Getting a good night's sleep is so important, it’s vital for restoring our physical and mental well-being. We have a lot of thoughts rushing through our mind and we need to give our body enough time to recoup and recover. Sleep and mental health are closely linked, especially those suffering from anxiety and depression. Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies show that having a good sleep has positive effects on mental health. When we get a good night's rest, we feel great in the morning and we’re ready to take on the day with a positive frame of mind.
Globally, we are seeing disturbing trends that the average duration of sleep is declining. We need to respect our sleep as it helps with healing and restoration. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, 47 million adults are not getting a restorative night's sleep, with some experiencing disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
As we wind down each night, we should be restricting the use of our gadgets. This includes watching your favourite shows, playing video games, watching TikTok videos, or chatting to your friends. Our mind needs to be calm and present for a good sleep. The content we consume before sleep can cause more thoughts and anxiety in the mind, this leads to disturbed sleep. Another thing to think about is our exposure to blue light from technology inside our home. Researchers at Harvard have shown that blue light suppresses melatonin for twice as long as green light. Melatonin is key for sleep. Most of our phones and computers come with a night mode feature, turn this on to reduce your exposure to blue light.
Get some sunlight
Sunlight is critical for sleep as it helps regulate our circadian rhythm. As previously mentioned, Melatonin is a hormone, often known as the sleep hormone that plays a part in our sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is produced from the chemical melanin, which can come from sun exposure. The other benefit of sunlight is that it is a great source of vitamin D. Research shows that vitamin D can regulate the sleep-wake cycle helping you to sleep better.
Build a sleep routine
Most of us have daily routines we stick to but we don’t have a routine for sleep. You should start by picking the time you want to go to sleep then work backwards from there. Set an alarm for 30 mins before your sleep time and use this to get ready for bed. Utilise the time to do some meditation, journaling, or breathing exercises. Drink some chamomile tea before you sleep for relaxation, tea is great for calming the mind.
Watch what you eat
Staying hydrated is important for good sleep. When you’re dehydrated, you will wake up in the middle of the night with a need to quench your thirst. Avoid alcohol if you can because it can disrupt your sleep during the night, it can reduce REM sleep and suppress melatonin. If you love your coffee, you may need to drink it much earlier. For a good night’s rest, you should reduce the amount of caffeine you take during the the day. Research shows that 400mg of caffeine taken 0, 3 or 6 hours before going sleep will disturb sleep patterns. Even if you have a coffee 6 hours before sleep, your sleep could be reduced by more than 1 hour. Consuming spicy foods close to bedtime can also keep you up at night. Research from Australia published in The International Journal of Psychophysiology found that young men who consumed spicy food close to bedtime had disturbed sleep patterns. Body temperature, heartburn and reflux can increase when you eat spicy food.
Write everything down in a journal
Our thoughts tend to stay with us into the night, causing a bad sleep if we can’t calm our mind. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers show that writing to-do lists instead of completed tasks, helped study participants fall asleep on average of nine minutes faster (total 16 minutes vs 25 minutes). Another journaling practice before sleep is to write down what you were grateful for during the day. We need more positivity now than ever and gratitude has so many benefits on mental health. If we can fill our mind with more positive thoughts, we will have a more peaceful and restful sleep.