This Mental Health Week, It’s Time To Prioritise Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important factors in preserving or improving your mental health- and once your sleep begins to suffer, it’s easy to get stuck in a vicious cycle where poor mental health leads to poor sleep, which then leads to poorer mental health. Of course, it also works the other way round; when your sleep cycle isn’t functioning properly, it can make it harder for you to function normally, which can lead to stress, low self esteem and poor mental health.
Why is sleep so important? Deep, good quality sleep is vital not just because it reduces stress, but also because it facilitates processing of emotional information and therefore increases your emotional resiliency and stability. In this way, mental health works much like physical health does; you need the time asleep to properly heal and process from the day so that you can start the next one in good health. As cliché as it sounds, your brain is much like a computer or phone; it loses energy, or ‘charge’ as the day wears on, and needs to be ‘recharged’ at night- if you forgot to put your phone on charge at night or didn’t charge it for very long, you wouldn’t expect it to work well the next day. Sleeping well, then, is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your brain function properly and keep yourself mentally healthy.
All sleep is good for you to some extent, but there’s a huge difference between poor quality sleep and high quality sleep, and that’s where the cycle we mentioned earlier comes in. There’s a bidirectional relationship between poor sleep and poor mental health, and as that cycle takes effect it can get more difficult to access high-quality sleep. This is true for most mental health issues- if you struggle with anxiety for example, it becomes more difficult to ‘switch off’ your brain enough to sleep, and conditions like depression often result in insomnia. If you’re sleeping the right amount of time but you’re still feeling tired and sleepy during the day, the issue is likely to be that your sleep quality is poor. Sleep quality is generally defined by sleeping through the night, being able to sleep the right amount of hours, and feeling refreshed in the morning.
So how can you improve your sleep? The best way to improve your sleep this Mental Health Week is to start prioritising it the way you would prioritise eating healthily or exercising if you were trying to get physically healthier. This means planning your day around getting the right amount of sleep and making a commitment to cut down on the things that are stopping you from doing that. Amongst the obvious tips, like cutting down on caffeine close to bedtime, come other things, like establishing a sleeping routine. A great way of getting yourself out of that cycle of sleeplessness is to change up your sleeping area, both to make it more comfortable and to help you to feel you’ve had a fresh start.
If you’re still struggling to sleep well, try heading over to our IGTV, where we ran a live with Victoria Albury, an amazing health coach based here in the UK, to discuss sleep. There are also some amazing resources on the internet, including from charities like Mind, who can help you to identify the issues with your sleep. Finally, it’s important to clarify that sleep is an area we’re very much still learning about, and which works differently for all of us, so there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be getting the right amount of sleep as long as you feel rested and energised.
Image courtesy of @kyreecunning