“I can’t sleep. I can’t shut off my brain.”
Not an uncommon thing, is it? And while we can look at that as just having lots on our mind, going over things that happened through the course of the day, putting things in order for tomorrow — all no big deal, right? — the truth is not so simple or cavalier. Anything that taxes us, makes us continue to run through it in our brains even when it’s gone, and to stress us out in any way wreaks havoc on our mental state. These are things that keep us up at night and cause us to lose sleep only to create difficulty for us during our waking hours. The relationship between our rest and our awake is huge. One affects the other which affects the other, turning it into a delicate, fragile mental cycle.
Mental well-being is not some recent buzz phrase invented to justify the creation of a line of so-called New Age remedies. Yes, giving over to the calming of the mind offers incredible benefits and emotional relief. But this is nothing new and the need for a focus on our mental state has become a bigger topic of discussion due to the current way of the world. A lot of people are out there lost and alone, scared and unsure. The things keeping them up at night are real and scary and lonely-making. That tendency to view the need to focus on mental wellness as a flowery choice or a touchy-feely confession of weakness is not as distant as we would like to think. I hear many tales of people pulling away from someone when they discover that person is dealing with psychological issues, even now. The biggest sorrow with these misconceptions is how they can stop someone from seeking the help and support they need. It may even feed the pain they are experiencing, making it harder to move forward in their day, let alone their life. With World Mental Health Day having just passed, we want to acknowledge how important it is for everyone out there to take care of their mental and emotional well-being with the same devotion and focus as their physicality. One of the ways we here at Sleep Club feel we can do our part to support that is by sharing ways to help you settle your minds so you can sleep better at night. This can help us all feel balanced in our waking life, which seems pretty important at any time, but especially now.
Sleep and mental wellness — a beautiful friendship
Lack of sleep can lead to serious mental issues and certain mental issues can cause disrupted, imperfect sleep. Not surprising in the least that there is a connection between the two. Sleep well and there is a calm, a clarity, a release from stress and tension. You feel like you can think better. Take care of your mind, acknowledge when something is awry, and you’ll rest better for it. These three things not only make your slumber richer but get your mind to slow down and step back to give sleep a chance.
Write your worries away
This is more than a journal. It’s focusing your writing — as in, taking a pen or a pencil, putting it to paper and writing — on your troubles, worries, concerns, and even bumps in the road of your day to get it out of you and put it away, even if just for the night. Why on paper? Because the goal is to get you away from any sort of blue light or media before bed. In addition, the act of moving a pen or pencil over paper gets us to think more about what we are writing. Making the release of these anxieties a nightly practice can ultimately calm you by giving you a way to simply get out of your own head. Soon, you may discover that your sleep is unhindered. It won’t fix your life, but it can make your sleep deeper and more beneficial, and in doing that, your mental state will be more positively affected.
Put the long-nap to the side
We’re not saying DON’T nap. All we’re saying is to limit it. A nice power nap — just one in a day — of no more than 20 minutes in the early afternoon can work wonders. If you grab a few zzzzz’s after 3:00 in the afternoon, you’ll disrupt your nightly routine and that all important circadian rhythm. And when you grab those few minutes, really create a comfortable sleep environment. Just because you’re having a quick snooze doesn’t mean you turn on the TV in the living room, curl up on the couch and go to sleep. That won’t refresh you and may even cause you more grief than if you hadn’t slept at all. Take to your bed, darken your room, make yourself comfortable. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes then get up, hydrate, and even take a cool shower to really get yourself feeling better and thinking more clearly.
Play some brain games
Lie down on your bed, close your eyes and think of things like “all the countries that start with ‘l’,” “movies starring X,” and on and on. This focuses your mind on something specific and yet mundane. It has nothing to do with what happened in your day, what is worrying you, anything like that. These are simple and random listicles designed to center your internal thoughts and release you from the “noise” that can keep you awake. Before long, you may find your eyes getting heavy, your consciousness slipping into slumber, and your breathing evening out. And this is your time, your “game.” Let your mind go in whatever whimsical direction you like that is not about work, chores, or negative memories. Allow yourself to just enjoy the cadence of the words without getting caught up in any sort of deep meaning. Positive, smile inducing thoughts really help here, not only making your sleep feel that much better but your emotional state.
No laughing matter
We aren’t psychologists, so what we say here is not meant to be the answer to serious mental health issues you may be experiencing. If you find yourself having a hard time, needing someone to speak to, struggling in any way, please reach out to those around you. Getting a good night’s sleep, however, helps bring your mental state to a positive, healthy place. It really is no joke that sleeping well benefits our whole being — and that includes the mind. Our brain needs us to coddle it, caress it, nurture it, and love it. Complex, mysterious and unpredictable, it runs every aspect of our life. Making the most of our slumber is one of the most amazing ways to do right by that powerful thing inside our skull and it is within our control.
Get better sleep to take care of your mental health and take care of your mental health to get better sleep.