Before we begin, though, there’s something we should mention first: sleep isn’t just essential for good mental health; your mental health can impact on your sleep, which means it can be a good indicator of your mood or the recurrence of pre-existing conditions like manic depression. So the next time you’re struggling to get enough shut-eye, ask yourself how you’re feeling and take a moment to reflect on your waking life to see if there’s anything that’s playing on your mind or making you feel low.
1) Try getting ready for bed with some calming music or by soaking yourself in the tub.
2) Breathing exercises are a great way of relieving stress. To get started, simply get yourself into a comfortable position, take a deep a breath into your belly, and then breathe out through your nose, making sure each out-breath lasts longer than your in-breath. You’ll soon feel that bit more relaxed in no time.
3) Meditation is really useful if your mind races just before going to bed; it’s not as difficult or as esoteric as you may think either. Concentrate on your breathing, focusing on each breath as it enters and leaves your body. When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge the thought and then calmly put it to one side, gently refocusing your attention back to your breathing. Continue this process for as long as you feel comfortable. Hopefully, with practice, you’ll become more at ease with sitting with your thoughts and feelings, and better equipped at letting go of cyclic or distressing thoughts.
Everyone’s different, and so are our preferred sleeping environments. To find out what works best for you, experiment with things like light, temperature, noise and sleeping position.
The bright light of our myriad screens has been shown to negatively affect our ability to nod off. To minimise the effect of our infatuation with modern gadgetry, it’s a good idea to go tech-free about an hour before you want to go to sleep.
There are many reasons why you may not be getting the sleep you need, but if you ever feel like it's putting strain on your mental health, talk to a friend or visit your GP. You can find your local NHS mental health services here.