I imagine it’s the same for us all. Everything is affected – our mood, our energy, our decision-making. Our entire day!
So it’s no surprise that science has discovered that disrupted sleep does considerable damage to the brain, which suffers from unbalanced thinking and an inability to regulate emotional responses.
Poor sleep habits undermine REM sleep, the cycle in which blood pressure, heart rate and breathing increases, and during which the immune system, memory and learning capacity are enhanced. REM sleep also helps in the maintenance of emotional and mental health in ways that scientists are still trying to fully understand.
Incomplete, disrupted sleep can contribute to depression, as well as attention deficit, bipolar and anxiety disorders. The stakes are high where the state of your mental health is concerned, but there are a number of lifestyle changes that can help overcome the problem and ensure you get the sleep you need for good mental health.
Monitor your stimulant intake
If you’re a coffee drinker, a couple cups a day may have certain health benefits, but more than that can contribute to poor sleep. While it’s widely known that caffeine can inhibit sleep, many people may be unaware that using alcohol and nicotine can also keep you from getting plenty of restful sleep. Alcohol and nicotine can, like caffeine, elevate your heart rate, which can keep you awake at night. Giving up or cutting back on these substances may help you get the sleep you need.
Good sleep habits
Your surroundings can have a tremendously negative impact on your ability to sleep. It’s a factor often overlooked by people who suffer from sleep disorders, yet it’s a simple thing to correct and takes little more than the self-discipline to
- keep the lights turned out
- all screens turned off
- keep the smartphone out of reach and turned off
- observe a consistent sleep schedule. Getting used to going to bed and getting up at the same time every day establishes a pattern that trains the body to get used to a regular and manageable sleep schedule.
Don’t overlook the importance of a supportive mattress. If yours doesn’t suit your sleep type or if it’s too old and lumpy, it’s probably time to do a little research and get a new one. Pay close attention to product reviews, and investigate what kind of mattress is best if you suffer from back pain, or sleep on your back or side. It’s important to identify the optimal mattress for you so that you’re getting a sufficiently restful and restorative night’s sleep.
People who have a hard time getting to sleep often need help finding ways to lower their blood pressure and heart rate so they can transition naturally into a healthy sleep state. Learning meditation, deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises can help train the mind and body to prepare for sleep by counteracting anxiety and racing thoughts. Taking a hot bath before bedtime is also an effective relaxing technique, because it has the effect of elevating body temperature, which then lowers as you cool off, thereby making it easier to relax and get to sleep.
Set positive expectations
Insomniacs suffer from the expectation that sleep will elude them and that they’ll have to adapt to the reality of their condition. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, you can restore your ability to get to sleep by altering those expectations and building self-confidence in your ability to sleep soundly. This approach may incorporate stimulus control therapy, biofeedback or relaxation training to readjust the assumptions that keep sleep at bay.
We all know that sleep is absolutely indispensable to our mental as well as physical health and well-being. A lack of restful sleep can wreak havoc on brain chemistry and impair our thought processes and ability to function socially during the day. So learn ways to relax, maintain a restful sleep environment and assess the effectiveness of your mattress. There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep.
(This guest blog was written by Cheryl Conklin of Wellness Central)
For more ideas, read 7 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep.