Is Poor Sleep Sabotaging Your Mental Health?

Whether you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or plain old stress, good sleep is essential. Sleep is when your brain processes information, repairs damage, and builds new neural connections. Without proper sleep, you’re not only less productive, you’re also worse at focusing, regulating your moods, and seeing the big picture when you encounter emotional challenges. This can cause problems in the short-term and increase your risk of developing or worsening a mental illness in the long term.

Despite the importance of sleep, many people sleep fewer than six hours per night. While it’s common for people to put sleep at the bottom of their priority list, clocking fewer than seven hours per night is a bad move for mental health. If you’re tired of feeling on edge the day after a sleepless night, use this advice to finally take control of your sleep.

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Sleep Hygiene: The Basics

A good night’s sleep starts with proper sleep hygiene. No, we’re not talking about freshly laundered sheets and a shower before bed. Rather, sleep hygiene refers to the practices and behaviors that promote quality sleep.

Good sleep hygiene starts with your bed. Everyone should have a comfortable bed that’s used exclusively for sleep — not for watching TV, catching up on work email, or any other activity that doesn’t belong in the bedroom. Mattresses should be replaced every 7-10 years and outfitted with appropriate bedding for the season. The signs of a mattress that’s past its prime can be subtle, but if your mattress is more than 10 years old or you’re waking up achy, it’s probably time for a new one

Bedtime routines are the other half of the sleep hygiene equation. Just like eating lunch at the same time each day trains your stomach to start grumbling on schedule, going to bed at a consistent time makes it easier to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. In addition to a regular sleep-wake schedule, avoid stimulating activities before bed — that means keeping not just TVs, but your phone out of the bedroom, too.

Coping with Sleeplessness

For most people, cleaning up their sleep hygiene is enough to solve sleep problems. But for people with mental health problems, the roots of insomnia go far deeper. Designing an ideal sleep environment and committing to a bedtime won’t stop your mind from racing with worry late at night or erase the upsetting dreams that wake you up. However, that doesn’t mean your sleep problems are unsolvable.

Daily exercise can help with both sleep and mental health challenges. Exercise elevates your body temperature, triggering sleepiness when it later cools. Exercise is also a known mood-booster, with people reporting lower levels of anxiety and depression following physical activity. However, some people have trouble sleeping after afternoon or evening workouts. If that’s the case for you, schedule your workouts in the morning.

If you find yourself ruminating in bed, there are a number of relaxation techniques that can help you get to sleep. Many anxiety and depression sufferers swear by breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation, but if you struggle to shut off your mind in total silence, try guided meditations and imagery instead. You can also create a more calming and relaxing environment by organizing and decluttering your home. 

It doesn’t take long to feel the benefits of better sleep. After just one restful night, you’ll find it easier to focus and regulate your emotions. With consistent sleep habits, people with depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions could see their symptoms improve dramatically. However, while sleep is a critical part of the equation, it’s not the whole answer to better mental health. In addition to improving your sleep, work with your therapist to develop a well-rounded plan for improving your mental wellness.

by Cheryl Conklin wellnesscentral.info

Image via Unsplash

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