“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama
Do you frequently work late at night? Do you like to party with your buddies until the wee hours of the morning? Or do you have a small child that keeps you up at night? If you said yes, you might not be getting enough sleep. Sleep and mental health are closely linked, and a bad night’s sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Many of us just do not get the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep due to job, family, and other obligations. It’s easy to fall into the habit of having another cup of coffee to get us through the day.
It’s all also all too easy to dismiss sleep as unimportant for leading a mentally healthy life – but are we missing something? How crucial is a good night’s sleep to our mental health? Is the Dalai Lama right in saying that sleep is the best meditation?
Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a negative impact on emotion and performance. Sleep deprivation’s psychological impacts can have a huge and negative impact on our everyday mood. According to the findings of one study, a good night’s sleep can’reset’ brain reactivity in order to prepare for emotional challenges the next day.
At the conclusion of each day, sleep has a crucial restorative role in ‘recharging’ the brain, much like we need to charge a phone battery after prolonged use. Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle allows the body’s natural rhythm to be reset every day, which improves brain function and mental wellness.
Sleep deprivation can be a key risk factor for the onset of severe depressive illness. The intensity of insomnia raises the chance of feeling depressed and/or anxious (as well as aggravating current anxiety and depression), so it’s critical to recognize and address sleep issues as soon as possible.
The Proven Negative Effects of a Lack of Sleep
Sleep deprivation can result in a variety of psychological and physical problems. Among the psychological signs and symptoms are:
- Irritability (none of us need science to tell us about this one, though.)
Poor cognitive performance and functioning (e.g. forgetfulness, making mistakes and slower thinking than normal)
Episodes of psychosis
The following are some physical symptoms and effects:
- Physical manifestations of anxiety – stomach aches, twitches, ‘racing’ heart rate, even panic attacks.
Blood pressure and stress hormones are both elevated.
Consequences for cardiovascular health (increased risk of strokes and heart attacks)
Damage to the immune system, which can lead to a variety of physical issues. At a time when we are all more aware of the importance of a strong immune system, getting the right amount of sleep can be more beneficial to it than even handfuls of vitamins.
Making Time For Sleep
One of the biggest reasons many of us don’t get enough sleep is that we feel that we simply have too much to do to ‘waste’ eight hours out of twenty-four on sleeping. However, as we’ve mentioned, one of the mental effects of a lack of sleep is a loss of productivity, so by skipping sleep to work more you won’t be doing yourself any favors on the work front. And your relationships with spouses, kids, friends and even coworkers will suffer as you are likely to be a cranky, moody mess who is far from a delight to be around.
Therefore, prioritizing sleep is a must. However, lots of people do find that even when they try to improve their sleep hygiene it’s hard, and some find that even when they focus on getting more sleep doing so is hard. If that sounds like you, here are some sleep hygiene tips that should help:
Set Bedtime Routines
Children’s bedtime routines are a well-documented and successful approach for increasing sleep. Adults should incorporate soothing activities before bed to enhance sleep habits and gain more sleep overall as well, by creating their own bedtime routine.
Your evening routine can involve a variety of calming activities, such as:
Taking a Warm Shower or Bath: Taking a warm shower or bath before night might help you de-stress and relax. In addition, studies show that this technique decreases your core body temperature, which might help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Meditate – Meditation is a form of quiet, focused attention that has a variety of health advantages. Meditation before bedtime may help you sleep better by reducing anxiety that might otherwise keep you up, limiting insomnia symptoms, and reducing sleep disturbances.
Reading: Another effective approach to unwind and fall asleep is to read a book. It’s worth noting that reading on a tablet instead of a book has been shown to make you feel less sleepy and postpone deep sleep. So try to limit your reading at bedtime to good old-fashioned paper books.
Listening to Music: Listening to gentle or peaceful music before night might also help you relax. Listening to calm music produces relaxation and enhances sleep quality, according to research.
Journaling: If stress and to-do lists are keeping you up at night, try jotting down your worries in a journal. Offloading your mental problems onto paper has been shown to help you fall asleep faster.
7 More Steps to Improve Your Sleeping Habits for Better Mental Health
- Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle by sleeping and waking at consistent times. Lots of smartphones have functions that an help you do this if you need more help than a traditional alarm clock offers.
- If at all possible, make your bed and bedroom as comfortable as possible, with noise, light, and temperature adjusted to your preferences. Try to keep the temperature at a balanced, not too hot, not too cold level. Multiple studies have shown that the optimal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius)
- Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol should all be avoided close to bedtime.
- To reduce the odds of waking up because you need to empty your bladder, avoid drinking excessive beverages, especially later in the evening.
- Avoid going to bed until you’re drowsy and ready to sleep – Most people who suffer from insomnia spend more time laying awake in bed than sleeping.
- Daily exercise is always recommended, but not too late in the evening, as this may be stimulating.
- Avoid using electronic gadgets late at night, such as laptops, cellphones, tablets, and other similar devices, because the bright blue light can be extremely stimulating and keep you awake.