38 posts tagged “mental health”

Lights out: Bedtime tips to help you sleep through the night

Posted May 25th, 2018 by

Do you have a bedtime routine? Sleep is a challenge for many members in the mental health community — over 3,000 PatientsLikeMe members say they have difficulty sleeping through the night.

Establishing a regular bedtime and better sleep hygiene is one way to help manage restless nights. Check out some pointers from around the web, and hear from other members about their nighttime rituals.

Setting aside “worry time” and other sleep hygiene reminders

Along with getting into a consistent sleep-and-wake cycle, building these habits into your nightly ritual might help:

  • Set aside worry time— A few hours before you go to bed, take time to address and contemplate all you have on your mind (vs. letting it keep you up later).
  • Go to bed only when you feel tired enough to sleep
  • Prepare your brain and body for sleep with a signal it’s time to wind down, whether that’s a warm bath, dimming the lights or listening to soothing music
  • Stop screens (phones, tablets and computers) an hour before bedtime
  • Skip the book: “I don’t read in bed (that was a hard habit to break — I LOVE reading in bed),” says one member. Beds should be kept for sex and sleep, not reading, watching TV or looking at your phone.

Make your space suit you

  • Research shows the perfect sleep temps are somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preference. A room that’s too hot or too cold can keep you up at night.
  • Keeping the room as dark as possible helps. Try black out curtains or an eye mask.
  • Turn that neon alarm clock toward the wall so you don’t know what time it is. Ticking off the minutes can lead to more anxiety about how you’re not sleeping.
  • Some folks swear by white noise machines (with sounds from nature, like frogs or rain). Find the right white noise that works for your, even a fan or air purifier can help.

Long before lights out: Tips to keep in mind throughout your day

It’s not only about what you do right before you hit the hay — see how other actions throughout your day can help (or hurt) your sleep quality at night.

Exercise

Yoga or other types of relaxation exercises, like mindfulness meditation can make falling asleep easier, but some members go for something more rigorous..

  • “Another thing that helps is getting pretty serious exercise (1 hour of heart rate at or above 130, for me at least) five or six days a week,” says a member. “That’s not possible for everyone, but it definitely helps me.”
  • “I made the mistake of going for a run too late in the evening,” says a member. It only served to rev her up. Now she plans exercise well before bedtime.
  • Scheduling your exercise outdoors during the day can help some people. Sunlight helps establish your body’s sleep and wake cycles.

Eating and drinking

Drinking alcohol, which you might think will help put you out, actually has the opposite effect, and after a late night cocktail you can find yourself tossing and turning at 3 a.m.. Here are a few more pointers on food and drink from members

  • One member says skipping caffeine including coffee, tea and chocolate after 12:00 p.m. works best for her.
  • Eating meals at regular times also helps your sleep. “None of this dinner at 10 p.m. stuff, which can keep you up,” says a member.
  • “I know some folks who have had luck with Valerian extract, several drops on a sugar cube,” says another member. (Be sure to check with your doctor before trying Valerian or any other herbal remedy.)

Write it down

  • “When I write by hand in my journal every night, it is easier for me to just ‘word vomit.’ Of course, I can’t read anything I write afterwards, so it’s more an exercise of getting the feelings of the day out so I can go to sleep,” says another member.
  • “Writing is part of my bedtime routine, and includes my ‘gratitudes’ for the day, which I also find helps me wake up with a positive attitude in the morning,” a member explains.
  • You may find it helpful to go one step beyond just setting aside worry time (mentioned above) and writing it down or talking to a friend before settling in for the night.

Interested in joining the conversation about bedtime habits and sleep? Log in or join PatientsLikeMe.

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Shout out to The Golden Girls: Shows and movies that “get” chronic illness

Posted January 12th, 2018 by

‘Tis the season for binge-watching — but the media often flops in its portrayal of people with health conditions. So we’ve gathered patient perspectives on Hollywood depictions of illness and who’s gotten it right (thanks, Bea Arthur).

When doctors doubted Dorothy

A writer for The Mighty who has multiple health condition recently praised The Golden Girls for it’s portrayal of main character Dorothy navigating the healthcare system with a chronic condition. Over the course of a two-part episode (called “Sick and Tired”), Dorothy (played by Bea Arthur) starts feeling constant exhaustion and hops around to different doctors who don’t believe she has a real ailment.

“Maybe I am crazy — nobody believes me,” Dorothy laments to Rose (Betty White) after multiple appointments.

“Dorothy, you are not crazy, honey, you’re sick,” Rose replies. (Thank you for being a friend, Rose.)

Ultimately, Dorothy is relieved when a specialist finally diagnoses her with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The show was ahead of it’s time in building credibility around CFS, which is just now gaining recognition as a serious longterm condition that shares many characteristics with some autoimmune conditions. Golden Girls creator Susan Harris based the episodes on her own experiences with CFS and doctors who didn’t understand the condition in the 1980s.

Other shows worthy of some applause

While no show does a perfect job, additional shows that The Mighty includes on a list of 7 TV Shows That Got Chronic Illness (Mostly) Right include:

  • The West Wing — Writers consulted with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to depict President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and his relapsing-remitting MS. Some have argued the show didn’t capture all the symptoms and severity of the condition, but it raised awareness of MS.
  • Brothers & Sisters — A young character named Paige (Kerris Dorsey) is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after experiencing symptoms that real-world patients may experience, such as increased thirst and frequent urination. People with type 1 diabetes say the media often gets it wrong, so it’s refreshing that this show got it right.
  • The Good Wife — Before playing a person with Parkinson’s disease (PD) on The Michael J. Fox Show (2013-2014), Fox (who has PD in real life) played a character with a neurological disorder called tardive dyskinesia on The Good Wife in 2010. The show gets props for featuring an actor with an actual health condition, playing a character who’s an aggressive attorney and not “just” a patient.
  • Grey’s Anatomy — In general, hospital-based shows are known more for their romantic plot lines than their medical accuracy. But a 2016 episode called “Falling Slowly” captured some of what it’s like to get a rare diagnosis known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a group of disorders affecting connective tissues in the body).

Speaking of Grey’s Anatomy, one of its stars, Kate Walsh, who played Dr. Addison Montgomery from 2005-2012, recently opened up about being a patient in real life. Walsh revealed that she had surgery in 2015 to remove a lemon-size brain tumor, which turned out to be a non-cancerous meningioma.

“I played a real badass on TV, but when it comes to being a patient, it’s such a vulnerable experience,” Walsh said.

More and more shows and movies are also depicting mental illness — and doing a better job of it than before. For example, Stranger Things recently got good reviews for raising awareness of some aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The media’s increasing focus on mental illness — if done carefully and correctly — can be a positive thing overall, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

On PatientsLikeMe

Members have shared a lot about shows and movies portraying chronic conditions, mental illness and more.

In the Mental Health community, some members have given “thumbs up” for some TV shows, like A&E’s docuseries Obsessed and Hulu’s show Mental. “I think Obsessed is pretty good. It doesn’t seem to ridicule, exploit, or put down the patients like some shows I’ve seen on the topic. Many shows I’ve seen on OCD seem to portray the people with the disorder as sideshow attractions. I like that Obsessed keeps it on a more human level and is also focused on treatment,” one member said.

But members also recall how the media has propelled stereotypes in the past, such as the acclaimed 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest associating mental illness with violent crime. “I wish the stigma didn’t exist, but people unfortunately assume some pretty bad things based on what they have seen on tv,” a member noted, mentioning that film.

Members with ALS expressed frustration with the depiction of people diagnosed with ALS on TV shows (including ScrubsThree Rivers and Law and Order), as well as mixed reviews of the 2014 movie The Theory of Everything. But some members did like the film. “It’s a touching film that does a great job in humanizing Stephen Hawking. Although some have criticized the lack of science in the film, I think its purpose was to look more closely at his life and his relationship with his wife, Jane, which is fascinating and complex,” one member said.

Those living with MS have said that some shows (like Private Practice) have been so-so at portraying the condition — but they’re no West Wing. One member’s take? “West Wing did an excellent job of portraying ms. It showed that even the President of the US could run the country while in the middle of a relapse… it didn’t interfere with his ability to do his job.”

In your opinion, which shows and movies have done a good or bad job of portraying health conditions? Join PatientsLikeMe today to chat about what to watch (or avoid!).

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