By Cheryl Conklin
If you’re among the many Americans who treat sleep as an inconvenience, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. And you’re taking a major health risk. Sleep deprivation represents a significant threat to your mental and physical health leading to depression, anxiety, anger issues, reduced cognitive functioning, and concentration problems. That’s just part of the picture. Lack of sleep also contributes to obesity and high blood pressure and can lead to diabetes, ulcers, and a host of other dangerous health issues.
Performing well during the day and succeeding at work depends on being well-rested and mentally sharp. But lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your ability to focus, solve problems, and cope with people and difficult situations. Here are a few tips to help you establish a routine that’s conducive to restorative sleep and good mental health.
The lack of an established sleep routine may be contributing to sleep deprivation, so consider changing things up at night. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day so your body gets used to a natural rhythm of sleeping and waking. Avoid the temptation to stay up late or to remain in bed after the alarm goes off, which will throw off your schedule. On nights where sleep just won’t come, don’t fight it. Get up and sit quietly in a dark room, letting your mind wander until you feel sleepy. If sleep continues to be a problem, try employing a few simple sleep strategies.
You need a soothing environment to get to sleep. Maintaining a temperature of no higher than 70 degrees will help keep your body temperature down, which is a key factor. And make arrangements to eliminate light by using heavy window shades and turning off all TV, computer, and mobile device screens. It’s also important to eliminate extraneous noise as much as possible, so consider using a floor fan to create a steady, rhythmic background noise, or download a white-noise app on your phone. Avoid staring at a computer screen shortly before bedtime because this can reduce the amount of melatonin in your body, the hormone associated with sleep.
It’s difficult to transition from heavy physical or mental activity directly to bed. An elevated heart rate or a mind overcome with racing thoughts will make it difficult to settle into your sleep groove. Try sitting quietly or meditating an hour before going to bed. Visualize laying down and gradually relaxing every part of your body until sleep comes. A hot bath can be helpful because it will raise your body temperature, which will go down once you emerge from the tub, and cause you to feel sleepy.
Cut out late-night snacks or late dinners, which will get your metabolism revved up, elevating your heartbeat and making it all but impossible to sleep. Be sure to avoid stimulants like caffeine, and don’t drink alcohol before going to bed, which will rob you of the deep, REM sleep necessary for good mental health.
Sleep deprivation is a serious health problem that can gradually undermine your mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to counteract the problems that prevent you from sleeping. If sleep deprivation persists, consult your primary healthcare provider.
You don’t have to go it alone
Depression, sadness, anxiety disorders, stress, and worry can make it difficult to find happiness in your life. We all need support at different times in our lives. Most of my clients seek help when their current way of dealing with life’s challenges no longer works for them. With a caring, non-judgmental and solution-focused approach, we will explore your issues and challenges in a safe therapeutic environment at my private practice in Delray Beach, Florida.
I also offer remote online therapy from the comfort and security of home that will allow you to learn more effective ways of managing your anxiety and stress.
Let’s walk the path to freedom from depression and anxiety together. If you’re ready to let go of the sadness, depression, fears, worries, and anxieties that are making life difficult, check out my Anxiety & Depression Support Group hosted the 1st Tuesday of each month at my private practice.