Sleep is your free therapy
Importance of sleep for your mental health
Sleep is often thought of as simply a time when the body shuts down for the night, but it is so much more than that. It is essential for keeping our body and mind healthy. It is, in fact, a free therapy that can have a profound impact on our mental health.
When we sleep, our brain is working hard to make sense of our experiences, our memories of the day. Even more, sleep plays a crucial role in having our mood and emotions under control.
By simply getting enough good sleep we are less likely to develop anxiety and depression symptoms. Instead, we are more likely to have a positive perspective on life and be able to manage stress better as well as make better decisions. This is essential for our well-being and for our ability to function in the world.
How to prepare for a good night’s sleep
The question you might be asking is “How do I prepare myself for a good night’s sleep?” Luckily, there are enough cost-free resources – neuroscience proved – all in your own hands.
1. Viewing morning sunlight.
This may sound unusual, but you can start preparing for sleep already in the morning! Set your inner clock by looking at morning sunlight. Even just 10 minutes of looking at natural light source on a sunny day (just don’t look straight at the sun or any light that hurts your eyes) will help to produce melatonin that will later be released in your body and tell you that it’s time to go to sleep. Cloudy day? No problem! 20 min will do as well. If in the first hour of your waking you look at the natural light, perhaps also while taking a nice walk outside, something very important is happening in your system. Similarly, looking at late afternoon, evening light just before sunset will help to prepare you for sleep later in the evening.
Just note that looking through the window or sunglasses don’t have the same effect.
2. Regular time and following your sleepiness.
Another important way is setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Now, you want to make sleep your friend, not your enemy, therefore it is important to make sure you go to sleep when you are sleepy. Do not force yourself to sleep by laying in bed and counting sheep, as your brain is learning that sleep is an intruder. Forcing yourself to sleep will give the opposite results than you try to achieve.
Feeling sleepy late in the evening? Don’t try to keep yourself awake. We all know, when we feel sleepy and tired, if we just push it through and wait a little longer, suddenly we feel fresh to stay awake for another hour, but this is no achievement. This is a bad sleep recipe – you set yourself for waking up at night for no reason and not having good rest.
A surprising fact – it is very normal to feel really alert ~1 hour before your natural bedtime. Just wait, it will pass, and your sleepiness will come to you.
3. Creating the right environment and habits for sleep.
Create an environment where you can fall asleep easily. At the evening – set the right lighting, so your mind and body can experience it is in fact time to sleep. Avoid any strong, bright light after 10 pm and until 4am. Including phone lights, of course.
Try not to use caffeine and alcohol before sleep. Even though a glass of wine can seem like a good idea after a long stressful day, your body doesn’t accept it that way, it will disturb your sleep. How about a relaxing cup of tea?
Did you know one of the reasons you wake up at night is because your body temperature increases? Your body temperature needs to drop by 1-3 degrees to fall and stay asleep successfully. Might be a good idea to keep your sleeping room cool in temperature.
4. Train your brain to relax before sleep.
Now that you have your environment in favor to fall asleep, you notice that your mind is racing as if you are going to launch to planet Mars? How about you challenge yourself with an exercise for your brain. To calm your vigilant mind and build some solution oriented neural pathways in your brain (while you sleep), think of at least 3 good things that happened in the day. They can be small things you achieved, moments you enjoyed, positive change you felt…If you prefer to list them in your notebook, that’s even better! Our brain is working even while we sleep, let it be your own inner engineer constructing your most desired inner state. Let your sleep be your free therapy.
Sleep is something we all need, and yet it is also something that is often overlooked. If you want to get the most of your life, one of the many ways might be making your sleep quality a priority.
HPPsupport written by Skirmante S
More From This Category
A discussion with solution focused coach. In last week’s post, we shared how Solution Focused Coach Skirmante introduced the topic of stress and ways it shows up in our bodies and behavior. Continuing this week's conversation we dive into some tips on how to manage...
In our psychosocial support program "Emotional Suport & Wellness" we offer voluntary service that is focused on creating a positive emotional experience through a conversation. Our volunteers listen and ask useful questions following approach called "Solution...
A discussion with solution focused coach. A solution focused coach Skirmante Sabataityte, as well a co-creator of "Emotional Support & Wellness" program at The Hague Peace Projects, is discussing a topic of stress and ways to eliminate it. She briefly describes...