Sleep & Mental Health – Why It’s So Important

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Most of us suffer if we do not get a full night’s sleep – but recent medical research has shown that there may be a link between the amount (and quality) of sleep a person has and their mental health.

Research conducted by the University of Oxford found that sleep disruption is the driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences and other mental health problems in young adults with an average age of 25.

The research tested 3,755 students and sought to see if cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia would help to relieve paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, depression, anxiety, nightmares and promote general psychological wellness

The study was the first to show that insomnia is a cause or can be a contributing factor to psychological problems. It concluded that a ‘good night’s sleep’ can have a positive impact on a person’s psychological health.

If you’re looking to improve the quality of your sleep – take a look at our tips below.

  1. A Dark Place

A dark room is important if you’re trying to improve your sleep. Darkness helps our bodies release an important hormone called melatonin. Melatonin helps your body’s sleep cycle clock – and without it, it can be hard to fall to sleep.

Artificial light from tv screens, smartphones or room lighting can block the release of melatonin, which can make it hard for your brain to recognise it’s time to go to sleep. If you’re struggling to sleep, try to dim the lights in your home an hour before you go to bed and avoid looking at bright mobile phone and tv screens.

When you’re ready to sleep – try to make your bedroom as dark as possible and do not look at your mobile phone.

  1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant drug which can make it harder for you to fall asleep and achieve quality ‘deep’ sleep. The recommended daily allowance of caffeine is 300mg per day (the equivalent of four cups of black coffee or green tea). What many of us may not know is that many foods and drinks can contain more caffeine than found in a cup of coffee.

Chocolate can contain caffeine, as the stimulant is naturally found in the cocoa bean — generally, the darker the chocolate – the more caffeine it has. A 100g dark chocolate bar can pack as much as 31 mg of caffeine. Full fat and diet versions of Coca-Cola are known to contain caffeine, but did you know other fizzy drinks also contain caffeine?! A fizzy orange drink can contain as much caffeine as diet coke.

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try to avoid caffeine in the evening or before you go to sleep.

  1. Temperature

Our body temperature can help or hinder our sleep. If you are too warm, it’s likely you will find it hard to sleep. A duvet which is too thick or heating, which is too hot at night can make us uncomfortable and unable to fall asleep.

A room should be cool – around 17 to 20 degrees Celsius. If you’re finding it difficult to sleep – try to test different temperatures.

  1. Create a routine

Our bodies like routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day during the week and at weekends, can help improve your sleep quality. Those who sleep well often report waking up just before their alarm goes off – this is a sign your body recognises your routine and knows when to fall asleep and when to wake up.

If you want to improve your sleep quality, try creating a bedtime routine. Set alarms on your phone which alert you to how long you have until you should start preparing to go to sleep.

  1. Exercise

Our lifestyles can impact the way we fall to sleep. If you find yourself wide awake, when you should be feeling tired – try to incorporate more exercise into your routine. Try to exercise during the day – as exercise increases the body’s adrenaline production – so it's important you don’t exercise just before you go to bed, as adrenaline keeps us awake.

A good exercise routine will help to use up the energy you have and help you feel more tired when it comes to the end of the day. Exercise also helps us stay healthy, and staying healthy is essential to achieving quality sleep.

Sleep and health issues

If you suffer from a long-term sleeping issue – you should talk to your doctor. There are many sleep disorders which can contribute to making it hard for you to achieve quality sleep. For example, insomnia is a condition which makes it hard or impossible for sufferers to fall asleep for a long enough period of time.

There are many treatments for insomnia. CBT is thought to be one of the best treatments and can be prescribed by your GP or a sleep clinic. A GP will often refer a patient suffering from insomnia to a sleep specialist – which can determine what is causing the issue, or if necessary, medication such as sleeping pills.

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