Let’s talk sleep…. Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. Sleep also allows nerve cells to communicate and reorganize which supports healthy brain function. Proper sleep allows the body to repair cells, restore energy and produce important hormones and proteins. The CDC recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults 18-64 yrs old and nine to ten hours of sleep is recommended for children 6 to 18 yrs old.
When I work with my clients we always talk about “sleep hygiene.” Sleep hygiene is a crucial part of mental wellness and self care. I’ve complied a list of a few things to consider regarding sleep hygiene.
Sleep Hygiene Guide:
Your sleep environment matters: Think cool, dark, comfortable and quiet!
Make sure the bedroom is completely dark, black out curtains are cheap and very effective. Light stimulates the brain to produce chemicals that will keep you awake.
Make sure the mattress and pillows are comfortable.
Make sure the bedroom is the right temperature. Research shows we need our bodies to be cool in order to sleep.
Make sure your space is quiet. Noise also stimulate the brain. The exception to this is white noise such as a fan, running water, etc.
Bedtime routine: Create a bedtime routine, get up and go to bed at the same time each day, take a shower or a bath, brush your teeth, read, stretch, meditate, whatever will feel best to you! But when you create a routine, your body will begin to recognize the cues that you are preparing for sleep and start to relax and shut down.
Things to avoid:
- napping during the day
- watching television in bed
- using a device with a bright screen one hour before bed
- Drinking alcohol (leads to interrupted sleep)
- Eating a heavy meal less then 3 hours before bed
- Staying in bed been if you can’t fall asleep (it’s better to get up and do something relaxing and then try again)
- Consuming caffeinated drinks late in the day
- Exercising within 3 hours of bedtime
- Also, avoid looking at a clock to check the time
Did you know that Movement is directly correlated with better sleep? Exercise for 30 min 3 times a week for better sleep!
Worry Notebook: Another great tool to utilize is leaving a notebook by your bedside. Writing down thoughts that begin to circle as you try to quiet your mind can be a helpful way of “containing” those worries so that your brain doesn’t have to try so hard to fix it or remember it. You can write it down and come back to it in the morning.
Be consistent… Bedtime routines and healthy sleep patterns can take time to establish especially if you are currently struggling. So be patient and consistent! And with time, if following some of the guidelines and making small adjustments does not help with your sleep and you find yourself continuing to struggle, I encourage you to make an appointment with your primary care doctor or consider making an appointment with a mental health therapist today.