MENTAL HEALTH TIPS: Creating Healthy Sleep Habits

When is the last time you had a good night’s sleep?

Healthy Sleep Habits

By Kierstin Barker

Many of us had resolutions way back in January to form healthier habits such as exercising, eating better, or being more productive around the house. Few people, however, realize how important healthy sleep habits are! In fact, having good quality sleep regularly can affect weight, emotional balance, and energy throughout the day, in turn, affecting productivity.  

Regular, quality sleep can be a struggle. Stress, anxiety, and depression are just a few things that may affect normal sleep. There is a solution! Making simple changes to your daytime routine and bedtime habits can impact how well you sleep and can improve energy levels as well as other areas of your life.

Stay Consistent with Your Sleep-Wake Cycle
Staying consistent with when you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning can help your body prepare for sleep and stay asleep all while leaving you feeling more rested in the morning. Going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day helps set your body’s internal clock. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the more you’ll feel like you’re recovering from jet-lag throughout the week. Avoid sleeping in – even on weekends. Be smart about napping. While napping can help make up for lost sleep, napping can make it more difficult when you are trying to sleep at night. Limit naps to only 20 minutes in the early afternoon.

Control Light Exposure
Your brain secretes a hormone called melatonin to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is regulated by the amount of light exposure. When it’s dark, your brain secretes more melatonin, making you sleepy. When it’s light, it secretes less and makes you alert. There are a few ways you can influence this. During the day, expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning to help wake yourself up. If necessary, use a light therapy box. These stimulate sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days. Just ten minutes per day can even improve your mood. At night, avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of bedtime, say no to late-night television, and when it is time to sleep, make sure the room is dark.

Wind Down and Clear Your Head
Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. If worrying thoughts or what I like to call “noisy brain” are keeping you awake at night, there are some relaxation techniques to help destress. The more overstimulated your brain is during the day, the harder it can be to slow down at night. During the day, many of us overwork our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check phones, emails, social media, etc. Try to set aside specific time for these things and reduce multi-tasking. This will help your brain unwind. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down and calm those noisy thoughts. Deep breathing for a few minutes, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization of a peaceful, restful place can all be techniques to help you relax.

Is anxiety or stress affecting your sleep and/or quality of life? Help is available. Call Anchorpoint at 412-366-1300 to schedule an appointment with a compassionate therapist who will listen and share coping strategies with you.

Kierstin Barker has just completed her internship at Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry and is a recent graduate of Chatham University with a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology. Kierstin’s main therapy interests involve mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and person-centered therapy within individual and family counseling.