One major factor that affects our mental health, that is often overlooked, is sleep. Unfortunately, in our culture we tend to glorify hustling and keeping ourselves busy at all times, at the expense of taking care of our basic needs. As a result, many of us may keep sleep low on our list of priorities. The CDC reports that a third of U.S. adults say that they get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night. And around 33% of the world’s population suffers from insomnia. It’s clear that many of us have a difficult time with sleep.
Sleep and Your Mental Health
While it’s evident that many of us have experienced sleep issues, we may not be as aware of how crucial sleep is to maintaining our mental health. A lack of sleep or poor sleep can make it more difficult for us to cope with stress. This can contribute to experiences of depression or anxiety. Insomnia in particular, can be a common symptom of depression. Disturbances in sleep can worsen anxiety, as people are not able to fully rest and calm their anxious thoughts.
We should think of our sleep and our mental health as going hand-in-hand. Taking care of our mental health will help us sleep better. And getting good sleep will help us maintain our mental health.
How to Get Better Sleep
To recognize Sleep Awareness Week, from March 14-20, here are 10 tips for getting better sleep, so that you can feel fully rested and help maintain your mental health:
1- Establish a Nightly Routine
Creating a consistent set of habits before going to sleep will signal to your brain that it’s time to slow down and get ready for bedtime. You could try taking a shower, reading, journaling, or meditating, to help you wind down before getting some shut-eye.
2- Go to Bed the Same Time Each Night
This tip goes along with your nightly routine. Try to go to bed around the same time each night (making sure you’ll get between the recommended 7-9 hours). Research has found that even people who sleep 8 hours a night at varied bedtimes will not feel as rested as those with the same bed time. It’s important to make sure your body is used to a consistent sleep schedule.
3- Minimize Screen Time Before Bed
Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” an hour (or at the very least 30 minutes) before you go to bed. The light emitted from our screens can really upset our sleep cycle. Swap out your phone for a book instead!
4- Stay Active During the Day
Exercise helps reduce stress and tired us out. Getting physical activity during the day can significantly improve our sleep quality and duration of sleep. Try moving your body in some way each day for better sleep.
5- Try a Mindfulness Exercise Before Bed
Mindfulness practices and habits can help us fall asleep and stay asleep easier. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from full-body scans, to meditations focused on breathing, to gratitude practices. Mindful has many great resources for mindfulness that can help us with our sleep.
6- Watch Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Caffeinated products, like coffee or soda, and alcoholic beverages can interfere with sleep and keep us awake. Consider stopping your caffeine intake by 2pm and avoiding alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
Eating too close to bedtime (especially heavy meals) may also cause disruptions to our sleep. Consider having a lighter dinner or at least eating your last meal 3 hours before going to sleep.
7- Make Your Sleep Environment Comfortable
The ideal environment for sleep is cool, dark and quiet. Make sure your surroundings are suitable for you. Having a comfortable mattress, bedding and pillow can also work wonders.
8- Limit Napping
Napping for too long during the day may make it more difficult for us to get a full night’s rest. If you do need a nap during the typical mid-afternoon slump, 20 to 30 minutes is the sweet spot to help you feel more alert and rested, without causing major sleep disruptions during the night.
9- Prepare for Your Next Day Before Winding Down
Prepare for tomorrow earlier the night before. Before winding down, write out your to do list for the next day and lay out your outfit so that it’s ready for tomorrow. Prepping for the next day will give us more peace of mind and help us to worry less about tomorrow when we are actually trying to fall asleep.
10- Get Professional Help
If you still find that you’re suffering from insomnia, you might consider seeking professional help. At Eugene Therapy & Oregon Counseling, we offer insomnia therapy, to help people adjust their sleep behaviors and get better sleep. Sleep therapy through CBT teaches patients to recognize and change beliefs and behavior that affects sleep.