Every time I meet with a new client I go in depth about sleep.
Sleep is such a huge issue for millions of people, especially those who suffer from mental health or substance abuse disorders. When you are stressed out, depressed, or in recovery a good night’s sleep can become something of a distant memory.
In my sessions I LOVE to focus on: Sleep, Nutrition and Exercise. I can go on and on about how you should eat a breakfast with a lot of protein and healthy fats and how important exercise is in maintaining healthy serotonin levels and reducing anxiety. However, sleep trumps everything.
And I mean everything. I don’t care if you’re an athlete with an exceptional diet. If you are only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a every night it does not work. You WILL NOT feel good if you are not sleeping. Period. You’re mental health will absolutely suffer if you are not getting quality sleep nightly. So I highly encourage you to focus on improving sleep, because it determines your health in every other area.
So how do you get quality sleep? There’s a few things I’d recommend, and like always I would never recommend taking a prescription sleeping pill. There are so many natural ways to improve sleep.
1.Take the hour before you get into bed to unwind. Sounds easy, right? But don’t gloss over this first point. It’s hard for us to do this today. Unwinding means putting your phone AWAY (yes, you can actually do that). Do not check social media, do not answer any text messages and do not take any calls. Put it away and do not check it until the morning. Take a warm Epsom salt bath, put 5-6 drops of lavender essential oil in the tub to really give it an extra relaxing boost. Read a relaxing book. Lay around with your pets or lay on the couch with your spouse. Have a lavender candle or an essential oil difuser going. Do something to unwind the body and mind.
2. Drink Sleepy Time Tea. Not just any kind of nighttime tea (there’s a lot out there). Drink sleepy time tea that has Valerian Root in it. (You can find some at Wegmans) It makes a huge difference. Valerian is an herb that helps calm anxiety and restlessness. It aids in increasing levels of GABA in the brain and the more GABA your brain produces the less anxiety you experience. Do you stay up late at night worrying about tomorrow? Valerian is your all-natural solution. Just a warning: It has a distinct smell to it. If you don’t like the smell you can get it in pill form to help with sleep.
3. Do things during throughout the day to set you up for a good night’s sleep. Get plenty of sunlight early in the day. Exercise! If you sit at a desk all day, go home and sit on the couch and watch television the rest of the day you are setting yourself up for disaster. Your body needs proper movement during the day to sleep
4. Ditch ALL caffeine after 10 AM: My clients hate to hear this one but it’s true. When you are trying to improve sleep allow ONE cup of coffee or tea before 10 and then stop all caffeine after. Once your sleep has improved you can play with that time a little more and add caffeine in later to see how it impacts sleep. But the first month you need to eliminate any and all caffeine after 10.
5. Have a consistent schedule. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every single day, even on weekends. This is hard to do but so worth it. Try to keep bedtime and wake time within 60 minutes of each other. I cannot stress this point enough. Your body will take a few weeks to adjust to this but this is the best way to improve sleep. If your schedule is inconsistent your sleep will most likely not improve. If you ignore all other five points, follow this one!
6.Avoid all alcohol before bed. I could write an entire post as to why alcohol messes with your sleep. Simply put: a “night cap” does not work. It will lower your sleep quality. Allow your body to naturally produce melatonin and get a quality night’s rest.
Follow those 6 guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a more restful slumber and better mental health!
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements recommended on Collide.