Sleep is important for our mental health. Studies have shown that without sleep, it can be difficult for us to learn, be attentive and form new memories. Poor sleep has been linked to difficulties with information processing and concentration, and it can make us feel agitated and restless. When we are sleep deprived, it may also be harder for us to regulate our emotions and rationalize our thoughts. Sleep is so crucial because it gives our brain time to recharge, and it allows us to restore our energy.
Here are some ideas for improving sleep:
- Get into a routine
Though it is often a lot easier said than done, it can be useful to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This is helpful because it allows us to get into a pattern where we get tired at roughly the same time each night.
- Avoid using electrical devices before bed
Studies have shown that it is unhelpful to use screens with bright lights before sleeping, because light inhibits the production of melatonin (a hormone we need for sleep). I have found that it is helpful to keep my phone in a different room/away from my bed, so that I’m not tempted to look at it at night.
- Meditation and focusing on your breathing
It can be a good idea to do breathing, relaxation, or meditation exercises to calm yourself down before bed. Thinking of pleasant memories and calming thoughts can also be useful. I really like the Calm channel on YouTube for guided meditations, and the headspace app.
- Do something relaxing before sleeping
It can be helpful to read a book, have a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, or write in a journal before bed. I find that jotting down unresolved worries and anxieties before bed is useful because it gets them ‘out of my system’, and it helps me to stop worrying whilst I’m trying to sleep.
- Talk to someone
Sometimes poor sleep can be a sign of an underlying issue, such as stress at work, low mood, or a medical problem. It can be a good idea to talk to a friend you trust or your GP, as they might be able to offer advice, prescribe medication or figure out whether there may be an underlying condition that is affecting your sleep.