Counting sheep, counting backwards from 500, continuously watching the night hours on the clock slowly pass whilst staring at the ceiling - does this sound familiar? If it does, I sympathise with you!
When we’re struggling with a mental health problem, it can also affect the quality of our sleep, in the same way, that poor sleep can negatively impact our mental health. Consequently, this can affect our ability to cope with everyday life and make things even harder when we’re already struggling – it’s a vicious circle.
But why is our quality of sleep affected by our mental health? Different mental health issues can affect your sleeping pattern in different ways. For example, anxiety can cause your thoughts to race at 120mph. Overthinking every minute detail in your life, worrying about the small things and the ‘what ifs’ are naturally heightened late at night – making it hard to fall asleep. Contrastingly, depression can lead to oversleeping, sleeping in late or sleeping a lot throughout the day; and PTSD can cause night terrors, which can lead to ‘somniphobia’ – the extreme anxiety and fear around the thought of going to bed.
All-in-all, it’s incredible how much control our mind has over our ability to fall asleep, but it’s also incredibly difficult to go about our daily lives when we’re functioning on minimal sleep and gallons of coffee.
So, what can we do to help the situation?
The importance of a bedtime routine is drilled into us from when we’re a child, but as we grow older it’s easy to abandon it as work life and socialising takes over. However, a bedtime routine has proven to be vital throughout adulthood, regardless of whether we're affected by sleep troubles or not. Here are a few suggestions as to what your bedtime routine could encompass:
Most importantly, ensure your sleeping environment is a comfortable and relaxing one – put on some fresh sheets, light some sweet-smelling candles and invest in some subtle lights to create the perfect sleeping atmosphere.
"Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together" Thomas Dekker (1572-1632)