SLEEP YOUR WAY TO THE TOP

Even if you enjoy the world’s best mental health you still need to get good sleep. As for those of us struggling with mental illness, a good night’s sleep should be our biggest goal. The first step lies in remembering that bedrooms are made for sleeping, bonking, reading and not much more. So if you’re serious about better sleep consider this:

  1. Go to bed and get up the same time every day of the week including weekends. The more clockwork you become the better your chance of sound sleep.
  1. Rid your bedroom of mobiles, tablets, laptops, Kindles and TVs as your brain reacts to their backlighting as it does to sunlight.
  1. Wind down before going to bed. Athletes stretch after a workout and so should your brain after a busy day. Have a warm bath, read in a quiet room, listen to some soothing music or try some controlled breathing.
  1. Following on from the previous point, anything you can do during the day to stop stress building up will help come bedtime. Try and find 10 to 15 minutes everyday to do nothing but relax.
  1. If you take medication to help you sleep find out from your doctor or chemist how long your pills take to kick in. If, for example, they don’t start working for 30 minutes, take them 30 minutes before bed rather than lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
  1. Don’t self-medicate. Alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs may seem to make it easier to sleep but they only make for a worse quality sleep overall.

Finally, one of the most important tips – don’t nap. I often have bouts of poor sleep thanks to my bipolar. I try and fight through it but after three or four days I’m exhausted and would sleep anywhere and anytime that I could. During the working week I’ve slept in my car, in parks close to my office, the local library and, if neighbouring colleagues were at meetings, even under my desk. Honest.

Unfortunately, I was only making the problem worse by further confusing my exhausted system. I was awake when I should be asleep and vice versa. So fight the urge for naps and, like a jetlagged passenger, wait until the night to try your luck with a good night’s sleep.

In some countries, sleep deprivation is a form of torture and after a few days without it you know why. It upsets every facet of your life, drains you of energy and leaves you looking and behaving like an extra from The Walking Dead. Poor sleep and poor mental health go hand in hand so do whatever you can to break the cycle. Sweet dreams.

The world renowned Mayo Clinic has a few ideas of its own to help you get a good night’s sleep. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379

See you in a fortnight.

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