Sleeping is essential for our survival; just as breathing, eating, and drinking are.

Sleep isn’t something we typically think or speak about; until we are not getting enough, that is. But, mental health and sleep are deeply connected. When somebody has or is experiencing mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, they are far more prone to sleep disorders. Sleep troubles negatively impact our mental health by increasing the risk of developing or worsening psychiatric disorders and symptoms.
While sleep is rest for our consciousness, many important activities take place while we sleep. Processes that protect and strengthen our immune system, enhance our learning and memory, and regulate our emotions are among the benefits. So, you can see how our sleep plays a significant role in our mental and physical health and is worth prioritizing. Whether you are a new mom, feeling stressed, work shifts, or someone who wants a good night’s sleep, we would like to address how you can improve your slumber.

What sleep problems look like:

Having trouble falling asleep

Having trouble staying asleep

Waking up too early or in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep

Getting too much sleep

Feeling fatigued during the day

Grinding teeth during sleep

Specific sleep disorders (insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg’s syndrome, night terrors, etc.)

What effect this has on us:

Increases negative thoughts

Creates stress (overproduction of cortisol)

Impairs memory and judgment

Trouble with thinking and concentration

Causes mood swings and irritability

Slows reaction time (prone to accidents)

Physical problems: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure

Practicing good sleep hygiene:

Engage in physical activity

during the day as you will asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night

Avoid screen time

(phones, television, computers) for 1-2 hours before bed as it prevents the release of melatonin making it difficult to get to sleep

Establish a night routine

before bed at the same time each night (take a bath, read a book, do a skin care regimen) eventually those activities will help you to wind down and signal your brain that it is time for sleep

Do not consume caffeine

alcohol, nicotine, or sugary drinks at least 4 hours before bed- alcohol may help fall asleep initially but wears off in a few hours causing you to wake up early, whereas caffeine, nicotine, and pop act as a stimulant which speeds up heart rate and creates racing thoughts

Try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

which can help work through problems that come up in day to day life. Studies have shown this experience can result in a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, paranoia, and nightmares. Moreover, it can improve overall well-being, including ability to function at home and at work, and builds confidence that you can have a good night’s sleep

Do relaxation exercises before bed

(meditation and deep breathing techniques) as they can help slow the heart rate, reduce muscle tension, and calm thoughts

Examples

Create a comfortable sleeping environment

make the room as dark as possible, have your thermostat no higher than 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and declutter your space

Keep a sleep diary

to track patterns and disturbances

Sleep Diary

Natural remedies:

Melatonin

A hormone that our bodies produce naturally which controls our circadian rhythms and is also available as a supplement. Melatonin can help us fall asleep faster, improve our quality of sleep, and it is especially useful for shift-workers who need to sleep during the day. Try to stick with one brand and limit use (2 weeks at a time or so).

Lavendar

A plant which sleep benefits are delivered via its fragrance. Studies show that smelling lavender in the form of oil, or through a diffuser increases the duration and improves the quality of sleep. This has shown to be especially effective in post-partum women. Do not ingest and only use topically with a carrier oil, such as olive oil.

Glycine

An amino acid that our bodies produce naturally which plays a role in our nervous system and is also available as a supplement. Glycine may lower our temperatures when it is time to sleep, helping us to fall asleep faster, reduces daytime sleepiness (makes us feel livelier and more clear-headed), and improves the quality of sleep. This can be found in many foods including cabbage, kale, spinach, beans, bananas, eggs, meat, and fish. Avoid this supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Chamomile

A herb that is derived from flowers that are similar to daisies. The most common way to use chamomile is drinking it in a tea. It is known to promote relaxation, aid the sleep-wake cycle, and has a calming effect. This has been shown to improve the quality of sleep in post-partum women.

Yoga

A combination of physical movement, mental meditation, and breathing exercises to reduce stress and tighten muscles through postures. There are particular postures, such as Viparita Karani, which can aid in getting to sleep and staying asleep. Practicing Viparita Karani, or ‘legs up the wall pose’, for 5-15 minutes before bed can reduce symptoms of insomnia, calm the mind, and relaxes the body.

Photo Source

While it is common for us to have a low quality or limited sleep every now and again, if this persists and is affecting your daily life, please consult a medical professional to learn about treatment options.

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/MHF-Sleep-Report-2011.pdf

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids#1.-Melatonin

Sleep is the best meditation.

Dalai Lama

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