4 Steps to Improving Your Mental Health Through Better Sleep

When we don’t get enough quality sleep, most of us worry primarily about how tired we’ll feel the next day. It’s only when it becomes an ongoing, chronic issue that some of us start to realize the mental impact of poor sleep. It’s not just that we feel low, stressed, or unfocused: Research has shown that sleep deprivation could be a cause of certain psychological disorders as well as a symptom of it. Luckily, a few simple changes to your sleep habits and environment can be enough to improve your quality of sleep, and in turn ensure your mental well-being. 

Guest Post by: Stephanie Haywood from MyLifeBoost.com

Photo Credit: Photo via Unsplash.

When we don’t get enough quality sleep, most of us worry primarily about how tired we’ll feel the next day. It’s only when it becomes an ongoing, chronic issue that some of us start to realize the mental impact of poor sleep. It’s not just that we feel low, stressed, or unfocused: Research has shown that sleep deprivation could be a cause of certain psychological disorders as well as a symptom of it. Luckily, a few simple changes to your sleep habits and environment can be enough to improve your quality of sleep, and in turn ensure your mental well-being. 

Dr. Stacy can help you create a personalized mental map to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Schedule an appointment today!

Make Your Bed as Comfortable as Possible

Start with the obvious. If you want to sleep well, you need to make sure your bed is perfectly suited for it. If you haven’t switched mattresses in a while, you may want to invest in one of the new “bed in a box” models. Next, focus on your pillows. According to Good Housekeeping, the key to a good pillow is providing a neutral alignment with your spine. In general, this means side sleepers need thicker, firmer pillows, and stomach sleepers will need thinner pillows. 

Assess Your Environment

Your room should be geared toward restful sleep. If there’s too much light, try installing blackout curtains. Noisy city dwellers could benefit from a white noise machine. Too warm at night? Open your windows or get a fan.

If you get too warm or too cold during the night, you may want to invest in a fan or portable heater. Alternatively, if you fear expensive electric bills, something as simple as opening the window or buying warmer pajamas can make a world of difference. 

Last but not least, make sure that you keep your bedroom organized. Disorganization can lead to you experiencing feelings of anxiety, which can very easily disrupt your sleep. In addition to keeping your room clutter-free, make sure you take the time to clean your bedroom doors and windows. Every little bit can make the space more relaxing.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual

If you tend to lie awake in bed going over the day’s problems, your problem has less to do with your environment and more to do with the state of mind you are in when you go to bed. In order to prepare your mind for sleep, create a bedtime ritual that relaxes you and winds you down. 

You could, for example, have a soothing herbal tea with sleep-inducing properties, such as chamomile, passionflower, lavender, lemongrass, or valerian root. You could also take a long hot bath or shower or read a few pages of a book. A few stretches can also be extremely effective, and they have the added bonus of soothing sore or tense muscles. You can do knee-to-chest stretches for lower back pains, lunges for sore glutes, and child’s pose for releasing neck tension. 

Once you’re in bed, meditation can be an extremely effective way to stop spiraling thoughts. Popular meditation app Headspace has an entire section dedicated to sleep, including guided meditations as well as relaxing sounds and music. If guided meditation isn’t your thing, try taking some deep breaths to clear your head and relax your body. 

Get Moving

Your quality of sleep is not just linked to your bedtime habits. What you do throughout the rest of the day also matters. The best example of this is exercise. In itself, exercise is excellent for both your physical and mental health. However, regular exercise is also linked to good sleep, with several studies showing that people who work out tend to sleep better.

It doesn’t matter when you work out, and it doesn’t even have to be intense exercise. As long as you do it regularly, you will likely see an improvement in your quality of sleep within a few weeks. 

Every night, our minds and bodies have the opportunity to rest, reset, and process the day’s events. If your environment and habits aren’t geared to allow this, it is going to be a lot more difficult for you to get the sleep you need to feel mentally well. Start by identifying what your barriers to sleep are, and then address each one individually until you have perfected your sleep routine. Your mind will thank you. 

Here’s How You Can Sleep Well Even if You Have Back Pain

Getting to sleep is hard for many of us. Let alone trying to get to sleep with pain. Here are some ideas to help you get to sleep and stay asleep if you suffer with back pain.

Guest Post by: Cheryl Conklin of WellnessCentral.info

Back pain is one of the leading causes of sleep issues. You can’t get comfortable, don’t get restful sleep, and have problems that carry over into the morning. It can make you fatigued and lead to other health issues. Whether you wake up with back pain or you’re heading to bed in pain from a long day of working your muscles, there are many things that can help you manage your back pain. These include medicine, physical therapy, and surgery. However, there’s also one surprising way that’s been proven in a study to be of potential benefit.

Apps May Be the Answer

The study was conducted in early 2019 and showed that participants with back pain that used a management app for 12 weeks found more relief than those that didn’t. Does this mean apps are the answer? It couldn’t hurt. With that in mind, here are a few apps to start with to see if they can help with your back pain and related issues. 

Stretching Before Bed

Stretching before bed is one of the best things you can do to release any pent up tension or aches and pains you’re feeling in your back. It will help relax the muscles so you’ll sleep better. With apps like 6 Minute Back Pain Relief, which is a gentle workout program that helps to reduce your back pain or Yoga for Back Pain, which uses yoga poses made specifically to reduce back pain, improve flexibility, and stretch your muscles. 

Relaxation Apps 

One way to reduce your pain is to reduce your tension. That can be achieved by relaxing your mind and body before falling asleep. Just like stretching and yoga are meant to help, so is meditation. With Headspace, you can learn to meditate, live mindfully, get expert advice from a former monk, and enjoy themed sessions, including stress reduction, sleep-enhancing, focus improvement, and anxiety relief.

Diary Apps

Recording how you’re feeling will help you better track your back pain so that you can determine any patterns and share results with your doctor. With CatchMyPain, an intelligent pain diary app that helps you track your pain, you can even connect to similar patients and trade tips. The app also provides a body model that lets you draw where your pain is and label the intensity of your pain. You can also track your happiness, stress, and fatigue, record your medication intake, and much more. It’s the perfect way to help you track what’s happening with your pain. 

iTens Device

TENS devices are made to provide pain relief stimulation to areas that are experiencing pain. TENS devices work by sending tiny electrical signals through your skin, which intercept pain signals and keep them from reaching your brain. They’re used by athletes for pain relief and faster recovery. iTENS is an app-controlled version of this device that can help you get over your back pain. With customizable settings, you can use it on various body parts and pain levels. With the app, you can control these settings and even be able to track your results after each session. iTENS can be used on your ankle, knee, wrist, back, and shoulders. 

One Last Thing

Using apps on your phone overnight (or even your smartwatch) can run the battery down. In addition, some apps require the use of your plan’s data. Running them overnight could eat up your data and lead to overage charges. You can avoid this by looking into unlimited phone service plans, which will give you more data to explore apps that will bring you a better night’s sleep. Either way, giving yourself the tools you need to overcome sleep issues is a good start. 

Although back pain can disrupt your life, there are steps you can take to help alleviate some of that pain. And while you might not be able to eliminate it altogether, you can find ways to give yourself some reprieve to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Interested in more help for your back pain? Check out this article to learn more about reducing inflammation in your system which can help reduce physical pain sensations.

Image provided by guest author, Cherly Conklin via Pixabay

Ready for Bed …

Have trouble getting to sleep? Be kind to yourself even if you are worried about it. Part of getting ready to relax is allowing for the discomfort of the unknown. Know you are working on new habits and that effort pays off.

Have you been working to shift your bedtime routine to support your quality of sleep. This is one of the hardest skills my clients struggle with. It is such a fearful time because “what if I don’t get enough tonight?” or “will I even get to sleep?” the thoughts begin to plague us before we hit the pillow.

Your job … is to believe that you can shift old patterns and that you are patient enough to work through the effort it takes to make a change in your life. This is hard work. New behaviors take 20-40 days to get set up. Sleep is one of those that takes a while, and often we’ve conditioned ourselves to worry about it.

Tonight, as you go to bed, have grace with yourself and say “I am going to sleep well. I have been working hard to get back on track and shift my system, step by step. I am doing the work and I sleep well as a result”. If it does not go great, just remind yourself that you are working on it and step by step shifting old patterns. Have compassion for the work you are doing and know that each night you give it effort you help make those changes possible.

Little by little … step by step … Sleep Tight.

10 Ideas to Help You Sleep

How are you doing on sleep these days? Are you taking care of yourself or are you running ragged now that the sun is out longer? Don’t forget how important sleep is to your health. Here are some tips to make sure you get enough each night.

1) Create a calm sleeping environment
2) Play soft, soothing music
3) Use aromatherapy – scents like lavender can help calm you
4) Dim the lights 60-30min before going to bed
5) Take a hot bath
6) Drink a cup of bedtime tea
7) Follow the same routine daily
8) Keep your bedtime and wake time the same – vary it no more than 30min on each side
9) Get a good pillow and comfortable blankets
10) Eliminate TV, Computer, Video games (screen times) 30 min before bed – they keep your brain working

4 Steps for Finding Time For Fitness

Are you one of the many who feel you do not have time to exercise?  I hear it all the time.  “I have a job, kids, parents, housekeeping, ____fill in the blank____, I can’t exercise regularly.”    I am with ya.  I’ve got kids, a husband, extended family, work, housekeeping, a yard, but here is a secret, if I do not make time to exercise, I will have to make time to be ill. Pretty heavy words.  I don’t even like the way it sounds.  If not exercise, illness. So what can you do about your time issues?

First, be honest about them. Write down your daily schedule for a few days. Once you have a list of daily activities look for time sappers. Is there things you do regularly that suck your time up? One of mine is reading. I’ll grab a magazine for a break and do not put it down when it is time. Reading in itself is not the problem, its my ability to block out the other things that need to get done to finish an article I may not care much about. Many see this problem with TV. They sit down for a brief break and end up watching an entire episode of a show they do not care about or rather than leave a co-workers office when other things should be getting done you linger to gossip about items you could give a hoot about. No matter what your time sapper, the end result is the same: you still have the same chores to get done leaving you no time to do the things you want. What if you stuck to the brief break and turned the TV off after 10 minutes? Or if I put down the magazine when it was time to go back to work? I think over the course of a day you would probably find an extra thirty minutes.

Second, GO TO BED! Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Our bodies rely on it to rebuild and when you cheat it you cheat yourself. You create a deficit which results in less productive days. These less productive days add items you were too tired to complete back on your to do list again resulting in the feeling of no time left. When you wake up with enough sleep you are focused and ready for the day’s challenges leaving you extra time because you’ll be able to get your list done early!

Third, are you good at time management. Even if you wake up refreshed you must be a good time manager if you are going to really get enough done in a day. Many interchange the word stress with busy. If you find yourself always busy you’ve got a problem. I don’t mean this mean, but if you are always running behind, find yourself in the never ending to do list, feel that as soon as you finish one project you must begin the next you may be inefficient or you need an assistant. Nobody can do it all. I see many people like this. They run around like just been butchered chickens, where do just been butchered chickens go? In circles. Then they talk to me about how stressed out they are, how everybody else needs them first, and how they could never take the time to lose the extra weight because they have absolutely no time to workout. Hmmmm….If you do not take time for yourself no one else will and on top of that most say nobody appreciates the extra work they do. I would say, no one appreciates the work they do because no one knows what they really do, how they do it, or why they are doing it. I know I have put on my yelling voice, but what I am really saying is; your time is yours, manage it well and it will serve you well. Your time is your most precious commodity and you are worth a lot so make sure what you spend it on is worth it. If you are always too busy examine why and then delegate jobs that are no longer worth your time and focus your attention on the tasks which are. I speak from experience, as I have 3 small children, own a business, write weekly, run a household, and am still able to take a bath most nights of the week, meet up with my friends, and spend quality time with my husband and kids. Delegation is key.

Finally, your time is yours. If you do not find time to move often you will have to find time for illness. Personally, my very valuable time is better spent walking in the park, working out, playing with my kids, hiking with my husband, and enjoying this glorious thing we call life.