Hello Better Sleep
How to get more sleep and a better quality of sleep.
SLEEP AND MENTAL HEALTH
“Dear sleep, I’m sorry we broke up this morning. I want you back!” — Anonymous
“I want to sleep but my brain won’t stop talking to itself.” — Anonymous
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” ― Ernest Hemingway
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Any of this sound familiar? Which one is you?
We all understand that sleep is important for our physical health. Our body relies on rest to perform at its best. Sleep helps our body to reset and maximise performance. It helps with bodily functions such as weight maintenance, hormone management, boosting your immune system, sharpening your brain and healing your heart and sugar levels: the list goes on.
But have you ever considered how important sleep is for your mental health?
I’m sure that we have all said, ‘Gee, did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?’ when sometimes appears to be in a not-so-good mood. So, I guess, in some way and to some degree, we have all acknowledged it…
I don’t know about you, but this rings so true to me…
“Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.” — JoJo Jensen, Dirt Farmer Wisdom
Without enough, good quality sleep, we may find everything more overwhelming. We may find our emotions difficult to manage and we may find it a lot easier to slip into negative thought patterns and habits. We may become at war with our brain as it tries to tell us things that simply aren’t true. We may find stress more difficult to navigate and there can be a general sense of hopelessness or helplessness.
Like sleep resets and recharges our body, the same can be said for our minds.
“Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.” ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
It’s in the research!
According to the Sleep Foundation, ‘Research has also uncovered that brain activity during sleep has profound effects on emotional and mental health. Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal ideas or behaviors.’
It would make sense then that not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can increase risk for mental health disorders. If we constantly feel like we are in a state of worry or overwhelm, we are going to find it very difficult to cope with life and its challenges. And we don’t just want to cope, we want to thrive!
We also understand that sleep helps to regulate our hormones and our hormones can impact our mood. This reiterates the link between our mind and our body.
The good news is that it also reiterates how small, daily habits can have a huge impact on our mind, body and LIFE. We can make small changes that impact our life hugely.
For some, skipping sleep is a sign of strength and productivity.
“A large percentage of the population continues to experience insufficient sleep. Longer work hours, constant access to social commentary and entertainment, and increased stressors all contribute to people getting less sleep.” ()
People sometimes tend to wear ‘doing more’ and ‘sleeping less’ as a badge of honour. On the flip side, people tend to feel guilty or lazy for resting or sleeping.
The more we talk about the NEED (not just the benefits) for sleep, the more we will change the narrative. Sleep is probably the most productive thing you can do. Without it, you can’t do anything else anyway.
It can become a vicious cycle.
There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. As much as poor sleep leads to worrying, worrying leads to poor sleep. We need to be looking after ourselves on all levels to achieve overall health, happiness, and life satisfaction.
So, what can we do?
Try these sleep-enhancing tips:
- Try avoiding sleeping in when you have had enough sleep.
- Spend more time outside and be more active during the day. Maintain a healthy balance of nutrition and exercise.
- Reduce stress through exercise, therapy, journaling, or other means.
- Engage in relaxing activities near bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime. Stimulating the brain before sleep can cause insomnia.
- Avoid smoking. Smokers have a lower rate of REM sleep and often wake up after 3 to 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal.
- Avoid alcohol. Consuming an alcoholic beverage before bed keeps sleepers in the lighter stages of sleep.
- Create a comfortable (cool, quiet, comfortable, free if interruptions and dark) sleep environment.
- Avoid blue light (screen time) too close to bedtime, at least one hour before. It causes stimulation and stress for the brain. You can also download a blue light blocking screen for your phone or get blue light blocking glasses.
- Have a 30- to 60-minute “wind-down” period before sleep.
- Know your chronotype: morning vs evening person. Are you a lark or an owl?
This is your sleep characteristic. Make sure your schedule suits this.
- Your sleep routine starts in the morning.
- Start your day with sunlight (1000 Lux) to release serotonin.
- Consume your meals in the light and not in the dark.
- You must be consistent with your routine.
- Try to have a high protein breakfast.
- Try reducing your meal sizes as the day goes on, with breakfast being your biggest meal, lunch medium and dinner the smallest.
- Try to get the Lux Light Meter App on your phone and ensure you receive direct sunlight every day. On average, we should receive 10 000 Lux per day. This resets our body clock and circadian rhythm. It regulates our sleep and wake cycle.
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm. You also shouldn’t have more than 200-300mg of caffeine per day- which is about 2 cups of coffee.
- Focus on the quality of your sleep rather than the quantity. 1 sleep cycle is 90 mins long and we need to try to get 3-5 sleep cycles. You can make up a sleep cycle through a daytime nap, given it is a good quality sleep. Set your bed and wake time according to sleep cycles. 30-35 sleep cycles per week is ideal.
- Use the ‘brain dump’ techniques before going to sleep. Create a self-journal where you write down all positive thoughts, feelings and plans before going to sleep. Use the same journal to jot down any negative thoughts or feelings earlier on in the day so that you don’t take these to bed with you.
What if this doesn’t work?
If none of this helps, it may be time to seek the help of a professional.
There may be something happening on a physiological level.
For example, did you know that certain nutrient deficiencies can affect the quality of your sleep?
Chat to one of our functional medicine practitioners, sleep coaches or wellness coaches.
We have had previous webinars with both Julie Allen-Rowland (Functional Medicine Practitioner) and Barry Bridges (Sleep Specialist) who provided some of the insight below.