I don’t know about you, but I love to sleep. By 9 pm I am probably already in bed and you may say that sleeping is one of my favorite activities. However, sleeping is not just a fun activity, but one that is beneficial for our mental, physical and emotional well-being. Sleep deprivation not only has short-term side effects, such as brain fog or irritability, but can also cause long-term effects. Such long-term effects can include the increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as worsen symptoms associated with anxiety and/or depression.

For me, personally, I know that my anxiety can cause racing thoughts and worry, which can all contribute to sleep deprivation. In fact, anxiety disorders have a strong association with sleeping issues. Worry can contribute to a state of hyperarousal, which can then contribute to insomnia. Depression, ADHD and feelings of extreme stress can also have a significant impact on sleep and sleep deprivation.

Having trouble sleeping, whether it be due to anxiety, stress or something else, can be frustrating and exhausting. The good news? Changing sleep habits is possible and there are many ways you can improve poor sleep.

One way is to stop using electronic devices at least an hour or two before bed. This is definitely easier said than done and I know personally how easy it is to lose track of time watching videos or scrolling social media accounts. However, exposure to blue light before bed can cause increased alertness and make us less ready for sleep. Instead, try reading a book, journaling, coloring or doing something else that promotes relaxation.

Another way to improve sleeping habits is to create a nightly routine. With kids, work and other responsibilities, this may be difficult and your evening routine may vary from time to time. That being said, if you can create a consistent routine before going to bed, this can help improve your sleep throughout the night. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but something that works for you. For example, my routine usually looks like turning off technology (or trying to), brushing teeth, skincare and journaling. If I have time I will take a hot shower, make some de-caffeinated tea or read a book. It’s not always exactly the same, but I try to stay as consistent as I can.

Some other things to remember when trying to improve sleep habits are:

  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime
  • Practice self-care and stress-relief activities throughout the day
  • Block out excessive light and try using a sleep mask
  • Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises

Stress and anxious thoughts can be unavoidable at times, which means no matter what we do, our sleep may be impacted from time to time. Despite this we can still work to improve our habits and get a well-rested, full night of sleep!

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.