For many, sleep is an activity that is rarely prioritised and often done haphazardly. Unfortunately, a consistent habit of getting poor-quality sleep can result in many negative health outcomes such as obesity, irritability, and even negative mental health outcomes such as depression.
Thankfully, the converse is true as well, and cultivating good sleep hygiene can have an incredibly beneficial effect on your mental health. Understanding the ways that sleep hygiene can impact your mental health state can make it easier to take the leap and start prioritizing good sleep.
Here is how developing sleep hygiene can do wonders for your mental health.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a powerful concept that you can use to change your sleeping practices and perception of sleep. In essence, it’s the factors that can affect your quality of sleep, such as your habits and environment.
According to Daniel Álvarez, head of the master in neuropsychology programme at CETYS Universidad, sleep hygiene is “a set of habits that allow us to fall asleep properly in order to sleep soundly.” He also states that “sleep is important for memory consolidation, metabolic and endocrine regulation, immune activation, restoration or conservation of energy, among other things” highlighting the many ways that sleep hygiene can affect our bodies.
By putting more thought into sleep hygiene and the factors affecting your sleep, you can radically improve your quality of sleep and, as a result, your quality of mental and physiological health.
The importance of sleep for mental health
Contrary to what many believe, your sleep habits and your sense of well-being are deeply connected. Each has the power to affect the other in powerful ways, essentially creating a cycle that may be difficult to free yourself from.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that individuals who engaged in inadequate sleep were two and a half times more likely to experience “frequent mental distress” than their counterparts who engaged in adequate sleep. What this highlights is the tremendous impact that sleep can have on your mental health state and sense of well-being.
One way in which sleep affects your mental health state is in your ability to deal with difficult situations and stress. For example, imagine that you’ve barely slept last night, and you find out that your car has been broken into. Rather than feeling ready and able to deal with the situation, you may succumb to negative feelings and mentally spiral. Conversely, if you had had adequate sleep the night before, you’d feel more in control of your emotions and would respond more responsibly.
Regularly getting adequate sleep can improve your ability to process your emotions and even your cognitive thinking. As such, it can improve your experience of mental wellness and have a significant and positive impact on your mood in everyday life.
Cultivating good sleep hygiene
While you may be convinced that it’s a good idea to start prioritizing good sleep hygiene, you may not know where to start. Fortunately, developing good sleeping habits is easier than it might at first seem, and having some guidance around the process can make it even simpler. Here are some ways you can start cultivating good sleep hygiene and experience a boost in mental health.
- Have a consistent sleep schedule. One of the most effective ways to improve your quality of sleep is to engage in a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time, even on weekends and off days. While this may be difficult for some professionals who work odd hours, such as night shift nurses, it’s an incredibly important part of developing good sleep hygiene and experiencing an improvement in mental wellness.
- Optimise your environment for sleep: For many people, optimizing an environment for sleep may seem like a waste of time. However, your environment can actually have a significant impact on your quality of sleep. Some things to keep in mind when optimizing your environment include light and temperature. Lights from electronics and the sun can disrupt sleeping patterns and cause you to get poorer quality sleep. In addition, the temperature can affect how easy it is for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night, with many people reporting that colder temperatures make it easier to get restful sleep.
- Create a routine: Creating a bedtime routine can make it easier to get a better night’s sleep and stay consistent in developing good sleep hygiene. This is because you’ll eventually internalise certain actions that signal it’s time to go to bed, making it easier for your mind to enter a relaxed state that makes it easier to dose off. It can also be helpful to stay away from bright lights as you near your bedtime, as these can trick your mind into thinking that it’s daytime, causing you to feel more alert.
Tips for experiencing better sleep
There are several activities you can engage in throughout the day that will make it easier for you to engage in deep restful sleep. Being aware of some of these practices can make improving sleep hygiene feel more approachable. Here are some tips for experiencing better sleep.
- Exercise. Exercise can greatly improve your quality of sleep and your level of tiredness at the end of the day. If you’re intent on prioritizing sleep, engaging in consistent exercise is a great way to improve your sleep hygiene and boost your mood.
- Meditation. Meditation is a powerful practice that can benefit your life in many profound ways. One way is by helping you develop the skills to calm down and relax whenever you need to. As you can imagine, this can make it easier to settle down and drift off into sleep, no matter how chaotic of a day you’ve had.
Prioritising sleep can improve your life
Your mental health state can have a profound impact on how you view and interact with the world. This means poor mental health can have an extremely negative impact on your ability to live a fulfilling and joyful life. Thankfully, prioritising sleep has the power to benefit your mental health and improve your ability to reach your true potential.
By engaging in some key habits, you can improve your sleep hygiene and experience a boost in mental wellness that improves your quality of life.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.