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Zombie; Sleepless Men Become Suicidal

The worst-case scenario. That's what I remember most of my years without sleep. If I thought about my job, I imagined the worst case scenario. If I thought about my marriage or my kids; the worst-case scenario. If I thought about my failures in my chosen profession; the worst-fucking-case-scenario.


I had forgotten how to hope for a life where it didn't have to be that way.


Everyone dies, eventually. But if you're not sleeping, then you're the living dead, anyway. That's how I felt as I would lie in bed, get up and pace, talk to myself, try to convince myself to sleep. I would watch bad TV, watch youtube on my phone, anything to get my brain to switch off for just a few minutes. Watching those precious few hours tick by like a Sword of Damocles, inching closer and closer to the dreaded minute when I would get back up after another 8-10 hours of dread, despair and depression. And no sleep. Get up and do it, again: play hurt. Pretend to be okay. Be a man.


I was not okay. "Living like a zombie" nearly made me kill myself. And at the time, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to imagine my kids standing around my grave and hoping that they would learn to go on, forget about me and forget about my failures. Go on and live rich and happy lives and when people asked them about their parents, maybe they would lie and say that I died in a car accident or a heart attack. Fewer questions that way. Less like the voices in my head that said "my Dad was a loser who couldn't hack it".


It's called catastrophizing. And as a man, it terrifies me, because I did it for years and did nothing about it. I didn't know how to ask for help. I didn't know that I could be helped. And the thoughts that it drove me to nearly killed me more than once.


The Link Between Sleeplessness and Catastrophizing

Numerous studies have demonstrated a strong connection between sleep deprivation and negative thought patterns, including catastrophizing. When we are sleep-deprived, our brain's emotional regulation center, the amygdala, becomes more active, causing us to be more sensitive to negative stimuli. As a result, we are more likely to engage in catastrophizing and other cognitive distortions.


Men and Catastrophizing: Why the Connection?

Men, in particular, may be more susceptible to catastrophizing due to societal expectations and gender roles. Society often expects men to be strong, stoic, and in control of their emotions. As a result, men may be more likely to suppress or ignore their feelings, leading to an internal buildup of stress and anxiety. This emotional suppression can exacerbate the effects of sleeplessness, making men even more vulnerable to catastrophizing.

Additionally, men are often less likely to seek help for mental health issues, including sleep disorders, due to stigma or fear of appearing weak. This reluctance to seek support can further perpetuate the cycle of sleeplessness and catastrophizing, as untreated sleep issues can worsen over time.


The Dangers of Catastrophizing

Catastrophizing has several negative consequences on both mental and physical health. Some of the dangers associated with catastrophizing include:

  1. Increased anxiety and stress: Catastrophizing can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the constant anticipation of the worst-case scenario can generate higher levels of stress and anxiety.

  2. Poor decision-making: When catastrophizing, individuals may become overly cautious or avoidant, leading to missed opportunities and an inability to make rational decisions.

  3. Strained relationships: The constant negativity and stress associated with catastrophizing can take a toll on personal and professional relationships.

  4. Physical health issues: Chronic stress and anxiety resulting from catastrophizing can contribute to various health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.

Overcoming Catastrophizing and Sleeplessness

Recognizing and addressing the connection between sleeplessness and catastrophizing is crucial for maintaining mental and physical health. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Prioritize sleep: Develop a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to promote better sleep.

  2. Seek professional help: If you're struggling with sleep issues or mental health concerns, consult with a healthcare professional for guidance and support.

  3. Practice mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing, to help reduce stress and counteract negative thought patterns.

  4. Challenge catastrophic thoughts: When you notice catastrophizing, take a step back and question the validity of your thoughts. Consider alternative, more realistic outcomes to help break the cycle of negativity.

Conclusion

Sleeplessness and catastrophizing are interconnected issues that can have a significant impact on men's mental and physical health. By recognizing the dangers of catastrophizing and taking proactive steps to improve sleep and mental well-being, men can break the cycle of negativity and build a healthier, more balanced outlook on life


Sources:

  • Yoo, S.S., Gujar, N., Hu, P., Jolesz, F.A., & Walker, M.P. (2007). The human emotional brain without sleep – a prefrontal amygdala disconnect. Current Biology, 17(20), R877-R878. - This study investigates the impact of sleep deprivation on the emotional brain, specifically focusing on the amygdala and prefrontal cortex connection.

  • Goldstein-Piekarski, A. N., Greer, S. M., Saletin, J. M., & Walker, M. P. (2015). Sleep Deprivation Impairs the Human Central and Peripheral Nervous System Discrimination of Social Threat. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(28), 10135-10145. - This research article explores how sleep deprivation affects the human nervous system's ability to discriminate social threat, with a focus on the amygdala's role.

  • Motomura, Y., Kitamura, S., Oba, K., Terasawa, Y., Enomoto, M., Katayose, Y., ... & Mishima, K. (2013). Sleep debt elicits negative emotional reaction through diminished amygdala-anterior cingulate functional connectivity. PloS one, 8(2), e56578. - This study examines the relationship between sleep debt and negative emotional reactions, highlighting the role of diminished amygdala-anterior cingulate functional connectivity.

  • van der Helm, E., Gujar, N., & Walker, M. P. (2010). Sleep Deprivation Impairs the Accurate Recognition of Human Emotions. Sleep, 33(3), 335-342. - This research article explores the impact of sleep deprivation on the accurate recognition of human emotions, focusing on the role of the amygdala in emotional processing.

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