Sleep is perhaps one of the most important functions of the human body. You spend a significant portion of your life asleep, and sleeping is when the body takes time to heal itself. A night of good restful sleep is very important to mental health. Lack of sleep, or too much sleep, can be detrimental not only to your mood but to also how well you recover from injury and illnesses.
For those with depression, it is common to oversleep when you feel little to no energy. Those with a general anxiety disorder might be too anxious or too afraid to fall asleep. Those that struggle with trauma-based disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have interrupted sleep due to nightmares and panic attacks. It can be difficult to practice good sleep hygiene even when feeling well. In this day and age, distractions are everywhere. It may be tempting to stay up late to get in one last level of the game you are playing or read just one more chapter of the book you are reading.
What is sleep hygiene? Simply put, it refers to healthy habits that help you get restful sleep. Establishing a routine will help your body get back into rhythm and understand when it is time for bed. Here are some tips on establishing a good bedtime routine to maximize your body’s power to heal and recover.
Night Or Day Person?
Believe it or not, you might be more suited to being awake at night than being awake during the day, or vice versa. Hundreds of years ago, people could utilize this trait to help protect the family. Having members be awake and alert at night meant that they could keep watch without being drowsy, and were in turn protected during the day by the now rested members.
Society has changed, and it is now considered unideal to be a ‘night owl.’ Whether you are a day or night person, it is still important to practice good sleep hygiene. Regardless, adults should strive for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Establish a Routine
Humans form habits after lots of repetition. The hardest part of the process is beginning to establish the habit and continue to commit to it. This will help alert your body to when it is time to rest, and you will find yourself sleeping easier than before. To begin, establish a regular bedtime. It is not often possible in this society, but establishing some form of a regular bedtime will prepare your body to sleep. Also, establish a regular time to awaken in the morning. It may be tempting to sleep in on days off, but this will throw off your body’s natural rhythm you worked to establish.
Find Time to Wind Down
About an hour before it is time to go to bed, spend some time winding down from the events of the day. Do not drink or eat anything that contains caffeine or alcohol, as that will keep you awake. Usually, a warm drink, such as de-caffeinated tea or hot cocoa will put you in the mood to relax. Some may choose to soak in a hot bath for a little while. The idea is to do an activity that does not elevate heart rate but instead relaxes you. Lavender scents are also good for relaxing, as well as other scents that bring you comfort and reduce stress.
Put Away the Screens
To establish a good bedtime routine, TVs and computers should be removed from the bedroom. The light and noise of them will keep you awake and prevent you from falling asleep. You might use your phone for alarms, so spend as little time as possible on it before going asleep. It is very tempting to stay up to browse blogs and watch videos, so set your alarm and put it down. Your bedroom should be mostly dark to fall asleep faster.
Utilize Noise Apps
You may have trouble with silence, either due to trauma or general nerves. You might get good results by using noise generators to help relax your mind enough to go to sleep. Common noises include rainstorms, sounds of nature, or even sounds of a crackling fireplace. If you have trouble sleeping in silence, trying out a noise app will most likely help you. If you are currently undergoing treatment for a mental disorder, your therapist may have suggestions on which apps to try and what noises may help you the best.
What About Nightmares?
Nightmares are often the product of trauma and can be very upsetting to experience. Nightmares can be treated through psychotherapy to lessen the effect it has on you, or teach you how to cope with them. You may learn how to lucid dream so you can leave a nightmare before it gets too overwhelming. Sometimes you might be suggested to try medications to help, the most minor being melatonin as an over-the-counter sleep aide.
Regardless of if you currently have a mental disorder or not, sleep is vitally important to your well-being and should be taken seriously. If you have trouble sleeping, reach out for help from professionals you trust. By trying out these tips, you may in time get yourself in the habit of a healthy sleep schedule.
Being unable to sleep or sleeping too much is often a sign of a mental health disorder. Many times people struggle with sleep due to trauma and fear, and nightmares tend to make sleeping a terrifying experience. Good restful sleep is important for your body to heal and your mind to process upsetting events.
You are not weak for struggling with nightmares or lack of sleep, many people do recover from such things, and so can you. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we have compassionate staff available to help you with your needs. You deserve to have a good, restful sleep without the fear of nightmares, no matter what they are.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental disorder, call (949)-866-3881 today. People who care deeply for your mental well-being are standing by to help you.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.