Sleep

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I don’t know about you but I am subhuman without my shut-eye. As such, I’m all too aware that a lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns can have a dramatic impact on a person’s mental health.

Why does sleep help?

  • Evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.

  • And more generally, the evidence of a link between depression and poor sleep is very well established - sleep problems are either a symptom of mental health problems (including depression, anxiety and stress), or help to cause mental health problems.

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Tips

  • Think about reducing your caffeine intake. Coffee in the morning is fine for most people. But try and avoid caffeine in foods and drinks after lunch.  Even small amounts of caffeine found in chocolate can affect your sleep later that night.

  • Exercise every day. This makes a massive difference to my quality of sleep and there’s plenty of research to support this. However don’t smash out a major workout too close to bedtime or you’ll be too energised to sleep.

  • No screen time before bed. Turn off your phone, tablet, computer etc. at least one hour before you go to bed. The blue light from your screen can overstimulate the brain and prevent you from falling asleep.

  • Use your bed for sleep and sex. Your bedroom should feel relaxing. Sitting in bed working, watching TV or checking your socials will keep you awake.

  • Try to avoid heavy foods and large meals before bedtime. They overload your digestive system, which affects how well you sleep. Try having a light dinner or eating several hours before you go to bed. I swear by the 6pm evening meal.

  • Consider reducing your alcohol consumption. Have you ever had that feeling where you wake up super early, full of anxiety after a big night of boozing? That’ll be thanks to cortisol, a stress hormone which can be a side effect of drinking alcohol. After its initial effects wear off, booze will make you wake up more often overnight.

  • Create a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends. This routine will get your brain and body used to being on a healthy sleep time schedule.

  • Get out in bright light for 5 to 30 minutes as soon as you get out of bed. Exposure to sunlight helps your body to stop producing Melatonin (the hormone which makes you sleepy) and to produce Serotonin (the hormone which makes you feel awake).

  • Try to avoid afternoon naps if you’re struggling to sleep at night. If you absolutely have to, make sure it’s just for 20 minutes. If you’re feeling knackered in the afternoon, do some exercise, get outside and drink plenty of water.

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5 things you can do right now

  1. Choose a delicious herbal night time tea - research suggests that chamomile tea is particularly effective at promoting good sleep but there are studies which suggest that valerian root, lavender, peppermint and passionflower also have positive effects. Also very baller.

  2. Turn off your screens an hour before going to bed. Maybe go old school and read a paperback for 20 mins before you go to sleep?

  3. Put your clock under your bed or face down so you can’t glance at it during the night to see what time it is - looking at your clock can make you feel stressed about not being asleep which can keep you awake.  

  4. If it’s sunny when you wake up, get out for a 5 minute walk as soon as you can. Bright sunlight will help you feel more awake.

  5. Is your bedroom comfortable? It should be really dark and quiet - don’t be afraid to use earplugs and eye masks. I’ve been doing that for years and it was game changer for me. Warning: possible side effects of this could include diminished sexiness.

 

Further reading