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Improving Mental Health Starts With Sleep

Improving Mental Health Starts With Sleep
It’s recommended that healthy adults get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function normally. A lack of sleep can cause daily fatigue, increase your chances of getting sick, and have lasting, long-term effects on your physical health.

But, sleep (or a lack thereof) can also have an impact on your mental health.

Your brain goes through a few changes when you aren’t getting enough sleep. Not only can you lose memories, but your behaviors and mindset can change. You might find yourself becoming angry, less focused, or experience other behavioral changes that just don’t seem like “you”. Going too long without adequate sleep can even increase your risk of developing depression, or make an existing mental health condition worse.

So, how can you change your sleeping habits to improve your mental health? No matter what your situation might be, it’s not impossible to experience a deep sleep with a few different strategies.

Battling With Insomnia

People deal with insomnia for a variety of reasons, including stress, poor sleeping habits, and even existing physical conditions like sleep apnea. One of the best ways to get better sleep is to find the underlying cause of your sleep issues, in the first place. If you do have sleep apnea and a CPAP isn’t working or is keeping you up, consider alternatives like:

  • Oral appliances
  • Weight loss
  • Surgery
  • Sleeping on your side

If poor sleep habits are behind your insomnia, making a few simple changes to your nightly routine can make a big difference. Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping. It shouldn’t be the place you go to watch television or even to read a book and unwind. Try to do those things in a different room, so your bedroom is solely dedicated to sleeping. Set up your room with tranquil colors, light-blocking curtains or shades, and even scents that can help you to feel calm, like lavender.

You should also strive to go to sleep around the same time each night, and avoid looking at electronics at least an hour before bed to keep your brain from getting over-stimulated. Sometimes, changing a few habits can be the answer to insomnia. Changing these habits can also help you to manage issues like anxiety, so you don’t stay awake worrying or over-thinking.

Exercising for Better Sleep

Exercise is an incredible way to get a better night’s rest and improve your mental health all at once. Multiple studies have shown that regular exercise can boost levels of serotonin in the brain, leading to feelings of happiness and less stress. Exercising outdoors has additional benefits, boosting your mood and energy levels.

You don’t need to run a marathon in order to improve your mental health or your sleep. Simply staying as active as possible on a daily basis will make a difference. Doing something you enjoy will help you stick with it, so find a physical activity that keeps you motivated, like:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Playing a pickup sport with friends
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

You can even take classes with other people to help motivate you. Workouts like yoga have been known to reduce stress and provide feelings of tranquility, which can be another boost to your mental health while improving your breathing, as well.

There are also a few exercises you can do before bed that focus less on getting your heart rate up and more on calming your mind and body. Easy movements like overhead stretches or toe-tapping can ease your body into a more peaceful sleep, and you’re less likely to deal with a racing mind or thoughts/feelings of hopelessness before you go to bed. Even giving yourself a massage can help to relax your mind and body enough to get a deeper, more restful sleep.

Getting the Support You Need

If you’re already struggling with mental health conditions like depression, it can often feel like you’re in the middle of a vicious cycle. One of the common symptoms of depression is trouble sleeping. Back, a lack of sleep can fuel your depression even more.

Getting to the underlying cause of your mental health condition is often the best place to start if you want to manage your symptoms and get better sleep. People experience depression for a variety of reasons, including past childhood issues, difficult life situations, or even seasonal changes. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be managed with supplements, dietary changes, socialization, and certain specialized treatments like light therapy. Light therapy can also help to improve your sleep if you use it at the right time to work with your natural circadian rhythms.

If you’re unsure of the source of your depression or you feel you can’t work through it on your own, talk to someone. A therapist, counselor, or even family members or friends can help. Dealing with mental health issues is nearly impossible to do on your own. Reaching out for help is one of the first steps you should take if you truly want to manage your symptoms and take control of your life once more – including getting more sleep.

You can break the cycle of poor sleep and poor mental health. Keep these ideas in mind if you’re struggling, and determine which part of the cycle you’re currently in. By getting more rest, you can boost your mental health, and by taking care of yourself, you can get more sleep. Either way, it’s up to you to take action, and you can start to immediately reap the restful rewards.
Written by Sam Bowman
Sam Bowman has a passion for health and wellness. As a seasoned professional writer, he specializes in topics about people, tech, healthcare and how they merge. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
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