Depression, ADHD, Anxiety… These are all common mental health concerns that are directly linked in a reciprocal relationship with sleep problems. While this might not be news to you, it does mean that taking steps to improve your sleep might help you cope with other aspects of your life. Unfortunately, fixing your sleep deficiency is not something that can happen overnight (no pun intended). It takes time and an understanding of how the things you do during the day can affect your slumber.
Your bedroom matters
If you have been sleeping in the same room for many years, you may not make a connection between your bedroom and your inability to sleep. However, your environment might just be the reason you stare at the ceiling through the night. Evaluate the area. Is it painted in bright colors? Is there too much light coming in from the outside? Are you comfortable on your bed?
If your bedroom walls aren’t a tranquil color, such as natural beige or pastel blue, it’s time to change your color palette. Excessive light from street lamps or next-door neighbors may also be a problem. Make sure you have thick, room-darkening curtains and, if possible, position your bed away from the door and windows.
It might also be helpful to turn on white noise, which can block out other sounds and help you sleep through the night. You can buy a white noise machine or download an inexpensive or free white noise app on your phone. If you go with the latter, it’s best to connect it to a speaker with Bluetooth capability, so that the white noise is emitted more effectively.
Bad habits have to go
Drinking and smoking are two unfortunate vices that many people turn to when they are depressed or anxious. But that last cigarette of the day can increase alertness and disrupt your sleep. Similarly, alcohol can leave you languishing under the covers. Although a whiskey-infused nightcap was our grandparents’ go-to bedtime remedy, BACtrack explains that there is a greater chance of waking up in the middle of the night after imbibing before bed.
Help you might not have considered
So you’ve changed your bedroom, stopped smoking and are now completely comfortable in your overnight environment. But, you still can’t sleep, and you don’t know why. Sometimes, our bodies are off-balance from the inside out. To combat this, consider working with a professional such as Counselling with Care to work through your issues and arrive at a place of healing. You can also turn to yoga or meditation. Each of these can help you heal your internal imbalances and learn how to cope with the things in life that chip away at you.
Exercise is another sadly neglected activity that can have a positive impact on your sleep schedule. Make a point to work out at least three hours before you set your alarm for the next morning. Do something you enjoy, like playing with your kids, walking with your dog, or going dancing. If you have trouble sticking to a regimen, add an app to your phone to help you remember and stay motivated, or buddy up with a workout partner. When you do finally lay down, your body and mind may be ready to drift off to dreamland.
Sleep is something that can’t be ignored, especially if you have a co-occurring concern with your mental health. Remember, the two can be directly related, and learning how to handle your sleep issues is a good step toward recovering your emotional health. Finally, know that you are not alone. There is no shame in talking to your doctor about your concerns and seeking help from outside sources, such as Counselling with Care, if you feel that things are spiraling out of control.
With these challenging times continuing for everyone. I have put together a list of telephone numbers and websites. There are some fantastic organisations out there to help, please don’t be alone and reach out if you are struggling.
By Cheryl Conklin