It is Mental Health Month. This year has been so disrupted, it is a perfect time for us all to focus on the basics. First up .. a good nights sleep.
Never wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day?
Feeling more down or anxious because you’re tired?
Good sleep is essential. It has been shown to improve physical health, mental health, learning, memory, and even creativity and motor skills (thinking, running and playing an instrument).
Here’s how to start getting a good nights rest:
- Routine, routine, routine: Your body works on a strict body clock. It wants to go to bed, wake up, and eat at a certain time every day. So, make sure you have a routine at night for winding down and getting into bed. Also go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day (OK, maybe get up later on a Sunday). Doing this will tell your body when it’s time to sleep.
- Beware the blue light: Mobile phones, laptops, TV, kindle readers, tablets. These all emit blue light that tells your brain it’s the middle of the day – time to wake up! Turn them off, put them out of the bedroom at least 60 mins before bedtime.
- No stimulation thanks: Your brain needs to relax before bed. So avoid stimulants like sugar, chocolate, alcohol, work, exercise, and thinking about stressful stuff in the evening. Caffeine should be avoided from the afternoon. Even decaf still has some caffeine in it.
- Repeat the above. It can take a while but all these steps will help. Keep it up for 2-3 months – yes, 2-3 months.
- Have you left enough time for sleep? Many adults underestimate how much sleep they need and stay up watching TV, going on social media, working etc. Most adults need 7-9 hours a night. Even a few hours less impairs your mood, concentration, coordination, balance etc and increases risk taking and accidents.
- The drugs don’t help: Prescription sleeping tablets only add about 30 mins of sleep time according to research. They can have serious side effects- including addiction and re-bound insomnia as your brain gets used to the medication. Over-the-counter medications are usually antihistamines that make you sleepy. But they can leave you groggy the next day and your brain gets used to these too. Melatonin can sometimes be helpful but has a mild effect only, with some people finding the improvement variable. It is most helpful for getting into a new sleep routine. Sleep physicians usually advocate using sleeping medication for short term, serious stress only.
A note on Teens: A teenagers body clock naturally shifts back as their brains develop. Their body clocks start the process of sending them to sleep approx 1-2 hours later than adults. And, as we all know, they want to wake up later. A teenager waking at 6am is like an adult waking at 4am – ouch! But they still need around 8-10 hours sleep a night. It can be hard for them to get that amount as a 10pm bedtime may not be unreasonable for some teens. Try to get them to have a regular sleep and wake time, and let them catch up on the weekend.
Sometimes it can be tricky to change sleep problems, especially if your mood is poor or you have a lot of stress. You might need more targeted help. If you have done the above and still need more help speak to your Psychologist or book in for an appointment with us.