Sleep. Many of us know that we need to sleep. It’s a way to replenish and renew oneself to continue living and working productive lives. Some can function on only a few hours of sleep while others require extra hours of beauty rest, but sleep is also an impactor on mental health. Scientists have discovered that interruptions during sleep disrupt neurotransmitters and stress hormones. That means there can exist an inability to regulate emotions, and thinking can become impaired. Both of these are considered the most common symptoms of mental disorders.
Many correlations have been found between sleep disorders and mental irregularities. Sleep issues were found as a prerequisite in many depression and anxiety disorder patients, and these patients also continue to report problems sleeping after being diagnosed. Sleep disruptions in PTSD patients can lead them to retain more negative emotional memories that prevent them from responding to fear therapy techniques as well. There are many other examples of links between sleep irregularities and mental disorders. From being a precursor to a more serious problem to being a symptom of a problem, sleep issues have historically gone hand-in-hand with mental diagnoses.
If you are having trouble sleeping and feel that you could be at risk for depression or anxiety disorders or are already diagnosed and think better sleep can help calm symptoms, there are a few things you can try to fall asleep better and sleep longer.
Give It Up
We all know that caffeine is a stimulant used to make us feel more awake and provide a little energy, so it makes sense that it should not be consumed anywhere near bedtime. Alcohol and nicotine are two other examples of things not to be consumed before bedtime. Alcohol does help you to fall asleep, but its effects wear off quickly, causing you to wake up before you should. Nicotine speeds up your heart rate and causes your mind to race. If you cannot give these substances up completely, it is still recommended that you not use them prior to bedtime.
Work It Out
Exercise is a way to expel energy and make the body tired, which is great for inducing sleep. It will also help the body to stay in deep sleep for longer and wake up fewer times throughout the night.
Calm It Down
Activities like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are great ways to relax the body and mind and ready for sleep. Taking the time to let the day go and calm the mind is a great way to be ready to lie down and catch some z’s.
Many experts believe that insomnia is a learned thing and that it can be unlearned. You have the ability to train yourself into sleeping better and practicing “sleep hygiene” as it is sometimes referred to. Good sleep hygiene means creating a consistent sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same hours each and every night and day, using the bedroom to sleep and not for any other activities like watching t.v. and eating, and creating a relaxing, sleep-inducing atmosphere in the bedroom that makes the body think of doing nothing but sleeping. The one exception in bedroom activities is sex.
By practicing good sleep hygiene and testing the tips listed above, your sleep quality should improve. By sleeping better you are at a greater risk for reducing mental health side effects and a lower risk of developing mental disorders in the first place.