Have you ever noticed your sleep, or lack of sleep, having a direct impact on aspects of your mental health?
I was recently asked to speak at The Barbican Library for World Mental Health Day.
The thing is, not everybody recognises the impact of poor sleep on their mental health. It can be subtle, or it can be that your cognition is impaired by your tiredness and low mood, affecting your ability to identify with and deal with the source of the problem.
So today I’d like to share a few important reminders with you from my talk so that you can be on the lookout and keep yourself happy, healthy and performing at your best.
When we are not having good quality sleep, our mood is one of the first things to show that.
Remember the 3 types of tiredness
We are all aware of how physical tiredness works. If you have been working out or running around at a busy work event, then you will know the feeling very well. As long as you have adequate time for your body to adjust and wind down before bed, physical tiredness can lead to a good night’s sleep.
Of course, that work event will no doubt bring an element of mental tiredness too. That feeling you have after a particularly mentally taxing day is very draining but can make it harder to get into a sound, undisturbed sleep, as your brain will want to run through the events of the day.
This is somewhere that a good evening routine makes a big difference in how well you sleep.
Then the third kind is emotional tiredness – one that we can often overlook. If you are going through a particularly emotional time then it is normal for your sleep to be affected. In this case, remember to be gentle with yourself, to not over-commit with your schedule, and to support your body with good nutrition and hydration.
The mental health cost of poor sleep
It’s true that there are many physical health conditions that are exacerbated by poor quality sleep. But today I particularly want to bring your awareness to the mental health side of things.
Anxiety and depression are becoming more widespread in our society, and there are strong links here with the constant tiredness we feel from our busy, high-pressure lives.
With lower mood, sometimes comes the urge to say no to social events, so we begin missing out on seeing our friends. Life can become about just getting through each day, and we begin to lose the joy in life.
The fast-paced world we live in certainly contributes to this problem. Our email inboxes ‘ping’ every few minutes, and it seems like there is always someone or something wanting our attention.
Our problems have quite a lot to do with our habits, the bad ones that is. Over time, most of us get into the habit of always checking our devices, or taking work into the bedroom with us.
Instead, what I do with my clients is get them into good habits, and show them how to train their brain to wind down for sleep by building a personalized evening routine that allows them to transition from work mode to rest mode.
Of course, there will always be some difficulties that we can’t eliminate. For example, shift work will add a layer of complexity to your sleep routine. But this is why the good habits that you develop need to be personalized to fit your lifestyle, your personality, and your unique set of circumstances.