Monday 13 May 2019

Getting a Better Nights Sleep to Help your Mental Health

Grey cat asleep on bed
Image Credit: Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

{This post has been commissioned by TEMPUR®}

The average British adult gets 6 hours and 42 minutes sleep per night (1), making me very much average. I had to chuckle when I looked at my FitBit and saw that lasts weeks average was 6 hours and 46 minutes, and yet I still feel tired many days. I’m not alone though, as we Brits are trying all sorts to help us improve our sleep quality – meditation, exercise or seeking professional help for our mental health or sleep issues.  In fact, there is no shortage of products to help aid a restful nights sleep with people trying everything from CBD oil to specially designed skincare products.

Mental health is an area of keen interest now, and I am so pleased to find that some of the stigma and secrecy is being shed. It is of course OK to admit you have depression, anxiety or any other number of mental health disorders, and to seek help for them. As someone who had late-onset postnatal depression after having my twins and occasionally suffers from bouts of anxiety, I know that I feel much better and more in control I feel when I am sleeping well. The benefits of good quality sleep really can’t be under-estimated, and it’s easy to recognise when I am deficient in sleep as I am irritable, lack concentration and the simplest things can phase me.

This week is the UK’s Mental Health Awareness week (13 – 19th May 2019) and this year they have chosen to focus on mental health and body image. Another hot topic, and in this image-driven society, one that can be challenging. I was interested to read the findings of the mental health survey commissioned by TEMPUR®, which found that only 38% of Brits say the quality of their sleep is good or excellent (1) and 30% recognise that poor quality sleep impacts their mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation compiled a Sleep Report (2) back in 2011, and in that report, it states that “poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.” The aim of the report was to educate the general public and healthcare bodies that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise. You only have to scroll through Instagram to know that they both have prominence in today’s society, but do you ever see people promoting sleep? I certainly haven’t and it would make a refreshing change.

I am a massive advocate of sleeping well, I know that for me it makes a world of difference to how I am feeling and how able I am to cope with life and the things it throws at me. I could point you to dozens of posts on this blog where I have been writing about my struggles with overeating and dieting, and in each one I know that the starting point for me to get better and be able to tackle my issue, is with getting more sleep. For me, better sleep really could be the start of a journey towards a healthy weight and ultimately a better body image and mental health.

Specifically, for me, my need is to go to bed earlier. I am guilty of doing my writing/ blogging work in the evening, and then by the time I respond to emails, do some social media promotion and interaction, it is easily gone 11pm. Then to help me fall off to sleep I like to read and before I know it, it is gone midnight and too late for me.

I think it is a sign of the times that we are all taught it is more important to do things, than to just be, but I have been exploring the concept in recent years, that we are human beings and not human doings, and part of being is sleeping.

Dandelion clock

Image Credit: Photo by Dawid ZawiƂa on Unsplash
My bed is probably my favourite place in my house; I’m with the seven in ten Brits (1) who consider a new mattress to be an investment to their physical and mental health. When my husband and I choose a new mattress we never skimp, this is an area where it is worth investing and buying from a name you can rely on, like TEMPUR®. Which was, by the way, first created by NASA in the 1970’s to help cushion astronauts during lift-off as they journeyed into space. I thought that was pretty amazing and explains why it feels like no other mattress!

A comfortable bed and pillows really are the foundation of good sleep, and here are some other tips to help you have better quality sleep:

Suggestions for Better Sleep

Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine makes it harder to sleep because it stimulates the central nervous system, increasing your heart rate and adrenaline production, and also suppressing melatonin production. It takes a long time for the body to break down caffeine, so drinking coffee during the day can affect sleep at night. Alcohol may appear to help you drift off to sleep but it is proven to impair your sleep quality during the second half of the night and may lead to toilet trips too, as it is a diuretic.

Don’t go to bed hungry
It can be incredibly hard to fall asleep if you are hungry, so a small healthy snack or drink before bed can be helpful. Foods like rice and oats that contain small amount of melatonin can be helpful, or a glass of milk, as dairy contains the amino acid tryptophan which is useful in manufacturing melatonin.

Don’t go to bed straight after a heavy meal
Whilst a small snack can be beneficial to curb hunger, don’t eat a large meal straight before bed as otherwise, your body will spend time digesting the food before you can sleep and you might feel uncomfortable and even get indigestion.

Exercise regularly, early in the day
Many studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise, such as jogging or cycling can be associated with better sleep, improved mood and a reduction in anxiety (3). Do remember though that exercise produces adrenaline in the short term, and this can make it difficult to fall off to sleep. So for your best chance that exercise will positively impact your sleep, make sure you take it earlier in the day.

Improve your Sleep Hygiene
The term sleep hygiene is used to describe the physical and environmental factors that impact your sleep.  Each person is different, but you need to look at finding the right noise, light, heat and ventilation levels for you. Something as simple as black-out curtains and a small window ajar can make the world of difference to how comfortable you are in your sleep.

I hope those tips help you to sleep better at night and in doing so, help to ease some of the symptoms associated with any physical or mental health issues you have.

Happy sleeping!  Mich x

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  1. TEMPUR® Mental Health Survey, in association with Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019). The survey was conducted on 2,000 UK respondents aged 18+.
  3. Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L & Zee PC (2010) Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine 11 (9) 934-940 and Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, Garbuio SA, Tufik S, & Mello MT (2010) Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 6 (3) 270-275.

Disclosure: This post is in conjunction with TEMPUR® but all thoughts are my own and I have not been instructed what to write.