Tips for Maintaining a Better Sleep Schedule for Mental Health
Have you ever been in a sour mood and have someone ask you if you woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Or have you ever said that to someone else? Did you know the question is somewhat rooted in reality? That’s because sleep can affect both your physical and mental state and overall health, and a lack of it can have quite a negative impact on your body.
A consistent sleep schedule helps to maintain your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions also follow circadian patterns, and are affected by your sleep. Sleep is also connected to mental and emotional health and has demonstrated links to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions.
Because there’s such a link between sleep and health, it’s important to have a consistent and effective sleep schedule. Here are a few tips for creating and maintaining one.
Why Is Maintaining a Sleep Schedule Important?
Having a regular sleep schedule makes it easier to both fall asleep and wake up, and it can help you get better quality rest. Consistent sleep schedules are associated with a healthier body composition and lower risk of heart disease, and because they lead to better sleep, they can also help with improved learning, better decision making, better immune function, and increased performance in daily activities.
On the other hand, poor quality or lack of sleep can actually inhibit the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which helps build lean muscle mass and burn fat. This can lead to slow metabolism and weight gain. Poor sleep can also cause several other negative physical and mental health effects that can make even simple activities difficult.
How Does Sleep Affect Mental Health?
REM sleep facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information, and during sleep, the brain and body work to do a number of things such as consolidating positive emotional content. This can influence your mood and emotional reactivity to a variety of situations.
Not only do many mental health disorders make it more difficult to sleep, but lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor to the initiation and worsening of mental health problems. Proper sleep helps maintain cognitive skills like thinking, attention, learning, and memory, while poor sleep can make it difficult to cope with even relatively minor stressors. Being tired can impact our ability to perceive the world accurately, which can make us feel anxious or depressed.
Tips For Developing a Better Sleep Schedule
A sleep schedule is simply when you go to bed and wake up every day. Having a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, is critical for your brain and mental health. If you don’t already have one, a few ways to develop a healthy sleep schedule include:
1. Create a healthy sleep environment
First, ensure the environment is dark, even using light blocking or blackout curtains if necessary. Experts suggest the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit, so set your thermostat to lower during sleep hours. Keep the noise level low but use a white noise machine or fan to block out sounds if it’s too quiet or too loud.
Next, turn off and put away anything that will get in the way of sleep, including computers, TVs, and mobile devices.
2. Keep the same bedtime schedule
Create a routine for yourself, such as at a certain time you’ll put your pajamas on, wash your face, brush your teeth, read for 30 minutes, then get into bed. Set a time for “lights off” where you put aside everything you’re doing, turn off lights, and start falling asleep. Another tip is to avoid late afternoon naps, as that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at your designated time.
3. Use your bed only for sleeping
Working, reading, watching TV, playing games, or other activities in bed can actually confuse your brain, so when you get in bed, it doesn’t realize it’s time to sleep and instead can keep you distracted.
4. Turn off electronics at least one to two hours prior to bedtime
This includes computers, phones, TVs, and other devices. The blue light emitted from electronics can throw off your body’s internal clock and make it more difficult to fall sleep.
5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before sleep
These can all throw off your body’s ability to relax itself enough to get good rest, affecting both falling asleep and staying asleep. Cut off caffeine consumption at least six hours before bed and avoid a heavy meal or alcohol for at least two to three hours before bed.
6. Avoid physical activity right before bed
This can energize you and make it more difficult to sleep.
7. Create a routine of calming activities
Read, listen to quiet music, do gentle yoga or stretching, do some reflections or deep breathing exercises, try progressive muscle relaxation, or other similar activities to help you relax.
If you’re still struggling, or finding your mental health is being affected by your lack of sleep, you may want to talk to a psychiatrist to determine the root cause of your sleep challenges and develop strategies and tactics for improving your sleep and mental health.
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