The relationship between sleep and mental health is well documented. Sleeping problems are nowadays considered to have a bidirectional relationship with mental health being both consequence of, and factor contributing to mental health problems.

Studies have associated improving sleep with better mental health regardless of the severity of mental health difficulty or the presence of comorbid health conditions. Therefore, we want to keep an eye on our sleeping habits in order to contribute to our self-care.

Let’s see if some of these sounds familiar: you could be sleeping a lot; finding difficult to wake up or get out of bed; feeling tired or sleepy frequently; having insomnia, problems that disturb your sleep and wake up too early, etc.

Having these problems could be connected to manic episodes, being anxious, struggling concentrating, having low performance at work, reducing your social activity, feeling irritable, diminished decision-making, etc. so your sleep is one of the aspects that you want to work on to improve your wellbeing.

Every person is different so you need to find what works for you and for that you might need to try different things.

Here a few tips that can improve your sleeping hygiene:

  • Try to stablish a sleeping routine (trying to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day).
  • Introduce physical activity in your day (but stop it a few hours before going to bed) specially outdoors and exercising in nature.
  • Try to reduce your activity level as the time to go to bed gets closer. Prepare to go to bed with some self-calming activities or relaxing exercises.
  • Be mindful of the effect of devices use and screen exposure. Try to avoid screens before going to bed, adjust settings, etc.
  • Make your sleeping space comfortable (noises, light, temperature, etc. can be in the way of your sleep)
  • Think about your eating habits: large meals, caffeine, sugar and some types of foods can affect your sleep.
  • Use external supports such as planners to keep track of information, tasks to remember, or other thoughts that could be active in your mind and prevent you from quieting your mind.

Remember that sleeping is a basic need. When you don’t sleep your body is in a stressed state: your immune system is suppressed, making you more susceptible to illness; you produce more stress hormone cortisol; your blood pressure rises; and your internal temperature drops. Sleeping less than the recommended 7 hours habitually can lead to significant issues. Don’t underestimate the importance of this factor in your mental health.

Begoña Núñez Sánchez

Senior Psychologist Consultant