Self-Harm and Exhaustion: Wake the Heck Up

October 19, 2013 Jennifer Aline Graham

Whether you’ve had five cups of coffee or just finished a workout, many people with mental health issues struggle with sleep. Typically, there seems to be problems at both ends of the spectrum – either you can’t fall asleep or you can’t wake up. Sleep issues can come from anything, really. Changes in medications can trigger differences in sleep patterns and lifestyle changes can also be a factor.

However, if some people do not get enough sleep, negative behaviors may arise because they can’t see the world around them clearly. Some of these behaviors may result in self-harm.

Why is it Important for Self-Harmers to get Sleep?

Those who self-harm usually are struggling with some kind of mental illness or major change in their life. However, this may not be true for all self-harmers. During the years I was cutting, my parents had just gotten divorced, making me fall into a deep depression. This depression was what led to my cutting and suicidal thoughts and attempts. During this time, I had issues falling asleep at night and when asleep, I was constantly moving and waking up. Then, of course, when it was time for school, I couldn’t open my eyes.

Being too tired in the morning led to my being frustrated and upset. When I would actually get my butt to school, I was typically not in a safe mindset, which led to my sneaking off into a bathroom and cutting myself.

Not getting enough sleep creates a deadly cycle: 1) Can’t sleep 2) Can’t wake up 3) Feeling sad or angry 4) Looking for a way to feel better 5) Self-harming. For many people, this is a truthful cycle and it is due to lack of sleep. For those who cut or pick or burn, it is difficult to change the sleep pattern because it has become so engrained into the everyday routine.

So, how can this cycle change?

Ideas for Staying Awake

I still have issues when it comes to sleep. I tend to be tired all day and wide-awake at night. There are some things that have helped me along the way and now that I am a Zumba instructor, being active during the day has seemed to help a little bit. However, I still have a long way to go when it comes to being exhausted throughout the day – and coffee definitely is not enough.

1) Stay active. Like I said above, get involved with Zumba, Crossfit or some kind of exercise to get yourself going. Once you drag yourself out of bed, you’ll feel much better that you got your butt up.

2) Drink bedtime tea. When I worked at a residential facility for teenagers struggling with mental illness, many of the youth would drink tea before they went to bed. They did this because it helped clear their systems and relax.

3) Read a book. It may sound cliché, but reading before bed does let your body relax and calm down before trying to close your eyes.

4) Hide alarms in your house. This may sound funny, but if you set alarms around your house, the noise will force you out of bed to turn the alarms off. However, don’t do this if the annoyance is going to trigger a negative behavior.

5) Play relaxing music or use white noise. Some people put on music of waterfalls or the forest to help them sleep. I am someone who always needs white noise in my room. No matter what the season is, I cannot fall asleep without my fan on. Try it out.

You can also find Jennifer Aline Graham on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and her website is here.

APA Reference
Aline, J. (2013, October 19). Self-Harm and Exhaustion: Wake the Heck Up, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 12 from

Author: Jennifer Aline Graham

Donna Hart
October, 23 2013 at 2:44 pm

i have borderline personality disorder.I have very bad problems with self harming and also insominia.I have had problems for over 30 years and still nothing has been sorted about sleep

Karen Tetley
September, 13 2019 at 1:10 am

My daughter has been experiencing sleep paralysis lately due to a violent relationship. But more so the last few mornings she has woken up to injuries that weren’t there prior to falling asleep. Ie cuts , bruises and what looks like small cigarette burns on her arms. I would like to know more on how harming this can be because 99% of the time she curls up with her 2 young boys to sleep.

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