How sleep affects our mental and physical wellbeing

Sphie Atkinson
Sophie Atkinson, Psychological Wellbeing Service Manager

Sleep is essential for our health and happiness. It helps us to recharge our batteries, heal our bodies and process our thoughts, emotions and memories. It also affects our mood, energy, concentration and decision-making. But many of us struggle to get enough good quality sleep, especially during these challenging times.

Unpaid carers and people with a range of mental health conditions may particularly find it hard to get a regular good night’s sleep.

Poor sleep can have a negative impact on our mental and physical well-being. It can make us more prone to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. It can also increase our risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and premature ageing. It can also impair our immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

So how can we improve our sleep and enjoy its benefits? Here are some tips:

  • Create a good sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps your body clock to regulate your sleep cycle and makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, cool and cosy. You can use curtains, blinds, earplugs, fans or heaters to create the right environment for you. It is also important to have a good mattress, pillow, duvet and bedding that suit your preferences.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. These substances can interfere with your sleep quality and quantity. Caffeine can keep you awake and make you restless. Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster but disrupt your sleep later in the night. Nicotine can make it harder to fall asleep and cause you to wake up more often.
  • Limit screen time before bed. The blue light from your phone, tablet, computer or TV can suppress your melatonin production, which is the hormone that helps you sleep. It can also stimulate your brain and keep you alert. Try to avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed. You can also use night mode or blue light filters to reduce the impact of blue light.
  • Relax your mind and body. Do something relaxing before bed, such as reading a book, listening to music, meditating or doing some gentle stretches. This can help you unwind and prepare for sleep. You can also use aromatherapy, such as lavender oil or candles, to create a soothing atmosphere.
  • Use sleep aids and apps. If you need some extra help to fall asleep or stay asleep, you can try using some sleep aids or apps. For example, you can use earplugs or a white noise machine to block out unwanted noises. You can use a weighted blanket or an eye mask to create a sense of comfort and security. You can also use apps that play relaxing sounds, guide you through breathing exercises or track your sleep patterns.

Sleep is vital for our mental and physical well-being. By following these tips, you can improve your sleep quality and quantity and enjoy its benefits. If you have persistent or severe problems with sleep, you should consult your GP or a sleep specialist for advice.

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