How to sleep your way to a healthy mind?
Sleep and mental health are intimately related. Disturbed sleeping patterns and poor sleep hygiene directly impact our brain’s ability to process information, memories and emotions at night. This leads to emotional instability, forgetfulness and increased stress and anxiety levels. So how can we keep our mental health in check by sleeping right? - Let’s explore.
Sleep - Fuel for our brain
It’s no surprise that sleep directly impacts your mental and physical health. Scientists call sleep the fuel for your brain. It is needed to power up your body and have it function at full potential and acts as a powerful restorative function that helps optimize brain functioning.
Healthy sleep results in successful processing of information, memories and emotions by the brain which in return helps you feel recharged and ready for the next day.
Relation between sleep & mental health
Not many people are aware of the reciprocal relationship between sleep and mental health. Lack of sleep directly impacts your mental health and vice versa. People suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are more likely to experience mental health illnesses and most people diagnosed with mental health disorders are likely to find it harder to fall asleep.
With mental health awareness on the rise, a lot is being done to educate and inform people about the importance of mental wellbeing. In India, where every 7th person will likely have a mental disorder in his/her lifetime, it is all the more crucial to offer helpful support to those in need. Talking about sleep, with Indians being the second most sleep-deprived in the world as per a 2019 study, we can only imagine the magnitude of the impact on the mental health of most of the population.
How to keep a check?
Poor sleep habits have always been linked to stress, anxiety and depression. Let’s not also forget its impact on heart health, immunity levels, body weight and memory. Poor sleep not only makes us feel down, restless and stressed but also decreases our body’s ability to function properly which further increases the risk of mental health illnesses. In fact as per health experts, treating sleep problems early on can help alleviate symptoms related to mental health issues.
While the symptoms of mental health disorders vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and type of disorder, extreme mood changes, loss of appetite and sleep are primary indicators to watch out for. Many times the symptoms can also manifest as physical ones like stomach ache, headache or even back pain. Looking out for these early signs is the best way to combat stress and develop resilience towards mental health problems.
Steps to improve sleep habits for better mental health
Maintaining a healthy sleep routine can help your mind unwind and let you get a better night’s sleep - drastically improving your mental health.
Here some proven tips to improve sleep quality all by yourself:
Our brain responds extremely well to routines. One of the best ways to sleep better is to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. This regulates your internal body clock and helps it stay in sync with the rest of your body functions.
Yoga nidra is a powerful meditation technique that helps reduce stress and anxiety levels by promoting deep rest and relaxation. It is the best way for the body to reboot and recharge. You can practice it right before going to bed to get a good night’s sleep.
Stimulants like sleeping pills, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine devoid you from a deep sleep experience, something that is really important for you to wake up feeling refreshed. Replace these with nutritionally dense foods and herbals teas like chamomile and lavender that naturally help in inducing sleep.
This one is important and an often underrated method when it comes to sleeping better. Our sleep environment greatly influences our sleep quality. A comfortable mattress, a noise free bedroom with the right temperature and light is a must for a healthy sleep. Since everyone sleeps differently, your sleep space needs to be tailored as per your preferences.
Associate your bedroom only with sleep. Prepare for bedtime by keeping your phone or any other electronic devices away from your sleep space. Read a book or listen to relaxing music to unwind. You can also practice mindfulness or deep breathing. Such relaxation techniques help calm the mind and body and help you sleep better.
As a final note, do understand that working on improving your sleep quality or mental health is as important as exercising and eating well. Just like any other illnesses, mental illnesses can also be treated and cured.
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