Here’s How You Can Improve Your Sleep Habits for Better Mental Health
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Author: Jason Lewis
Tossing and turning is a common occurrence for many people, but those restless nights can do more damage than just leave you feeling groggy and irritable with dark circles under your eyes. According to Neurocore, “studies have found that sleep disturbances may actually be working as a trigger, raising your risk of developing a mental health condition.”
During sleep, you experience different stages: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. REM sleep helps your brain rest and recover, and is responsible for your overall emotional health. When this sleep is disrupted, your neurotransmitters and stress hormones take a hit as well, which can make mental health conditions worse. If you’re experiencing poor sleep consistently, and it’s taking a toll on your mental health, here’s how you can take matters into your own hands:
Stress Less in the Bedroom
Your home, especially your bedroom, should be a safe and relaxing haven, but there may be some hidden stressors that are causing you some trouble. Three areas you need to focus on are light, noise, and the room’s temperature. Even the slightest bit of light can keep you awake, whether it’s light streaming in under the door or the glow from the street lamp, but blackout curtains are an instant fix. Plus, they come in a variety of colors so you don’t have to forfeit your style.
Noise is another issue that can be remedied by using soundproofing curtains, installing weather stripping, putting up acoustic foam, or splurging on a thicker door. A sound machine works great as well if you enjoy soothing sounds, and you can find apps on your phone to play them. Temperature is an easy one – just adjust your thermostat to the desired temp and consider adding a small heater or A/C unit inside your bedroom.
Opt for Natural Remedies
When you can’t sleep, you might be tempted to reach for a sleeping pill, but you should be aware of the dangers. Not only do you run the risk of dependence, but your sleep cycles can be diminished since they “modify the architecture of your sleep, making it less rich in slow waves, proving a lack of deep sleep. In addition, regular sleeping pill use has been linked to daytime drowsiness and memory loss, not to mention it raises the risk of mortality as a result of road accidents, sleepiness, and depression.
So, it is best to stick to natural remedies, and there are plenty. One of the most common is melatonin, which your body naturally produces as the day turns to night. Melatonin supplements can strengthen your sleep-wake cycle as well as help you get on a more regular schedule. Other supplements and herbs worth looking into are magnesium, valerian, magnolia bark, and jujube. The key to these natural remedies is that they help you relax, which is why essential oils are a great sleep remedy as well. There are plenty of scents to choose from such as lavender (one of the most popular), valerian, sweet marjoram, roman chamomile, and peppermint. Add a few drops in a diffuser, warm bath, or directly on the skin. You can also find them in pillow mists.
Physical Therapy Helps With Sleep, Too
You might not equate physical therapy with sleep, but you certainly shouldn’t count it out. Chronic pain makes it difficult to sleep, and you could be losing as much as 42 minutes of sleep because of it. Back and neck pain can be a huge source of discomfort, but you don’t have to live with it. A physical therapist can help restore your body’s balance, mobility, and flexibility to reduce the pain and help you sleep. They can also recommend sleeping postures and pillow placements to help keep your body naturally aligned and avoid causing/exacerbating pain.
Sleep is essential, but it can be difficult to come by. Sleep conditions, mental health issues, and chronic pain make it even harder to get a good night’s rest, but don’t give up hope just yet. Optimizing your bedroom for sleep, exploring natural remedies, and working with your local physical therapist are all ways to take back control of your sleep and improve mental health.
Jason Lewis is a contributing author, personal trainer and creator of Strongwell.org, an online resource portal for seniors with special health care needs.