We spend so much time focusing on the active aspects of our health – what we put into our bodies (or what we don’t), and the exercise we get – that we sometimes forget one of the most important pieces of our health: taking a break. Specifically, to sleep.
Ah, night. The perfect time to relax -- just make sure to follow these tips!
Sleep problems can be both a cause and a symptom of mental illness, so it stands to reason that taking care to practice good sleep hygiene is a great way to help address any struggles you may be having with your mental health. The key to good sleep is routine. If you go to sleep and wake up at the same times every single day, your body becomes accustomed to the schedule and you’re less likely to experience disturbances.
Curating a sleep routine is a very personal thing. When figuring out your own, stick with the activities you most enjoy, and don’t try to force a habit you don’t really need just because it’s “good for you.” Peruse the following tips for better sleep and the better mental health that comes with it, and try out the things you think you may like.
Invest in the Right Mattress
An old mattress is a dirty mattress. If it’s been a few years since you’ve replaced the ol’ crash pad, upgrading to a new one will definitely improve your sleep. Do your research and read reviews of the different types of mattresses available. Then, narrow down your options based on your particular sleep needs. There are options for side sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, hot sleepers, those who experience back pain…basically, if there is a sleep characteristic, there is a mattress for it! Not having the right mattress to match your sleep characteristics could cause more harm than good.
Sip the Right Stuff
If you suffer from insomnia or anxiety that prevents you from falling asleep, it may be time to reevaluate what you drink throughout your day. Coffee and tea are delicious, but there’s no need to gulp down cup after cup throughout the day. Quitting caffeine and breaking the addiction will improve your mood and your health. If quitting coffee sounds like a death sentence to you, at least consider cutting back and limiting your caffeine consumption to mornings only.
So delicious. But if you're determined to make sleep a priority, it's better to give these drinks a pass.
Although traditional wisdom holds that sipping a nightcap at bedtime will help you relax, alcoholic beverages will actually disrupt your sleep. Sure, that scotch and soda might leave you feeling sleepy, but when you drink before bed, you interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. Alcohol will also make you wake up in the middle of the night when your blood sugar spikes after digestion. Instead of a nightcap to soothe your nerves before bed, try a soothing herbal tea or a fizzy magnesium drink.
Try a Hot Bath
Taking a warm bubble bath or a hot shower before bed doesn’t just ensure that you are squeaky clean when you hit the sheets. The hot water helps your body temperature rise. When you turn off the water and step back into the cool air outside the bathroom, the sudden dip in temperature causes drowsiness-- the perfect feeling to have before you hit the hay.
Crack Open a Book
Curling up with a book is the perfect way to end your day!
Instead of staring at blue-light emitting electronics (like your tablet or smartphone) before bed, read a book. Reading before bed is great for your brain-- it improves memory, relieves anxiety, and hones your focus. Furthermore, reading will absolutely help you sleep better. It’s a calming ritual that helps you get out of your thoughts and worries that keep you from falling asleep. Reading before bed is a great way to signal to your brain that it’s time to unwind, allowing you to have more restful sleep. It can even improve your dreams!
Getting a good night’s sleep is an integral part of maintaining mental health. A stable routine that tells the body it’s time for bed is the best way to improve your rest overall. If your mattress is old and dirty, consider upgrading to a version that suits your needs. Consider quitting caffeine or at least cutting back. Alcohol before bed is also a no-go; consider herbal tea instead. If you feel wound up before bed, a hot bath relaxes the muscles while manipulating your body temperature in a way that causes drowsiness. Finally, avoid the television or other screens, and crack open a book before bed for a better night’s sleep.