Better Your Mental Health with Better Sleep

We know that supporting our mental health is foundational to a healthy life filled with wellness. As we expand on the self-help points from the article Ways to Better Mental Health Drug and Doctor-Free, this week we will discuss some stress-relieving tools and strategies.

We thank Jennifer Whitacre for her contribution to this article.

I\’m Jennifer Whitacre, an Empowerment Strategist. I work with clients who are ready to create empowerment through self-awareness so they can stop sabotaging themselves, find inner peace, and finally get what they want out of life. My goal is to teach you skills that you’ll feel confident using for yourself because that’s where true empowerment lies. I’ll give you the tools you can use to manage stress, anxiety, overwhelm, worry, fear, anger, and other troublesome emotions. You’ll learn how to shift out of those unhealthy habits that create emotional triggers and vicious cycles, and you’ll learn how to maintain a solution-focused mentality. By learning the skills to manage your knee-jerk reactions, you’ll have the ability to respond to life’s curveballs and live a fulfilling life.

Sleep is important to our health, and science has backed this for decades.

I can’t think of one client with whom I’ve had ‘the sleep discussion’ who didn’t agree that sleep was one of the most important factors contributing to overall health and well-being.

It’s when I ask about their sleep habits that the conversation starts to take interesting twists and turns. Despite having an intellectual understanding of the importance of sleep, the average person will argue that they are the exception, and those rules don’t apply to them. In other words, the general attitude is that everyone else needs seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but I’m fine with only four to six.

This hijacks our best efforts to improve our overall health. Now, it is common to lack sleep, occasionally.

Even a random occurrence when we don’t sleep for 24-36 hours can quickly cause any or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Drowsiness/fatigue
  • Irritability/moodiness
  • Impaired judgment/decision-making
  • Altered perception
  • Memory deficits
  • Clumsiness
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Hearing/vision impairments
  • Altered appetite and metabolism
  • Inflexible reasoning
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Increased stress

What happens when our sleep deprivation becomes chronic? Some of the signs include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • You catch every illness going around
  • Work or school performance suffers
  • Difficulty staying alert, focusing, or concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Drowsiness
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Unstable mood
  • Increased risk of accident or injury

When chronic sleep deprivation becomes a lifestyle, you are much more likely to experience:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Mental illness
  • Shorter life expectancy

Needless to say, sleep is important for everyone, including you and me.

How to Get Better Sleep

It takes time to reset your sleep cycles. Please don’t expect a miracle on the first night, and please catch yourself when you think you’ve failed. You likely will have a back-and-forth experience between sleeping well and not sleeping well, especially in the beginning. That’s part of the process, so accept it upfront.

Here Are 5 Ways to Get Better Sleep:

Self-talk and affirmations

It’s 2019, and by now, you’re familiar with the power of affirmations and how beneficial they can be. Use them to help yourself sleep better. Create a mantra for yourself and keep it simple. “I sleep for 8 hours straight. I am well-rested when I wake.” It can be that simple! Be sure your mantra is worded in the present tense because the subconscious will sabotage you if you use the future tense. Repeat this mantra to yourself throughout the day, especially as you’re falling asleep. This reinforces your dedication to the part of you that will try to sabotage the practice. Keep reminding yourself that you’re determined to get better sleep.

Exercise and movement

A majority of my sleep-deprived clients do not regularly work out, and that makes a difference. The gym isn’t my thing, so this was a hard one for me, personally. If that’s you, too, consider setting aside at least five minutes a day to move and get a short burst of exercise. I began this practice by walking briskly around the block. This 10-minute burst of energy worked. It was enough to have the desired effect on my circadian rhythm and within a couple of weeks I noticed an improvement in my sleep.

If a brisk walk isn’t your thing, find something you enjoy that will increase your heart rate and do that for a minimum of five minutes each day. It could be running, dancing, jumping jacks, or any five-minute workout you find on YouTube. Just move for five minutes (or more!) to start noticing desired effects.

Breathing

Noticing and consciously adjusting your breathing pattern can help you sleep. When you lie down and your mind starts chattering about your day or catastrophizing about tomorrow, direct it to pay attention to your breath. Slow your breathing until you’re at a rhythm of four-to-five second inhale to four-to-five second exhale (or a rate that feels comfortable and slower to you). Do this for a minimum of two to three minutes. When the mind wanders, gently redirect it back to the breath. This helps put your mind and body into a more coherent state so you can fall asleep.

EMFs (Electromagnetic Frequencies)

EMFs affect our sleep cycles. Our hearts and brains both have bio-electric currents that make them work and by definition, where there is an electrical current there is an electromagnetic field. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute have measured that field in humans eight feet from the body. Cellular and WI-FI signals affect that field, creating a feeling of chaos and anxiety in our gut, mind, or chest area. Leave your cell phones, laptops, and any other devices that emit EMFs outside the bedroom or as far away from the bed as possible.

Binaural Beats

If you just can’t keep the EMFs out of your bedroom, put them to good use. The scientists at Enlyte have layered and compressed the music files to give you a very different experience than what you’ll find on YouTube, so the app is worth it! The free version comes with theta brainwave files. I highly recommend the premium version that gives you access to all five brainwave states of binaural beats. The delta files are ideal for deep, restful sleep, and they’re a game-changer! Simply lie down with a set of headphones or earbuds and do nothing but listen. The music does the work for you, it’s that simple. The cost of the premium app is minimal when you consider the health benefits of better sleep.

The more you practice these techniques, the better they will work and the better sleep you will get.

Sleep is one of our best resources for overall health and wellness. You don’t have to leave your home to take the first steps to get a longer, more restful sleep. The side effects of getting quality sleep will improve your health and vitality, and your friends will want to know your secret!

– Jennifer

*Originally published on August 16, 2019.


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