Updated: Sep 20, 2020
When we get the flu or a virus, a flare up of dermatitis, or diagnosed with high cholesterol or blood pressure, we do what we need to get better; we rest, we eat soup, we increase our fluids, we take medicine, we look after ourselves.
But are we doing the same when it comes to our mental health?
Typically one in 5 Australians experience a mental illness in any given year. These numbers are currently on the rise. As people leave their bubbles and re-enter society post-Covid, there is a lot of anxiety and a tendency to feel overwhelmed.
It is a timely reminder for all of us to check in and ensure we are mentally looking after ourselves.
One way you can do that is by ensuring you get enough sleep.
Sleep and mental health are closely connected, they impact one another and those that don’t sleep well are much more likely to develop a mental illness.
A good night’s sleep fosters emotional resilience, enhances memory, focus and energy; while sleep deprivation increases cortisol, negative thinking, irritability and emotional vulnerability.
So perhaps you’ve adopted some new habits to look after your physical health - frequent hand washing and a daily dose of Zinc + Vitamin C, but what about your sleep hygiene?
Add these habits to your daily routine, enjoy a better night’s sleep and better mental health:
1. Exercise Daily - Exercise increases body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature helps you to fall asleep (ideally you want to exercise late afternoon). Exercise also promotes healthy sleeping patterns by decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms. Even 5 minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body.
2. Write a List - Write down anything that is playing on your mind, a To-Do list or anything you need to remember for the next day, that way you can relax knowing you can attend to those things tomorrow.
3. Chill Out - Spend the last hour before bed doing something relaxing; take a bath, read a book. Avoid laptops and phones at night as the blue light emitted from the screen suppresses melatonin which makes it difficult to fall asleep.
4. Relaxation Techniques - Practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises promotes overall calmness, helping you get to sleep and stay asleep.
5. Pink & White Noise - Pink noise is deeper than white noise and can be heard in nature (like rustling leaves or steady rain). Both coloured noises relax the brain, reducing brain waves to promote better, stable sleep. They are also useful to put on if you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep. Spotify has some great playlists available:
Ultimate White Noise: The very best white noise for sound sleep and relaxation
The Sleep Machine: Rainforest
6. Acupuncture - Acupuncture increases melatonin production and decreases stress & anxiety, improving total sleep time and quality.
As we head back to work and straight into winter, look after yourselves - rug up, wash your hands and sleep well, your mind and body will thank you for it.
Sara Laharnar is the owner of Tree of Vida Acupuncture, a womens health clinic on the Mid North Coast close to Forster & Taree. She is a passionate acupuncturist/herbalist dedicated to womens health, fertility and pregnancy support.