For those of us battling mental illness, few things are more important than a good night’s sleep. However, our country is stumbling through a silent insomnia pandemic.
While an average adult requires at least seven hours of shut-eye each night, U.S. citizens report sleeping just 6.8 hours per day. Reasons for this night-owl syndrome include work demands, economic anxiety, constant social media browsing, and Covid stress.
Though, the worst nighttime thief seems to be social media. Seeking escape following an already chaotic day, many people veg out in front of their phone, tv screen, or computer well into the evening without realizing the pastime’s pernicious effects.
This seemingly benign activity may entertain us, but it also wreaks havoc on our circadian clocks. The blue light overload from those LED devices tricks our brains into making less sleep-inducing melatonin and gives us a ‘tired-but-wired’ nocturnal feel that accounts for short sleep.
For that reason, it’s best to either shut down electronic devices 90 minutes before bed or wear blue light-blocking glasses if you just can’t miss your favorite 10 PM crime drama. Either strategy helps equip your body to produce optimal nighttime hormones.
With our main offender sacked, let’s explore other hacks for getting that recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. These sleep tips for better mental health truly are vital in the quest for finding our best life.
Limit Stress Through Meditation
Meditation is the most convenient of the sleep tips for mental health. It works wonders for producing endorphins and decreasing cortisol. While any version of this ancient self-care practice is beneficial, mindfulness meditation, in particular, promotes improved slumber among the mentally ill.
To begin mindfulness meditation, follow these simple steps, per Mindfullness.Org
- Sit comfortably with an erect spine and neutral head
- Place your arms at your sides
- Soften your gaze
- Feel your breath; control each inhalation and exhalation to activate the parasympathetic nervous system
- Focus on your breath while taking in, but not voluntarily analyzing your immediate environment
- If your mind does wander from your brain, let it. Be present in the moment without judging or labeling your thoughts.
Repeat this practice for at least ten minutes each day. A wonderful time to reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation is after you’ve turned off your electronic devices 90 minutes before bedtime.
Exercise To Get Your Best Night Of Sleep
Just like mindfulness, regular exercise primes the body and brain for optimal sleep. The key here is to get moving earlier in the day, as an evening sweat-sesh can also disrupt the body’s delicate circadian rhythm. The CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of light cardio or 75 minutes of intense physical activity per week.
With that in mind, you can choose any combination of aerobic or anaerobic (weight lifting, for example) routines to boost your heart rate and strengthen your core. There are almost endless ways to customize your workout schedule.
However, once you find what regimen works best, you must engage in the routine at least three days per week to gain benefits. This may sound difficult, but know that regular exercise is perhaps the best all-around self-care habit.
In addition to decreasing your risk for myriad physical ailments, staying in motion will also amp up your sleep.
According to Healthline, positive self-talk can be an effective stress management tool. Derived from the cognitive-based therapy model, positive self-talk includes simply thinking uplifting thoughts. Pretty straightforward, huh?
Though a basic premise, the power of positivity is undeniable. Some immediate benefits from an optimistic inner dialogue include:
- Improved Immune System
- Improved Heart Health
- Less Stress and Cortisol
- Increased Life Span
- AND…. Improved Sleep
While it can often seem difficult for people with mental illness to dispel self-defeating notions, especially when angry or depressed, investing an ounce of willpower to redefine those thoughts can prove life-altering.
Moreso, experiencing gratitude while laying in bed is proven to enhance sleep quantity and quality.
Let food by thy medicine. After discussing screen habits, meditation, exercise, and positive thinking for improved sleep, we will now examine how eating the right foods can aid our nightly slumber crusade.
If you read nothing further in this article, read this: Avoid Caffeine! To get even a decent night’s rest, you must exclude caffeine, excess sugar, and other stimulants from your diet. Especially five hours before bed. Those of us who suffer from anxiety and mood disorders know the hell stimulants can bring.
Conversely, to promote enhanced health and sleep, we should regularly consume foods containing magnesium, melatonin, vitamin D, iron, vitamin E, calcium, and potassium. The following foods contain any number of these powerhouse vitamins and nutrients.
- Turkey: Loaded with protein and tryptophan, turkey is hailed for its shut-eye-inducing qualities.
- Almonds: These nuts reduce inflammation and lower cortisol through a generous magnesium dose. This handy snack also boosts melatonin for a primed circadian clock.
- Tart Cherry Juice: This fruit juice contains sleep-aids magnesium and potassium. Yet, it is tart cherry juice’s high melatonin content that former insomnia sufferers swear by. Try a glass two hours before bed, and feel the immediate benefit.
- Fatty Fish: Omega-3 and vitamin D powerhouses, including salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring boost serotonin and enhance sleep.
Other foods that promote rest include kiwis, bananas, walnuts, white rice, and oatmeal. Each sustenance star offers either one or more of the beneficial vitamins and nutrients we’ve discussed.
From limiting blue light exposure to meditating to thinking positive thoughts, or eating the right foods, and working out, we’ve covered several lifestyle hacks to promote our best night’s sleep. While embracing these healthy habits -especially as a social media and Netflix-binge culture- takes effort, the rewards are numerous.
I urge you to use these sleep tips for better mental health each day to live your best life!ROME Los Angeles