Mental Health + Sleep: 7 Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
I don’t know when it became a *badge of honor* to only get 3 hours of sleep the night before an exam or because you were working so hard, but that lack of sleep has profoundly affected our mental health. Sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression. In fact, sleep problems can develop before major depression does [source = Harvard Health]. Lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of anxiety, impaired memory, reduced immune system functioning, weight gain, + an increased risk of heart disease + cancer according to Mental Health America. Sleep is so important to our overall well being — especially our mental well being! If you find yourself saying, “I just don’t have time for sleep,” then I would reevaluate your priorities + make sure you are putting your dedication to sleep at the top!
Here are our top 7 tips for getting a good night’s sleep + making the most out of your sleep routine!
#1] Sleep Routine. Sticking to a sleep schedule [going to bed around the same time every night + getting up around the same time every morning!] is a healthy sleep habit to have. Make sure you are setting your schedule to have enough time to actually sleep — at least 7 hours of sleep! I know that it can be hard to stick to a sleep schedule [especially in college!] — so it’s important that you account for the days when you might be staying up later than normal or getting less sleep + build some *extra* sleep time into your schedule throughout the week! Try planning your sleep schedule for the week + setting alarms to remind you when it’s time to go to bed.
#2] Avoid Caffeine in the afternoon + evening. This past year I even cut out coffee completely + I have definitely noticed a difference in my mental health as well as sleep quality! However, if you don’t want to give up your coffee or espresso — make sure you’re only drinking it in the morning!
#3] Limit blue light exposure before bed. According to Scientific American, “The light from our devices is short wavelength enriched, meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light — + blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.” If you are someone who tends to *burn the midnight oil* — try downloading the app f.lux! It’s free + it makes the color of your computer screen adapt to the time of day you’re in as well as limiting the blue light wavelengths from your computer or phone screen!
#4] Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. This might seem like common sense, but you can’t *force* yourself to sleep! Winding down before bed is important to help shift you into *sleep mode.* This is where the bedtime routine is key. Find something that can relax you before bed — such as reading a book, listening to a podcast, or doing a relaxing meditation. A few of my personal recommendations for inducing the sweet sleepiness:
- Reishi tea in the evening [try foursigmatic’s here!]. Reishi mushroom is one of the most studied mushrooms + shown to activate sleep cycles! If that isn’t your cup of *tea,* try this REBBL Chocolate Reishi Milk — it tastes just like a glass of chocolate milk!
- Lavender Essential Oils [try Pure Gold’s here!]. As soon as I put a few drops of this into my diffuser, my body knows it’s time to start winding down!
- Yoga Nidra for Sleep. Finally — a time when it’s recommended to fall asleep during your meditation practice ; ) You can search for this using the insight timer app or try this one from youtube!
#5] Avoid alcohol before bed. This seems a little counter-intuitive… right? Alcohol is a depressant,meaning it does make you sleepy + might help you fall asleep easily. owever, you end up awakening more often in the middle of the night + it has a disruptive effect on sleep because it suppresses REM sleep according to HuffPost’s What Science Really Says About Drinking Before Bed. Usually, it takes more than one drink to have any disruptive effects on sleep!
#6] No More Naps! As a former avid napper [++ someone who wouldn’t have graduated college without frequent naps] this was a hard one for me to hear! However when you nap you are decreasing your *sleep drive.* It’s recommended to keep naps short ++ to not nap after 5PM!
#7] Exercise Regularly. In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep in America survey, regular, vigorous exercises reported getting the best sleep. However, try not to work out too close to bed — it’s recommended that you finish your sweat sesh a few hours before bedtime. Exercise is also shown to have significant mental health benefits itself [check out our post on that here]!