Does the amount of sleep I get impact on my mental health? 7 tips to getting a better night’s sleep!

 Have you ever had a late night and woken up feeling a little sleep deprived, grumpy, impulsive, sad or out of sorts and lethargic? Many of us have been there and this is a perfect example of how not enough sleep can effect not just our physical but also our emotional well being or mental health.Getting enough sleep allows our cells and body to recharge, invites our mind to make sense of our past, present and future through dreaming, and in children and teens promotes growth and development (hence their need for more of it than adults).

The effects of sleep loss on our mood are undeniable. When we don’t sleep properly our negative mood increases as our positive mood decreases, leading us to feel more agitated, hostile, less tolerant, and quicker to react in a negative demeanor. Significantly, due to this increase in agitation a follow on effect can occur whereby this alert state that our mind and body may be in, feeds and may increase anxiety making it more difficult to relax and drift off to sleep.

So if you’re not a great sleeper, whether that be you struggle to get to sleep, wake up throughout the night, or don’t feel like your mind allows you to sleep at the appropriate times, consider my tips below. Prioritise a routine where you focus on your sleep hygiene in order to get those 7 – 9 hours of sleep that your mind and body needs and improve your emotional well being.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants at least 4 hours before sleep: Caffeine includes tea, coffee, some soft drinks, chocolate and even decaffeinated drinks (some do still contain small traces of caffeine). Steer clear of nicotine or medications, multi vitamins or protein powders that act as stimulants. Allow your mind to get ready to go to bed according to your natural body clock, rather than creating an over-stimulated and artificial sleep cycle.

Establish routines and rituals to calm down before sleeping: This can include meditative or relaxing breathing, gently stretching, having a shower or bath, reading, but most importantly, establishing rituals that are not screen based.

Get regular exercise: Exercising regularly allows our body to exhaust physical energy and regulate our circadian rhythms so that by bed time we are not only mentally tired from our big working or study days, but also physically. Remember not to over exert yourself in the hours leading to bed time if avoidable as exercising can be stimulating.

Keep a worry or thoughts journal: Do you find that just as you start to relax in bed your mind suddenly switches on, seemingly thinking of anything and everything all at once and preventing you from falling asleep? Writing down our worries, important thoughts, or brilliant ideas means our brain can relax and doesn’t have to hold onto these ideas and keep them swirling around in your mind for fear of forgetting them. So write these thoughts down, and make a point of saying to yourself, “Thank you mind for that thought, but it is time to sleep now so I will think about that tomorrow, next week, next month etc.”….chances are if it is important you can refer to it in your journal the next day and if it isn’t you will forget about it.

Keep a sleep diary for two weeks or download a sleep app on your phone: Sleep apps and worksheets can be a useful way to track what is going on for us, what feels best and where we can make improvements in our lifestyle to maximise giving ourselves the most appropriate amount of sleep at the most appropriate times. We are all different. Some of us are morning people, some of us are night owls, some of us need more or less sleep than others, but finding out what naturally helps you feel energised and content is what is most important and worth exploring and prioritising with a few lifestyle changes here and there depending on what your 2 week sleep journal reveals about what you need to operate at your optimum.

Make your room comfortable: Tailoring your bedroom so it feels like a comforting and calming space for you as an individual is key. Keep your room cool, with warm blankets so that your body is naturally able to decrease in temperature as you fall to sleep and use the blankets to comfort yourself as you snooze. And most importantly….keep your bed an area for sleeping and sex only so that tasks like siting up using an ipad, talking on the phone, studying or other activities are not associated bed time and so your mind isn’t stimulated by being geared towards expecting those other activities when you snuggle in.

Avoid screens: Stop using electronic screens such as ipads, laptops, phones or even the tv at least 40 minutes before you plan to sleep. The intensity of light in electronic screens stimulates our eyes in the same way as sunlight. Have you ever wondered why you feel a bit wired after looking at your phone screen before going to bed while checking social media or setting an alarm? It’s because you have just woken your brain up and tricked it into thinking it is daytime!

If you are struggling with your sleep and would like further support in learning how to relax, or how you can understand or explore some of the emotional component underlying your troubles sleeping, please feel free to contact the practice on 8361 7008 for more information. Reaching out for therapeutic support, learning different strategies, or even utilising the power of hypnotherapy can all be ways to improve your quality of sleep and hence your overall mental health.

 

Alyce Mayman

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