Are you having trouble sleeping at night? Chances are, yes. It’s the first thing to go when we feel the slightest bit of stress and it has lasting effects we can feel whenever we don’t get enough of it. We all know it’s a vital component of living, but it’s hard to always get the best sleep we deserve. Whether you can’t quite break the habit of putting your phone down, keep playing the next episode of the series you bingeing or have work on the brain; there are numerous reasons why you may be staying up later than you should. All of these habits can then very easily make it more difficult for you to switch off.
If you are having trouble sleeping, read our guide to getting the best night’s sleep you can, and live a healthier life because of it.
What is sleep’s effect on us?
Sleep is up there with eating and breathing on the list of things you need to do to survive, but while the latter two have obvious and immediate effects without them, in today’s hustle culture, sleep can feel like a waste of time. Its more subtle effects don’t get appreciated as much when it is taken from us. We are too busy worrying about that meeting tomorrow, that date last night, the vague openness of the future, that it’s hard to shut our minds down enough to sleep.
But sleep is a vital part of keeping your body healthy. It allows your mind and body to heal, and without it you will gain a reduced immune system, a dysfunctional central nervous system, a slow digestive system leading to obesity, and a slow cardiovascular system, which can affect your blood pressure and will slow the healing of blood vessels in the heart. In the brain, it will cause memory issues, cause slow thinking and trouble with concentration, and slow reflexes.
A lack of sleep can also trigger mental health problems. You might find yourself feeling more anxious or depressed, and you are more likely to have a psychotic episode with no sleep, including mania, psychosis, or paranoia. Plus, your low energy and trouble thinking will add on extra anxiety and depression.
And so, the cycle continues. You lack sleep and start to feel anxious; you feel too anxious to sleep, you lack sleep, etc. This will then start to impact your everyday life and relationships.
A good night’s sleep is very rarely prioritized, but it’s essential that you change that. The question is…how?
How do we get more sleep?
So, what’s to be done? It can feel like an impossible task to gain sleep, and yet so simple. And before you know it, you’re anxious about not getting to sleep.
There are a few simple changes you can make to help you get better sleep. An obvious change, that is yet again a symptom of hustle culture, is your coffee. If you can’t cut out coffee entirely, at least keep it to the morning. Sure, you need a coffee to wake up in the morning, but you probably need that coffee to pick up the slack for the lack of sleep you got last night, after an evening coffee. Switch to decaf at night or do it all day and assure yourself the placebo effect works.
Melatonin will help you sleep, and it can come in supplements. You can get these key sleep hormones from your doctor or grab an equivalent on the high street like ginko biloba, glycine, valerian root, and magnesium. Another easy one is to use something lavender-scented to send you off and keep you calm, like a candle or a lotion.
If you are finding yourself in a position where your eyes are closed but your mind is whirring, sometimes it’s just a matter of telling your mind to shut off. Download a meditation app, and yes, breathe in and out. It sounds too simple to work, but that’s the point. You are supposed to focus on something that is nothing so that you don’t fill your head with any thoughts about that meeting in the morning. You can also block out thoughts with a white noise app. Listen to the raindrops rather than your head wondering why we did that embarrassing thing years ago.
If that doesn’t work, there is Rise Science. Rise Science aims to analyze your sleeping patterns so that it can help you adjust them. It takes a scientific approach to “sleep hygiene” using the two principal laws of sleep: sleep debt and circadian rhythm.
How Does Sleep Affect Our Mental Health?
You can also take a shower or bath before bed to relax. Not only will it let that hair conditioner really work overnight, but a warm shower or bath will stimulate blood flow to your hands and feet, lowering your blood pressure during sleep if taken less than an hour before you go to bed.
Make sure that no pain is impeding your sleep. If you find yourself more comfortable in a hotel, you might want to replace your mattress or pillows. Unfortunately, mattress comfort is too subjective to comment on, but if you are someone who sleeps on their side, look into the sturdier side-sleeper pillows on the market right now. And you should upgrade your bedding every 5-8 years since research shows that replacing your moth-bitten sheets with new ones can enhance sleep.
Fundamentally, you need to try and find out what works best for you. It may not have an impact right away, but if you give it time, you may gradually start to see the benefits. Staying well-rested and getting the quality sleep you deserve is essential for your mental and physical wellbeing. Don’t let it be something you say you want to improve and then never do anything about it. Take the steps to improve it today, and you will certainly start to thank yourself when you wake up more refreshed in the morning!