This year’s World Sleep Day (18th March) focuses on the impact that sleep can have on emotional and mental health with the theme “Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World.” There is a close link between sleep and mental health: struggling with a mental health problem can have an impact on sleep, and poor sleep can have an impact on mental health. Most people can fall asleep in around 10 – 20 minutes. If it’s regularly taking you longer, you might find the tips here helpful.
With so many hints and tricks for the “perfect night sleep” out there, you can end up putting too much pressure on yourself before bedtime resulting in the reverse of what is intended!
Different things work for people at different times so test some things out and see what works best for you! Don’t feel the need to try them all at once. You can use a written sleep log or check any wearable trackers you have to see what works best for you.
Recommendations to improve sleep quality:
- Avoiding screens: Blue light from TVs, phones, and laptops suppress melatonin production – a chemical that signals the brain that it’s time to sleep. It is recommended you put your devices away at least 30 minutes before sleep. As well as the physical impact, going on social media before bed can add to anxieties before sleep (if you come across triggering content).
- Calming activities: such as having a bath, journaling, or meditation can help you prepare for sleep. Using a guided journey or a playlist of sleep tunes could help. A breathing technique called 7/11 is proven to mimic sleep breathing and can help you drop off. Make sure the temperature in your room is just right (18-20 degrees is ideal).
- Nutrition: try to lessen the amount of caffeine you are drinking in the day, or stop drinking it 6 hours before your regular sleep time. Eating dinner at least 3 hours before allows the stomach time to digest and prepare for sleep. You can also try small snacks which contain natural sleep inducing nutrients such as warm milk containing tryptophan and oats containing melatonin.
- Exercise: getting enough exercise in the day improves your sleep – but avoid exercise 1 hour before bedtime to let yourself wind down and don’t do vigorous exercise in the evening as this will overstimulate the body. You could try progressive muscle relaxation techniques whilst first in bed to help you ease tension and block out any of the day’s worries.
- Light: sunlight regulates our biological clock – getting out in sunlight during the day is important and then making sure your bedroom is as dark as possible for when you are going to sleep (investing in an eye mask can help!) You could try using a sunset lamp if you like to read before bed too.
- Visible clocks: experts recommend not having clocks that you can see from your bed. Watching the clock and getting stressed about how you are still not asleep will make it harder to fall asleep!
- Get up: experts recommend not lying in bed for more than 30 minutes without falling asleep – if you are struggling to sleep then get out of bed and do a calming activity (journalling, colouring etc.) until you feel sleepy.
- Reserve your bed: for sleep and sex only – train your brain to realise that being in bed is for these things only. Avoid working, or watching films in bed!
How InsideOut can help:
At InsideOut we have therapists trained in helping people with sleep problems. The most common treatment for insomnia is CBT-I which focuses on the connection between the way we think, the things we do, and how we sleep. You may also be offered talking therapy to help with mental health problems that are affecting your sleep.
As well as our 1-2-1 sessions, we also have meditations on our mental fitness programme aimed at helping you switch off and prepare for sleep.
Authors: Holly Hutchinson – Customer Success Manager at InsideOut and Dr Becky Lunson Southall – Chief Therapist at InsideOut