The importance of sleep to your Mental Health

In numerous studies done over the past few years it’s been proven that the less sleep you get can have an impact on your mental health, also in the same way that too much sleep can have a similar effect. The lack of sleep can affect your concentration, increase your worries and therefore have an impact on your stress levels. 

A mental health study by Place2Be about young people said that, they are more likely to feel worried about something in their home or school life and unable to know how to cope than if they’d had the recommended amount of sleep. The ability to stop worrying about that problem also lasts longer without sleep as 36% of young people said they didn’t know how to stop compared to only 28% of those on a decent night sleep.

The recommended amount of sleep you should have in 24 hours depends on your age as follows:

  • 0 to 3 months should have between 14 and 17 hours sleep
  • 4 months to 11 months should get 12-15 hours
  • 1 to 2 year olds should be between 11 and 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 year olds should have between 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 13 year olds should get between 9 and 11 hours
  • 14 to 17 year olds should have 8 to 10 hours sleep
  • The majority of us between 18 and 64 years need 7 to 9 hours sleep
  • And if you’re 65 years or over, 7 to 8 hours is the recommended amount.

Here are a few tips to having a good night sleep and how they can help improve your lifestyle generally:

Digital Detox

It may seem obvious but the use of technology, even TV, can have a detrimental effect not just on the ability to fall asleep but also the type of sleep you have. It’s not just because reading social media posts before bed will keep your mind awake with interest, it’s also the blue light from the screen. The light is designed to mimic daylight and it tricks our bodies into staying awake, making our bodies create less of the hormones we need for a healthy night sleep.

One study showed that teenagers who spend more than four hours per day on screens were 3.5 times more likely to get a bad night sleep. Another shocking study by Ofcom showed that 71% of 12-15 year olds take their phones to bed with them – a maybe not surprising but worrying stat showing how technology now controls our lifestyles from day break to bedtime.

Taking technology to bed is also a large fire risk. Research shows that 53% of young people charge their phones under their pillow or on their bed, which once hot can pose a large risk of catching alight. 

The best digital detox you can do is to limit tech to be switched off an hour or two before bedtime, blue lights, screens and standby lights to all be removed from the bedroom where possible, and limit the screen time during the rest of the day to a few hours. Where you can’t get away from a screen e.g. at work, taking regular breaks from the screen can help your brain to adjust in the evening too.

Eating well

As sleep is important to your mental health, food is important to your sleep. Making sure you eat at regular intervals throughout the day and at the same time each day your body learns when to process food and when to rest. If you eat at different times of day and eat unhealthy meals your blood sugar levels contribute to indigestion at night and restless sleep.

The best late night snack should contain carbs and proteins as studies show that the carbohydrates make your body release insulin, this creates sleep-inducing tryptophan that helps improve your night’s sleep by releasing levels of serotonin and melatonin.

Make sure you skip alcohol and stimulates before bed time. Although alcohol is thought of as a sedative it actually increases levels of dopamine, which has a stimulating effect. Caffeine and nicotine are also worth avoiding as these can impact the quality of your sleep. It’s also quite surprising how much caffeine is in some food products, dark chocolate for example is very high in caffeine.

Exercise

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can aid sleep if taken part in at the right time. If you exercise too late at night it can increase your adrenaline and keep you wide awake for longer. The best time to exercise is first thing in the morning as you will find it aids your sleep that night and increases the benefits to your body throughout the day when you’ve exercised.

Calming herbal drinks

Before bed, try drinking a herbal beverage such as camomile tea to help calm your mind ready for bed. Other herbal options include passion flower, lemon balm, magnolia bark and valerian.

Lavender oil on your pillow

If you really struggle to switch off before bed time then try adding a few drops of lavender oil onto your pillow this will help aid your relaxation and help you drop off.