Sleep and Mental Health
Even if sleep is something you enjoy doing, it often takes a backseat to other responsibilities. Alternatively, your reality may be that even if you are getting to sleep, your sleep is disrupted, and your bedtime schedule is inconsistent. Then, you find yourself trying to make up for the lack of sleep when you can. These shifts in increased and decreased sleep put your body and emotions on a rollercoaster and create an unbalanced cycle. You are not alone! Sleep is impacted by our mood, and our mood is affected by our sleep. Learning about healthy sleep hygiene helps you be better prepared to navigate life stressors, environmental aspects, and our ability to manage mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
Why Do I Feel So Sleepy?
Your mood, how you’re feeling, and your mental health are all things that can positively and negatively impact your sleep cycle. In this complex cycle, not having enough sleep or having too much sleep impacts our mental health. Having the right amount of sleep on average with a consistent routine helps to regulate your emotions. So, what is the magic number for how much sleep you need? On average, teens (13–18 years) need 8–10 hours, and adults (18–60 years) need seven or more hours per night. The best indicator of how much sleep you need is to be mindful and monitor your body and your needs.
Sleep helps your body and brain to rest and recover from your day. This process allows us to prepare for a new day. Sleep gives our brain space to consolidate our memories and process information. It’s pretty amazing that our brain does this while we sleep! Your body’s immune system (the system that helps you fight sickness) may become compromised from lack of sleep. Like the idea of being hangry when we need to eat, we can become quick to react impulsively and may be irritable when we lack quality sleep. Many factors may be contributing to why someone cannot fall asleep, or for those who are sleeping, they continue to feel tired.
Environmental Factors: Why you may not be getting your optimal Z’s
Blue light exposure before bed, environmental factors such as noise and light, when and what we eat and consume, stress or brain stimulation, and hormonal imbalances are often significant offenders that rob us of our quality sleep. It is recommended that you create an environment conducive to falling and staying asleep.
Stress and your habits are significant contributors to your sleep experience, and you can work on managing new healthy sleep hygiene routines. However, factors such as trauma, night terrors, and medical or mental health factors may also be a culprit to the quality of sleep you are getting and require the support of a trained professional.
Sleep Depirvation Signs and Symptoms
The best way to know if you are getting optimal sleep is to monitor and listen to your body. Practice mindfulness techniques to check in and watch how you feel. Typical signs of not getting quality sleep or having healthy sleep hygiene include:
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep throughout the night
• Inconsistent sleep patterns
• Feeling exhausted and sleepy during the day
• Difficulty concentrating the following day
Sleep Wellbeing Strategies
Healthy sleep hygiene is essential to your brain and body’s optimal performance. Develop a wind-down routine, create a cozy sleeping environment. If you have roommates or a partner, discuss sleeping patterns and your sleep needs. Alarms can be used to remind you when to get ready for bed and when to wake up. Whether your style is to wear a matching soft and cozy pajama set or whatever feels comfortable, setting a routine of “putting on pj’s” can mentally prepare your mind to say, “Hey, it’s time to prepare for sleep.”
Your bed and bedroom should invite sleep at a cooler temperature. Reducing caffeine intake several hours before bed also helps your brain and body to settle in for a night of rest. While we may not be able to fully control the noise around us when we sleep, a noise machine or soft music such as ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) on your phone can be helpful to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
Remember, the best way to know if you are getting the right amount of quality sleep is to listen to your body. When you are sick, your body may use more energy and need you to rest. Make minor adjustments and notice your sleep needs.
Take care of yourself
Create a wind-down routine: this can be the perfect time to take care of your physical hygiene needs and provides a space for you to prepare for tackling the next day. Practicing hobbies and aspects of self-care throughout your days, such as moderate exercise, healthy nutrition, mindfulness, listening to music, journaling, and reducing caffeine intake, can help your body to feel tired and more prepared for nighttime sleep.
A few essential tips to improve your sleep hygiene
· Try to avoid devices an hour before bed (this is a great time to start your wind-down routine)
· Use dim lights
· Set a sleep alarm to remind you to turn off devices and start your routine
· Set your phone to automatically go on “do not disturb” until your morning hours
· Avoid caffeine
· Keep the temperature approximately 66 degrees
· Baths with Epsom salt bath bombs
· Herbal teas
· Use sleep apps to help unwind
· Talk to your doctor about natural supplements such as magnesium, melatonin, or 5-HTP.
· Avoid using your bed as a work space and only as a place of rest and relaxation
· If you are having difficulty sleeping, try getting out of bed and doing something for about 20 minutes such as a walk, listening to a sleep podcast, or reading a book.
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