Sleep gives you the physical energy you need to get through each day. It also gives you the mental energy you need to regulate your emotions, maintain focus and clarity, and take everyday stresses in your stride. Without high-quality sleep, we all feel a little frayed but did you know that your risk of developing a mental illness also inches higher.
The Link Between Mental Illness and Sleep
Poor sleep isn’t just a risk factor for mental illness, it’s also a symptom. People with psychiatric disorders experience insomnia at higher rates than people without mental illness. And in this vicious cycle, insomnia makes it harder to cope with the daily challenges of living with mental illness. As Tuck explains, without proper sleep, “We’re moodier, prone to irrationality and poor decision-making, and have difficulty remembering things.”
These factors make it harder to follow through with your self-management plans and goals of perhaps eating well and exercising. It is easier to become addicted to other substances to prop us up when we are tired and our
decision-making capabilities are weakened by sleep deprivation.
How to Improve Sleep Quality:
If you’re experiencing insomnia that’s lasted more than two to four weeks, use the following tips
to help you restore your sleep.
- Exercise. While you get a natural energy boost during and after a workout, exercising helps improve your sleep when you hit the hay each night. Instead of a boring trip to the gym, incorporating a varied, artistic form of exercise like Sleek Technique, which requires your mind’s full focus while you are taken through balletic movements that centre you and develop a lean, sculpted dancer-like physique.
- Follow a sleep schedule. Waking and sleeping at the same time each day can help regulate the internal clock that tells your body when it’s time to feel tired versus alert. Create a sleep schedule that allows for at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and stick to it — even on weekends.
- Tailor your sleep environment. Your bedroom should be a restful space. Keep your work, leisure, and serious discussions out of the bedroom, and ensure your bedroom is dark and quiet by using blackout shades to block out light and perhaps a white noise machine to drown out sound. Avoid storing clutter in the bedroom, as it’s mentally distracting, and keep décor simple.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom. Televisions, computers, and phones mentally stimulate you, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Electronics have also been linked to disruptions in melatonin production. Keep these devices out of the bedroom, and avoid using them after dark as much as possible.
- Don’t stay in bed when you can’t sleep. Lying in bed overwhelmed by frustration doesn’t help you sleep, but it does turn your bedroom into a space associated with stress. If you’re unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes of lying in bed, get up and do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, before trying again.
- Enjoy the morning sun. The morning is a busy time in most households, but if you can find 15 minutes to step outside each morning, your sleep will benefit. Exposure to morning sunlight improves both sleep and depression.
- Calm your mind. If intrusive thoughts keep you awake, quiet them with relaxation strategies. Breathing exercises, guided visualizations, and progressive muscle relaxation are a few proven ways to shut out negative thoughts so you fall asleep.
- Consider CBT for insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for insomnia. CBT for insomnia, or CBT-I, helps identify and eliminate the mental barriers between you and restful sleep. You can learn more about CBT-I at SleepEducation.com.
While self-help strategies can’t solve all sleep problems, these tips are the best place to start when you’re struggling to sleep. If you need more help getting to the bottom of your sleep problems, reach out for counseling to address what’s keeping you up.
By Brad Krause
Image via Unsplash