For those of us battling mental illness, few things are more important than a good night’s sleep. But our societies are stumbling through a silent insomnia pandemic.
While an average adult requires at least seven hours of shut-eye each night, US citizens report sleeping just 6.8 hours per day. Reasons for this night-owl syndrome include work demands, economic anxiety, constant social media browsing, and Covid stress.
Though, the worst nighttime thief seems to be social media. Seeking escape following an already chaotic day, many people veg out in front of their phone, tv screen, or computer well into the evening without realizing the pastime’s pernicious effects.
This seemingly benign activity may entertain us, but it also wreaks havoc on our circadian clocks. The blue light overload from those LED devices tricks our brains into making less sleep-inducing melatonin and gives us a ‘tired-but-wired’ nocturnal feel that accounts for a short sleep.
For that reason, it’s best to either shut down electronic devices 90 minutes before bed or wear blue light-blocking glasses if you just can’t miss your favourite 10pm crime drama. Either strategy helps equip your body to produce optimal nighttime hormones.
With our main offender sacked, let’s explore other hacks for getting that recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. These sleep tips for better mental health truly are vital in the quest for finding our best life.
Limit stress through meditation
Meditation is the most convenient of the sleep tips for mental health. It works wonders for producing endorphins and decreasing cortisol. While any version of this ancient self-care practice is beneficial, mindfulness meditation, in particular, promotes improved slumber among the mentally ill.
To begin mindfulness meditation, follow these simple steps:
- Sit comfortably with an erect spine and neutral head.
- Place your arms at your sides.
- Soften your gaze.
- Feel your breath; control each inhalation and exhalation to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Focus on your breath while taking in, but not voluntarily analyzing your immediate environment.
- If your mind does wander from your brain, let it. Be present in the moment without judging or labelling your thoughts.
Repeat this practice for at least ten minutes each day. A wonderful time to reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation is after you’ve turned off your electronic devices 90 minutes before bedtime.
Exercise to get your best night of sleep
Just like mindfulness, regular exercise primes the body and brain for optimal sleep. The key here is to get moving earlier in the day, as an evening sweat sesh can also disrupt the body’s delicate circadian rhythm. The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of light cardio or 75 minutes of intense physical activity per week.
With that in mind, you can choose any combination of aerobic or anaerobic (weight lifting, for example) routines to boost your heart rate and strengthen your core. There are almost endless ways to customize your workout schedule.
However, once you find what regimen works best, you must engage in the routine at least three days per week to gain benefits. This may sound difficult, but know that regular exercise is perhaps the best all-around self-care habit.
In addition to decreasing your risk for myriad physical ailments, staying in motion will also amp up your sleep.