09 Oct Rest and repair: Why sleep matters for your mental health
Mental health problems are capable of affecting all of our lives. Around one in four of us has been diagnosed with a mental health problem (National Centre of Social Research), making it one of the most widespread issues facing the world today.
The 10th October marks World Mental Health Day 2017, an event created to increase awareness and spark a global conversation about mental health issues. Therefore, we thought it would be fitting to take a look at one of the factors that can influence the quality of your mental health: sleep.
The importance of sleep for mental health
Sleep is incredibly important for the preservation of your wellbeing, as it gives our bodies time to recover from the day and heal. When we don’t get enough rest, it can have far reaching consequences, including the development of mental health conditions.
When you aren’t getting enough sleep, it can lead to a disruptive cycle, where a lack of sleep can be both a cause and sign of a mental health problem. If you suffer from an issue already, it can sometimes affect the quality of your rest. At the same time, a lack of sleep can leave you feeling exhausted and more prone to developing a mental health problem.
Some of the most common ways that sleep can affect your mental health, and vice versa, include:
- Anxiety and stress: Where you can’t get to sleep due to thoughts racing through your mind, or you are worried about what is happening in your life.
- Depression: If you suffer from depression, it can be difficult to get out of bed in the morning and you may find yourself oversleeping or staying up too late.
- Insomnia: A condition where you can’t get to sleep easily, which can fuel other mental health problems, as well as exhaustion through the day (see our Sleep Guru interview for tips to deal with insomnia).
How can I deal with sleep problems that might be affecting my mental health?
Sleep is so important to your wellbeing that, if you feel you aren’t getting enough, you should look to address the issue immediately. There are quite a few things you can do to help improve your rest, and it’s well worth giving them a try in an effort to get your seven hours.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most effective methods.
Stick to a routine
Our brains like a routine, and you can establish a healthier sleeping pattern by going to sleep and waking at the same time. Choose a time to get up and stick to it no matter what, then go to bed only when you begin to feel tired. This small bit of structure can help you build up to a healthy night’s rest, even if you don’t feel like you’re able to get much to begin with.
Learn to unwind before hitting the hay
It helps to go to bed in a relaxed state, and there are a few ways that you can put your body at ease, including having a bath, practising some breathing exercises, reading and listening to music. A great way to unwind is by performing some progressive relaxation, where you contract and relax each part of your body. The NHS has a helpful guide to this method that can help you out.
Ensure you have a comfortable environment
For most people, a dark, cool, and quiet environment is ideal for nodding off, so this is what you should aim for in your bedroom. This might mean investing in a sleep mask or heavier curtains, as well as turning the thermostat down a degree or two, but it’s worth it for a good night’s sleep.
You also need to make sure your bed and bedding is to your liking, and a quality memory foam mattress can certainly help in this regard.
Avoid bright screens
The blue light emitted by our tech screens has been proven to disrupt the rhythm of our bodies by many studies, including this one from Harvard University. Spending time looking at your phone, tablet, or television screen just before bed can play havoc with our inclination to drift off. With this in mind, it’s best to keep your bedroom a tech-free zone for improved sleep.
What are the next steps?
If you’ve put some of our tips into practice and you still can’t get enough sleep to improve your mental health, don’t despair as there are other solutions.
For example, a recent study by the University of Oxford found a direct link between sleep and mental health, and discovered that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) was able to improve the participants’ sleep patterns and reduce the effects of their conditions.
CBT is just one of the options open to you to improve your sleep and mental health, and there are many organisations out there who can provide advice and further tips:
- Mind: A mental health charity that can provide support and advice through difficult times.
- Samaritans: A charity that is always willing to listen to your problems and give advice.
- The Mental Health Foundation: An organisation that always has useful insights and advice about mental health conditions that can affect sleep.
- NHS: A source of essential information and the first place you should go if you need additional help with your situation. They can provide therapy, medication, and more.
We hope you’ve found the information and advice in this blog post useful. If you are interested in improving the quality of your sleep with a new mattress or bedding, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Keep an eye on this blog and our advice centre for more useful sleep-related tips.