Sleep and Mental Health

Difficulty getting a good night’s sleep is often the reason people come to yoga classes.  Apart from a regular yoga practice incorporated into your daily routine, I would recommend some gentle Ujjiya (ocean breath) breathing in a quiet, softly lit room followed by gentle stretches or Chandra Namaskar (the Dru Moon Sequence) just before you go to bed.  Finish with savasana, making sure the room is warm and wrapping yourself in a one of those enormous, soft fleeces.  Yoga United has a wide range of relaxation aids including everything from bolsters and eye pads to a full body sized Yoga Nidra relaxation mat.

The subject of sleep has been covered by a previous guest contributor, Mary Lee of Sleep Tuck.  Now our newest contributor, Cheryl Conklin of Wellness Central, explains how sleep problems can have a dramatic affect on your mental health.

Sleep Well for the Sake of Your Mental Health

Sleep Cheryl Conklin

Image via Pixabay

You fall ill. You get cranky. Your mind slows down. You have trouble working, exercising, and even carrying out simple tasks like driving and cooking. These are all things that happen if you don’t get the rest you need. You know what else you suffer from? Stress, anxiety, and depression, which have a dire effect on your ability to function.

It won’t happen immediately. One night of tossing and turning does not turn your life into a waking nightmare, but things start to get ugly as the weeks of insomnia continue, and that’s a clear sign that you’re in need of self-care to get the sleep your body requires.

Self-care pays dividends when it comes to all aspects of your well-being, including the physical, the spiritual, the emotional, and the professional. What’s more, when you’ve gotten the sleep you need, your body feels better, your mood is lifted, you have the energy to tackle the day’s tasks and all of that makes you feel spiritually whole again. If that’s what you’re looking for, here are some things that would help in your quest.

A Dreamy Bedroom
It may be your bedroom itself that’s keeping you awake. Is there too much noise penetrating through the doors and walls? Is there too much light coming in through the window? As for the first, you probably can’t make your house or neighborhood quieter, but you can drown out the sound with a white noise machine. As for the light, blackout blinds would block that completely. You may also consider new pillows, sheets, or a mattress if it’s a matter of bodily comfort.

The Right Diet
Eating a proper diet means spreading nutritious meals spaced evenly throughout the day; otherwise, you may binge in the evening and give yourself a bad case of indigestion before you hit the hay, says a writer for Everyday Health. As for what to eat, that would be the standard fare for staying healthy, which is whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. If you’re still feeling peckish later in the evening, a nice dose of complex carbs such as milk and cereal or whole grain bread with peanut butter would do nicely.

Enough Exercise
According to Psychology Today, studies show that physical activity helps you fall asleep by reducing stress and lifting your mood as well as encouraging alertness during the daytime to strengthen your circadian rhythm. Moreover, you’ll get more slow-wave sleep, which is deeper and more restorative. The effects are not immediate, however; you’ll have to commit to a regular routine for as much as a few months before you start experiencing the bedtime benefits.

Stress Management
As mentioned before, exercise helps cut stress, but there are other methods to use as well. The Sleep Doctor advocates autogenic training, which consists of a series of exercises that use images and words to focus your attention on sensations in different parts of your body. The ultimate goal is to induce a feeling of warmth and heaviness that makes you sleepy. Breathing in a simple pattern may help as well, specifically inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven and exhaling for eight.

Freedom from Gadgets
Leave your smartphone, tablet, and laptop outside the bedroom. The reason is not only the needless distraction they create but the fact that they emit blue light, which has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. If you use your device as an alarm clock to get up on time the next day, replace it with a cheap alarm clock that you can buy at a department store for a few dollars. It’s well worth it.

A Regular Routine
That means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time, even on the weekends, ensuring you’re always sleepy when you lay your head on the pillow. As a result, you’ll benefit from a shorter sleep latency, which is the time that you normally spend tossing and turning before you actually drift off into dreamland. In one study, that period fell from 45 minutes to nine minutes after the participant shifted to a regular sleep schedule.

Start making these lifestyle changes today if you want to get the most out of life rather than wearing your mind out with worry. That’s no way to live, and you know you deserve better.

Cheryl Conklin

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