First things first | Resetting sleep habits
This month I’m am focusing on resetting sleep habits. It’s not just that Sleep starts with S like September! I believe getting restful and refreshing sleep is the absolute first thing you should be thinking about when it comes to creating your new mind (and body) healthy lifestyle.
The kids should’ve gone back to school by now and no doubt you’re feeling a little bit flat and drained. The summer holidays are never easy, there’s always late nights, early starts and extra energy spent. I don’t doubt at this point, focusing on getting some good restful sleep is a welcome challenge.
September is always a great time to start implementing some new habits; it’s like a second new year!
The importance of sleep for a healthy mind
Believe it or not, there’s a link between getting a good nights sleep and the state of your mental health. The problem is it’s sometimes difficult to decipher whether your mental health affects how well you sleep or how the quality and quantity of sleep affects your mental health.
It’s usually a vicious cycle, lack of sleep leads to tiredness which makes coping with daily life difficult, causing low self-esteem and feelings of worry and stress. The cycle continues as you worry about not getting enough sleep.
I regularly suffer from insomnia, and I definitely notice the difference in my ability to manage my day-to-day. Being tired makes my depression and anxiety notably worse.
Sleep deprivation or even just an unrestful sleep can cause increased irritability, worsening of depression, anxiety and anger. Loss of sleep can heighten emotional reactivity and lead to irrational behaviour.
When you are sleep deprived it become harder to memories and store information. Have you ever noticed you become forgetful when you’ve been struggling to sleep?
Factors to consider when examining your sleep habits
The first thing you need to do is be honest with yourself and take a long hard look at your current evening routines and activities. Committing to resetting your sleep habits may require you to make a few sacrifices at first. So be prepared!
Your Challenge packet has a worksheet to fill in and will help you get a clearer idea of your current habits and identify any areas that need some improvement.
Hopefully, by now you’ll be coming round to the idea of prioritising sleep and understanding the importance of getting it right. However, if your worried about finding the time for putting new habits and routines into practice don’t! It isn’t necessarily about the hours more the quality of sleep you get.
Tracking your sleep cycles and understanding sleep stages is a great place to start. If you’ve never heard of a sleep cycle a great place to start would be reading this post here!
Only you know how much sleep you require to wake up feeling refreshed and revitalised and its different for everybody.
A clean and tidy space to sleep in will help your brain rest, being surrounded by clutter and mess can trigger anxiety and disrupt your ability to settle in bed.
You might need to have a good de-clutter and clean before you start. Take a look at your sleep environment and note down what needs to change.
Think about how you currently spend your hours before bed. When resetting sleep habits its a good idea to be prepared to change your entire nighttime routine.
Ideas and tips for Resetting sleep habits
I don’t think there’s anything nicer than snuggling down into a cosy, just fluffed, freshly made bed. It’s like getting into home! There are so many things you can do to create a sleep-worthy environment; it’s about finding your “zone” by way of trial and error.
You’re probably already aware of the effects of screens and blue light on the brain and body, so its best to start ditching the late night facebook scrolls right now! Checking emails and messages can send our brain into overdrive as you mentally reply or made to do lists in your head.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, it’s best not to stay lay in bed getting frustrated about it!
Theory suggests that if, after fifteen minutes you aren’t asleep you should get up and do something like reading or make a warm (none-caffeinated!) drink. This is because your brain will then associate your bed with the lying awake rather than sleep. Which makes total sense but something I’d never have realised on my own!
You might also want to take a look at your diet; there’s plenty of foods that can contribute to getting a good night sleep but also plenty that can scupper your efforts too. Sorry, 4 pm Starbucks you’ve “gotta” go!
Listening to a sleep-inducing meditation, hypnosis or chapter of an audiobook can help you relax and wind down at the end of a stressful day.
Doing a brain dump before bed can help unload some of the thoughts clogging up your mind once any thoughts are out of your head and on paper, you can rest peacefully in the knowledge you won’t forget anything important.
Your sensory needs and how they impact your sleep
Difficulty falling asleep can sometimes be a sensory-related issue. Everybody has sensory needs, think about turning the pillow to get the cold side. Or those times you feel more comfortable sticking one leg out of the cover! Being uncomfortable in bed will impede your efforts when it comes to falling asleep.
Think about some of these points and how they affect your ability to fall asleep.
- Too hot or cold – The ideal temperature is 16-18 degrees!
- Do you prefer a quiet environment or some background noise
- Is your bedroom too light or dark
- Can you smell something that is bothering you
- Is your mattress too soft or hard
- Are your sheets too soft, rough or duvet light or heavy
- In pain
- Overstimulated from using your phone or watching TV
- Overstimulated from exercise
- Anxious, feeling sad or tearful
What can you do to improve your sensory environment and feel more relaxed in bed?
Resetting sleep habits with routine
Decide on a regular time you will go to bed and aim for around the same time every night. It’s a good idea to plan some downtime for at least half an hour before you get into bed. Choose relaxing activities like reading or self-care. You can find a printable list of self-care ideas in the toolbox, but its also included in the workbook!
Do the same thing at the same time every night and in the morning. I know it’ll be hard at the weekend, but until you’ve established a routine and fell properly rested it’s important!
Activities like having a soak in the bath can help you feel sleepy if you struggle to feel tired early. There is science too! The drop in your body temperature after getting out of the bath makes you feel tires about half an hour later.
Prepare your mind for going to bed by setting a reminder on your phone or watch. You can use night-shift on your iPhone if you have one, find out how here (i’m pretty sure other brands have the same function). This setting dims the screen and uses warmer colours.
There are a variety of foods which can assist with resetting sleep habits. All the foods listed below contain a particular essential amino acid called tryptophan produced through diet. Tryptophan converts into a neurotransmitter called serotonin which is then converted to a neurohormone called melatonin.
Melatonin is the hormone which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Under normal circumstances, your body produces melatonin at night and is triggered by dark environments which is why you feel tired after the sun has set. You can read more about melatonin, and it’s effect on your sleep in this article at sleep.org
- Milk and milk products – Traditional milk products (warm), Yoghurt and Soya Milk
- Meat – Chicken and Turkey
- Fish – Cod, Tuna, Mackerel and Salmon
- Cheese – Cheddar, processed cheese, Cottage cheese and Tofu
- Fruit – Apples, Bananas, Blueberries, Strawberries, Avocado, Pineapple, Peaches and Cherries
- Vegetables – Spinach, Asparagus, Green peas, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Cucumber and Potatoes.
- Nuts – Walnuts, Peanuts, Cashews, Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds
- Legumes – Mung beans, Soybeans, Kidney beans, Lima beans and Chickpeas
- Grains – Wheat, Brown rice, Red rice, Barley, Corn and Oats
- Bread – Whole Wheat Bread
Sleep problems and disorders can prevent you from resetting sleep habits.
If you are depressed or suffer from anxiety the less restful sleep you get can cause you to be less able to rationalise thoughts or worries. Any negative thoughts you have could increase.
If you are tired, you will have less energy to socialise even if you want to and as a result leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
A lack of sleep could also trigger mania, psychosis or paranoia if you have Bipolar or other Psychotic Disorder.
If getting to or staying asleep is having a severe impact on your life and you think you might have a problem, it’s a good idea to see your GP. Sleep problems and the worsening of mental health are closely linked issues. You might find it beneficial to seek professional help.
This months challenge is to spend the next 30 days focusing on you resetting sleep habits.
Taking everything into consideration and following a full evaluation of your lifestyle, routines, habits and expectations you can get to work resetting your sleep habits.
Sleep plays such an important role when it comes to mind and body health that it’s always the best place to start.
Commit to really getting to grips with your evening routine and prioritise your sleep for the next few weeks. Once you get some proper rest, you will find you have more productive days. You will be able to think things through rationally, have more motivation and be an all-around happier person.
Give yourself grace by trying to make the transition as easy as possible be sure to prepare yourself and commit to making changes that you can maintain. With a bit of luck this will become a new lifestyle habit, and once you are settled into a routine and getting enough productive rest, you can start to work on other focus areas that are important to stay mentally healthy.
Good luck, I’m excited for you!
Why not take The 28 Days to Better Ways Challenge, once you have completed your sleep reset?