International Day Against Homophobia, Lesbophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia 2022
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One of the pillars to optimal health and wellbeing—sleep is an essential bodily function. Without it, brain activity deteriorates, impacting your concertation, mental clarity, and irritability.
We spend a third of our lives asleep. It remains one of the constants of our routine throughout life. But everyone's different. The amount of sleep you need will be unique to you. The NHS state that most people need an average of six to nine hours of sleep each night. So it's worth spending some time to work out what the perfect evening dose is for you.
It was the Dali Lama who proposed that 'sleep is the best medication'. And for good reason, as, aside from making us feel groggy and grumpy, poor sleep is linked with poor mental and physical health too. We’ll dive a little deeper into this connection below.
You can imagine the link between sleep and mental health to be something of a cycle; the two are inextricably linked. Poor sleep leads to poor mental health. Poor mental health leads to poor sleep. And vice versa.
We’re all familiar with how one bad night’s sleep can leave us feeling depleted of energy, lacking in concentration and generally under the weather. Problems sleeping can lead to low mood, poor relationships and decreased energy for exercise. In turn, this kind of lifestyle increases your susceptibility to mental health problems.
Getting the sleep we need helps us process emotions, make decisions and consolidate memories. And there is no substitute for that. These things are essential for us to maintain good mental health and feel equipped to ride the ups and downs of life. Good sleep helps us prevent and recover from mental health conditions.
On the flip side, when we’re struggling with our mental health, sleep is inclined to be affected too. Depending upon the mental health challenges you’re facing, there’s a range of ways your sleep might take a hit.
Try to avoid spending too much time in your bed when you aren’t sleeping or sleepy. If you often roll around in bed for hours on end, you might start to associate sleepless nights with that space. Try to only get in your bed when you are actually ready for sleep. This tip might help you to avoid negative associations with your sleep space.
Get the environment right. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and the light levels low. Scents like lavender, camomile, clary sage and rose can also help you drift off. Treat yourself to soft pillows, blankets and sheets. Set up a cosy sleep space that you look forward to getting into.
If a racing mind is what keeps you from drifting off at night, try to write down your worries on a piece of paper. A worry list helps ease the pressing tension of thoughts and release them from the grips of your mind.
Most of us will have heard that the blue light emitted from electronics keeps us up at night. This kind of light reduces melatonin production that helps us sleep and feelings of sleepiness. So try your best to switch off from the screens as early as you can, and if you do use your phone, laptop or TV, try to turn the brightness down or see if there’s a night mode option you can use. All these small changes add up.
The tips above should help most people maintain a healthy sleep schedule. But if you are suffering from insomnia regularly, you might need some extra help from your GP. There is a range of treatment options available including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Don't be afraid to reach out and get the support you need.
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