The research indicates that quality of sleep and intensity of stress are linked; therefore, it seems to me that sleep is a key factor in our overall mental health. We all know that adults are recommended for 8 hours of sleep a night, but the research indicates that most adults get around 6. In my work, I have also noticed a lot of people that do not even get that, especially during times of high anxiety or mania, which of course, pushes people to an even darker place!
The good news is that researchers have found what works, and it’s not medication! The bad news is, people don’t want to do it. For those of us who care about rest and want to get it, here is what we know about how to get better sleep!
1. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time daily. Difficult to do, but close enough counts for this one!
2. Do not get in your bed, unless you plan to go to sleep. This is to train the brain that bed equals sleep.
3. If you are in bed, and you can’t sleep, get up. Don’t go for a walk or into a well-lit room, but maybe go lay on the couch or do one of the activities listed below.
4. Activities that are conducive to sleep: a crossword puzzle, a word search, reading, meditation, warm baths, pet/people snuggles, and writing. These are activities that help us zone out and relax a little. Although they may require some brain strength, it’s usually just enough to let us know we are tired.
5. No LED lights for at least an hour before bed. Light stimulates us! This means no TV, phone, internet, computer, ipad, etc. This also means no sleeping with the TV on. These devices fool us into thinking we aren’t tired when indeed we are. It’s the nature of this type of entertainment, and it’s actually part of the goal of media!
6. Make your room your sanctuary. Make sure it is dark when it’s time to sleep. Make sure it’s cool. Make sure your bed is comfortable, welcoming, cozy.
7. Do not do anything strenuous for at least an hour for bed. Avoid working out or heavy lifting right before bed.
8. Limit caffeine intake, especially after noon.
9. Stop working at an appropriate time-Definitely do NOT work in the bed. When we work all hours of the day, our brain thinks it should stay active, and calming the mind in order to rest becomes nearly impossible.
10. Meditate. This helps significantly with falling asleep and staying asleep. I have also had people tell me it helps with eliminating disturbing dreams. It is weird? Yes, to a degree. However, I have done meditation with MANY people, and almost everyone will at least feel relaxed at the time of it. And it doesn’t have to be super long- 10 minutes will do.
11. Invest in a noise maker or fan. Sometimes sounds distract us as we are trying to go to sleep. Sound machines have relaxing noises that are just enough to soothe people to sleep.