Sleep hygiene is about developing healthy habits for getting a good night’s sleep. This podcast and article will show that one of the keys to beating mental health is to get regular sleep which means practicing good sleep hygiene on a daily basis.
Sleep hygiene is one of the most important concepts in all of mental health recovery and one that often gets ignored by those with depression and professionals alike.
Please read our article on tiredness to see how it directly impacts people with depression.
People with mental health don’t sleep well. If you have depression or another mental health condition that’s not well managed, you are probably also have at least one of the following:
- Early morning rising in spite of being tired and not wanting to wake up early
- Inability to go into deeper levels of sleep while asleep, thus preventing proper rest and rejuvenation
- Frequent waking up to urinate
- Sleep paralysis
- Night terrors
- Fast heartbeat preventing sleep at night and fast heartbeat whilst sleeping
- Ruminating thoughts most of the night
- Waking up exhausted with headache, jaw aches and other muscle pains, feeling completely unrested in spite of sometimes getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Obsessing about not sleeping and its impact, feeling constantly drained and tired, complaining to others during the day about this
- Being very irritable and angry especially in the morning
It is hard to break out of a negative cycle like poor sleep patterns. It makes people constantly fatigued, tired, irritable and annoyed. It really gets people down if it goes on and on with no seeming end in sight.
People who are in the thick of sleeping problems often feel their problem is unique or insurmountable. Please realise that this is not the case. In many cases they have abandoned or forgotten good sleep hygiene without realising it.
In addition, people with mental health issues will sometimes feel more alive at night. The tendency will be to go along with those feelings well into the night and not think of the repercussions of a bad night’s sleep on the next day. Remember to go back to basics: so much of mental health is due to thinking out of one’s feelings and going along with them.
In some cases medication is needed to get people back into regular sleep cycles, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. We never discourage people from seeking professional help or judgement. Please read our important disclaimer.
Regardless of if they are on medication, people still need to practice sleep hygiene and cultivate healthy habits that produce natural and refreshing sleep. With sleep disturbances the healthy habits around the cultivation of good sleep have been forgotten and not consistently practised. The good news is getting back into these habits is relatively easy and often good results are seen in a couple of days or weeks. I highly recommend Sasha Stephen’s book The Effortless Sleep Method, which is full of practical advice for people with sleeping difficulties. You can buy the book on Amazon here. These points below have been adapted from her book and combined with my own personal experience.
Sleep Hygiene Essentials
- There must be an association between bed and sleep. If you can’t sleep don’t stay in bed. You need to go to bed when you are drowsy and allow the natural sleeping mechanisms to kick in. Bed is for sex and sleep.
- No caffeine after 12pm
- Waking up at same time every day, including the weekend. No exceptions, even if you get to bed at 6am and your wake up time is 7am you need to get up at 7am. Make the wake up time ideally before 8am. When you wake up get straight out of bed.
- Do not nap. Even if you feel absolutely drained on a train or are about to go into a comatose state after lunch when you are at work, do not nap.
- Unless you are a shift worker, try to go to bed no later than 12am and aim for somewhere between 7-8.5 hours of sleep
- Do not become reliant on sleeping pills to induce sleep; they are only designed for temporary use, not long term use and abuse.
- A cup of warm milk at night is good muscle relaxant, have one every night
- A hot shower or bath between half and one hour before bed is also good for relaxing
- Practice mediation every day but do not fall asleep while doing it. Yoga Nidra is good for slowing one’s brainwave frequency down.
- Do not use computers, phones, iPads, facebook, e-mails and other electronic communications at least one hour before sleep. If you are reading books on these devices that is generally OK, but not for activities which stimulate social and interpersonal thinking. Doing this will delay sleep and negatively affect dreaming and the ability to fall into a deeper sleep
- Stop complaining about being tired and not sleeping. There is a great motto in GROW, a 12 step mental health program: tiredness is only tiredness. The more you complain the more the symptoms will grow and dictate your life.
If all these habits are put in place nearly every person can improve. By maintaining these processes, people can stay in good sleeping patterns for the rest of their life. I’ve seen time and time again that when people put these habits into place and develop sleep hygiene their mental health improves significantly. It’s remarkable how good sleep will turn mental health around so quickly.
The HALT principle of 12 step programs offers such salient advice:
Never get too:
People with mental health issues should learn to recognise and avoid these triggers.
We want people to beat depression and beating means taking the time and energy to cultivate healthy habits of thinking, living and loving. We hope this article has given you direction into what sleep hygiene is and how important it is to beat depression.