I feel like lack of good sleep is one of the number one complaints that people have when it comes to their mental health. And it affects people of all ages. Children and teens complain they have trouble falling asleep because their minds start racing. Adults have difficulty waking up at night and then have trouble falling back to sleep or have restless sleep. Many of my highly sensitive clients have very vivid dreams, making them feel like they don’t get a restful night of sleep.
A few years ago, I went through about a 3-4 week period where I couldn’t get good sleep at night and even when I would lay down to rest, I couldn’t settle down. I had difficulty concentrating, I was irritable and moody and decision making was almost impossible. In a 2017 study, researchers confirmed that sleep deprivation can impair brain cell communication which can lead to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and visual perception (Nir et al., 2017).
I can’t emphasize this enough-sleep is just so important to our mental health! Here are a few suggestions to try if you or your child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep:
RULE OUT AN UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITION
Determining if there is an underlying medical condition that could be the cause of not sleeping well is one of the first things to rule out. Our sleep patterns do change over time and if a medical condition is the cause, something usually can be done to help. This is true for almost any mental illness as well. If you’re not sleeping well or not much, you may have symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADD and more.
CREATE A CALM BEDTIME ROUTINE
This is one of the harder areas to address. When our children were young we had a good bedtime routine for everyone. As they got older, we fell out of the habit of having a routine. Your brain needs some time to wind down and calm down before bedtime. I found that I need to start on brushing my teeth and washing my face much earlier in the evenings, sometimes right after dinner, so that I have plenty of time to relax and unwind before bed. Some people like to take a bath or shower, then meditate or journal and read an actual book (not an ebook!).
CUT OFF ANYTHING WITH A SCREEN AT LEAST 1 HOUR BEFORE BED
The blue light from screens causes our brains to stay awake and engaged. It’s best to have all screens off at least 1 hour before bed so that your brain has time to settle down. As tempting as it is, it’s best to leave your phone alone, even if you wake up during the night. Our brains even like everything to be dark as in no lights at night when we’re trying to sleep. This might mean you have to move the TV out of your room or have strict hours for when it can be on.
I have a few clients who keep headphones by their bed so they can listen to a meditation if they wake up during the night. Some keep a journal and pen by their bed so they can jot down the things that are keeping them awake at night. You might need to experiment a little to find out what works best for you. If you try a few things, don’t give up! Keep trying, sleep is that important!
I hope this helps you find the answer to questions about being realistic in making some healthy changes, like a better sleep routine, and how it might help improve your mental health. If you’re still feeling uneasy about this process, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.
Nir, Y., Andrillon, T., Marmelshtein, A., Suthana, N., Cirelli, C., Tononi, G., Fried, I. (2017, November, 6). Selective neuronal lapses precede human cognitive lapses following sleep deprivation. Nature Medicine. https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4433