can find on insomnia that we could talk about all day. So I'll try to keep it very condensed, but the reality is a third of Americans aren't getting the recommended number hours of sleep. For most adults, that's at least seven hours, if not a little bit more. That can vary by age ranges. So it's pretty relevant for all of us to really consider, are we getting the opportunities to sleep? Are we making those opportunities the best we can for sleep? And no matter what we do, if there's something getting in the way, how do we go and address our sleep issues? It impacts our overall quality of life, really. Fatigue, concentration, mood, headaches. We're at higher risk for accidents when we're not getting enough sleep. Memory. I had mentioned concentration, but even our memory and the irritability that can come just from not getting even one good night of sleep, I think people can usually tell that.
Right. And other people can tell that too, pretty quickly. Oh, you didn't get enough sleep last night. Why? Anyway, so that insomnia, it's broad. And I've heard you, you just mentioned a couple of different things that could be identifiers as though to what insomnia looks like. So now what can I do better to manage my sleep health? Because it is so big, what are some of the steps that I can do to maybe get seven hours of sleep or eight hours of sleep?
Yeah. You'll hear people talk about sleep health or sleep hygiene is the term a lot of clinicians might be using. The reality is just, how are we taking care of our bedtime routine, our sleep routine. So there are a lot of tips you can find out there. It's gonna be, you know, can we try to go to bed at the same time every night, with the same routine? The routine even being from do I brush my teeth first, and then I go to the bathroom and then I go change into my pajamas. The more consistent of a routine that you have, the better quality sleep, or your body's gonna prepare for sleep. It actually can know that you are getting ready to go to bed. Some of the other things to consider is do I have a nice, cool dark room?
Is it good for sound and not distracting from too loud of an environment? Can I avoid alcohol before bed? Caffeine? Even large meals are known to try to keep us awake a little bit. We gotta think about. Screen time is a big conversation, of course. They say, give or take an hour before bed, we should really be trying not to be on any electronics, not just our phones. There was connection to the blue lights and our phones decreasing melatonin production. Then they came up with a blue light filter, but then we're still like, well, we still need to not stimulate our brain before bed. So what's happening when we're scrolling, our brain is scrolling. So we really should just take that hour before bed to do our routine, read a book, something a little more low key.
Sounds like there's correlation between the, you know, has there ever been a time in, in life, in society where we are so mind busy with everything from the time we wake to the time we try to go to sleep and trying to unplug and trying to just train our mind, I guess, to, oh, this is, you know, brushing my teeth. That signals my mind, it's time to start to wind down. But if we have our phone in our hand or whatever's in our hand and we're brushing our teeth, we're just, it just seems like counterproductive.
Yeah. It can be, you're still doing too many things at once. You're not really mindfully in that moment, in those tasks for your body to say, oh, we're doing all of these things and it's time to shut down.
Right. So it's just a, it is a matter of routine, matter of training, but I guess probably the first step is knowing that if you've got insomnia, maybe you need to do something to address that. And looking for help looking for some, I mean, there, you mentioned early on, there are just so many ways, so many websites and apps that are available to help give us tips and training, but we may need to go past that. We may need professional help.
Yeah. And so I usually will tell people, track your sleep, make sure you're tracking what is happening. Is it difficulty falling asleep and why? You can't get comfortable? Is your bed uncomfortable? Can you not shut your brain off? Are you anxious at night? The more information we can identify as to what's the barrier to sleep, the better you can adjust your routine, your sleep hygiene, or get your training with therapy. So one of the therapy strategies is cognitive behavioral therapy that is specific for insomnia. It's called CBT-I, which is really cool, but it does look at how we manage our sleep. We explore the connection between the way we think, the things that we do, and the behaviors that contribute to the insomnia. It's a very specific regimen that people do over a course of a period of time.
And most providers on even the physical medicine side and the behavioral health side, agree that therapy for insomnia first is ideal when possible before medication. However, you can look at both of those options. When we look at when to reach out is again, it's impacting the areas of our functioning. It's problematic most of the time throughout the week. And we're really needing to figure out the cause. So the causes, if I backtrack to that for a second, I had mentioned talking to primary care about medical conditions, medications, but even your therapist is gonna ask, you know, what caffeine and alcohol intake? They're gonna ask you a lot about your sleep hygiene routine. And so again, the more you have tracked and understand of what healthy sleep looks like every night, you'll be able to address where those barriers are for sleep.
Yeah. I think of sugar too. That's another one that, you know, if you're having a little bit of chocolate before bed, that's got sugar and that may impact you differently than, you know, keeping you awake and things.
Yeah, it can. I think we just need to be really mindful about what we're putting in our body that hour before bed. What are we doing?
Awesome, great information, great stuff. Insomnia is such a broad topic and I really encourage you, if you're someone that thinks you may be in this, start investigating it. Again, there's so many resources available today. I think if you go through Dakota Family Services, our website too, there's a lot of resources there that you can check out.
April, thank you so much for joining us on Mind Your Mind; any final thoughts? Thanks for staying awake. I appreciate it. So that was great. So what do you do before we wrap up? I always have the final question. What do you do personally, to mind your mind?
I do try to make sure I get in my alone time and I have little kids that keep me busy and just to be able to recharge a little bit, as a mom. And when the weather's nice, of course, trying to get outside, be active, and be at the lake if I can.
Thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Appreciate your talent. Thank you for spending it with us.
Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more, go to dakotafamilyservices.org.
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In this episode of Mind Your Mind, our host Tim Unsinn talks with Dakota Family Services therapist Jessie Mertz about the “3 R’s”—Regulate, Relate, and Reason. They discuss what each term means, how they build upon each other, and how this approach can help you calm others who are experiencing distress.;
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