Why is sleep so important and how do I get more of it? 4 tips to help you sleep like a baby.

One of the first questions I ask in an initial appointment with a new client is “What has your sleep been like lately?”. This may seem like a strange question when coming to see a psychologist, but an abundance of research has shown the significant impact that sleep has on our physical AND mental health.

Most people know firsthand that sleep affects their mental state. After all, there’s a reason it’s said that someone in a bad mood “woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of truth behind this saying.

Both sleep and mental health are complex issues affected by a multitude of factors, but given their close association, there is strong reason to believe that improving sleep can have a beneficial impact on mental health. After all, we spend a third of our life sleeping, so it's probably worth developing some healthy habits. For many people, trying to implement all these strategies can be overwhelming. But remember that it’s not all-or-nothing; you can start with small changes and work your way up toward healthier sleep habits, also known as sleep hygiene.


1.Create a comfortable and sleep-inducing environment

- Your bedroom should be quiet, dark, comfortable, and slightly cool.

- As night falls, the sunset outside will promote your body's production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Excess light exposure can throw off your sleep and circadian rhythm. Reinforce this biological response by reducing the amount of artificial light you expose yourself to (computers, phones, TV, etc.), at least 30 minutes prior to bed.

- Remove any physical reminders of work that might prompt stressful thoughts. To strengthen the association your brain makes between being in bed and being asleep, avoid completing work or other tasks in bed and limit bedroom activities to sleep and sex.

- Staring at a clock when you're trying to fall asleep tends to make you anxious and stressed about not being asleep. If you have a clock, you can see overnight, take the clock out of your room, or turn it around to face the wall. If you find you can't get to sleep after 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and doing something you find relaxing until you feel drowsy again. Keep the lights dim, and when you become tired and ready to sleep, return to bed.

2. Optimize your sleep schedule

- Going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day is one of the best ways to set your internal body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm. Despite the temptations of a Sunday morning sleep in, this applies on weekends too. Choose a wake time that works for you and aim to get up within 30 minutes of that time, seven days a week.

- According to sleep experts, you should avoid sleeping in, even if you have had a poor night's sleep. The extra sleep drive will help you consolidate sleep the following night, and sleeping in late can actually disrupt your body clock.

- Soon after waking, seek out morning light. Light exposure helps reset your biological clock and reminds your brain that it’s time to get up.

- On average, adults need eight hours to feel properly rested. Some require slightly less while others require a little more — it's best to listen to your own body.

3.Create a relaxing wind-down routine

- Overstimulation of the mind or body before bed can make sleep both difficult and delayed. Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time by gently winding down with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed.

- Steer clear of blue screens, intense exercise, doing work or discussing emotional issues. Quiet reading, yoga or stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises such as meditation are examples of ways to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.

- If you find it difficult to switch off at bedtime, it may help to set aside time earlier in the day to reflect on any worries or concerns you have through journaling or talking to a friend or family member. This can help you avoid recurring stressful thoughts when your head hits the pillow.

4. Foster pro-sleep habits during the day

- Our internal clocks are regulated by light exposure. Sunlight has the strongest effect, so try to take in daylight by getting outside or opening up windows or blinds to natural light in the morning. Getting a dose of daylight early in the day can help regulate your circadian rhythm.

- Daily exercise has so many benefits for our overall health, and the changes it initiates in energy use and body temperature can promote solid sleep. Most experts advise against intense exercise close to bedtime because it may hinder your body’s ability to effectively settle down before sleep.

- Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, coca cola and energy drinks act as stimulants that almost certainly interfere with sleep. It's recommended that you avoid caffeine for four to six hours before bed.

- It's important not to go to bed hungry, but you should avoid heavy meals when it’s late as having a full stomach can make it difficult to sleep. According to experts, your last meal should be at least two to three hours before bedtime.

- If you do have a snack before going to sleep, it should be small and light. And try to limit your fluids, so that you don't have to get up during the night.

Developing a good sleep routine can take some time to take effect and you may need to experiment to find what works best for you. If you still can’t fall asleep or find your sleep difficulties are worsening, persisting over the long-term, affecting your health and safety (such as excessive daytime sleepiness), or if they occur alongside other unexplained health problems, schedule some time to talk to your doctor. If you feel stress or anxiety is having a big impact on your sleep, a psychologist may be able to support you in working through these worries and switching off at bedtime.

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