The benefits of sleep on your mental health

There are many reasons why sleep is important for your physical and mental health.

Having an interrupted night's sleep or having very little sleep can affect how our mind works and how we perceive things and situations around us. We might feel irritable and react without thinking our behaviours through, to things we might usually manage in a more thought-out and rational way. We might feel like crying over the smallest things – a pen falls on the floor, or we make a tiny mistake at work and we feel awful about it.

On the other hand, if we get a good night’s sleep, we will have more energy and our ability to process what goes on around us will be more thought-out and rational. We will have more patience with ourselves and others and be less likely to make mistakes or get into trouble for speaking without thinking. Our ability to function after a good night’s sleep will be much improved, and you’ll thank yourself for it at the end of your day.

Sleep and our well-being

Here are a few ways in which sleep is important for our well-being:

We get re-energised when we sleep. During our day, we might be busy and use up all our energy - both mind and body. Sleeping will replenish this so we can continue with our busy week the next day. Our brains are constantly sending the rest of our body and our conscious mind information throughout the day. It is our brain that needs to rest in order to keep functioning well throughout our lives.

The better we sleep, the more alert and ready to work through stuff that comes up during our day. Accidents can happen if we drive when sleep-deprived, or if we are working with heavy machinery or tools that need lots of focus and attention.

Our ability to process emotional information will improve after a good night’s sleep and we are less likely to misinterpret what is being said to us. For those of you studying, sleeping well will help with retaining information and do better in your exams and assignments.

For example: the more rested your neurons, the better the memory connections your brain will make, and therefore the more material you’ll remember during your exam. If you’ve got essay assignments, reading a lot of material will be key, and remembering where you read something or how it links to the next paragraph you’re writing will be paramount to you getting that grade you want.

If we don't get enough sleep, we might get ill - heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc. therefore, sleep is important to keep these illnesses at bay. Mental health issues might also arise from lack of sleep. This can happen after one night or after quite a few nights without proper sleep.

Taking some time off work to recover that sleep might be a necessary step to take. I often see how taking some time off work really helps people regroup and catch up on those nights of sleep they missed due to anxiety and other situations going on at work or in their personal lives.

Tips to get a better night's sleep

  • Stop drinking caffeine a few hours before your usual bedtime.
  • Have a hot bath or shower to promote relaxation and ease into a calm, restful mode.
  • Dim the lights so you start shutting down and preparing your body for sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool.
  • Wear socks to bed.
  • Find relaxation techniques that you are comfortable with and practice nightly.
  • Clean bedding will help you sleep better.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Try drinking chamomile tea or other fruit teas before bed.
  • Do some journaling, get those thoughts out of your head and into the writing pad. This might help dissipate any anxiety about what you’ve got to do the next day, and it might help you realise that it’s not as big or as bad as you thought.

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep." - E. Joseph Cossman

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