Did you know that creating a nighttime routine can actually be more conducive to going to sleep and staying asleep each night?
Similar to creating a bedtime routine for your children, you can implement a bedtime schedule that will train your body to get better sleep and promote better mental health. Here are some beneficial nighttime routines to improve your mental health.
1. Take Note of What Your Eat and Drink Before Bed
It’s well-known that what we put into our bodies has a direct effect on how we feel throughout the day. The same can be said regarding what we eat and drink before bed and how it affects how we sleep.
Make sure that you avoid any type of caffeinated beverages and alcohol before bed. This may seem counterproductive—isn’t alcohol supposed to relax you?
You also want to make sure that you aren’t eating anything too heavy or sugary before bed. Try to eat your dinner at least three hours before you go to sleep and if you get hungry for a bedtime snack, try healthy foods that are low in carbs, such as carrot sticks and hummus, avocado, greek yoghurt, or apples.
2. Stick With the Schedule You Create (Even on Weekends)
Once you create a sleep schedule for yourself, make sure you stick to it as often as possible, even on the weekends. It may be tempting to go out during the weekends, stay up all night, and then sleep in the next day, but actions like that alter your circadian rhythm and end up making it harder for you to go to sleep at your regular time the next night.
There will always be exceptions to the norm, such as special events or going on vacations outside of your regular time zone, but as a rule of thumb, make sure your nighttime routine stays consistent every single night and try to avoid any distractions that may alter your routine. This includes watching television close to bedtime and even having your phone close to you.
Most phones now offer a nighttime mode that will remind you when it gets close to bedtime and will automatically put itself in “Do Not Disturb” mode to help make it easier to avoid distractions.
3. Plan Your Morning Ahead of Time
If you find yourself struggling to get to sleep each night and are constantly tossing and turning, stressing about the day ahead, consider taking a moment to plan your morning. Lay out what you will wear the next day, meal prep your lunch, and take a little bit of time to work through your morning schedule.
This will help you in two ways: the first is that you will find yourself more at ease, knowing you have taken active steps to get yourself ready for the next day. The second is if you find yourself thin on time in the mornings, having all your big items ready to go will shave off a lot of time you otherwise would be stressing about in the morning.
Additionally, try making your bed every morning. Adding this to your morning routine can actually have a positive effect on your mental health when you go to sleep each night. Having a nice crisp and neatly made bed is visually welcoming and helps your mind and body relax that much more, as opposed to diving into a mess of sheets.
4. Consider Your Surroundings
You want to make sure that your bedroom is conducive to getting the sleep you need and improving your mental health. While this isn’t something you will add into your routine or practice every night, you want to make sure this is implemented to make sure you are primed for sleep. According to House Method, having a bedroom that’s conducive to a restful night’s sleep can help improve mental health.
Think about how your room looks right now. Do you get a good night’s rest each night or could there be improvements? Make sure when it’s time for bed, your room is dark, cool, and quiet.
Remove all distractions from your room and ensure that rattling appliances or a loud ceiling fan are addressed and quieted. Turn your TV and phone off and shut off all lights before falling asleep.
The temperature of your home also can directly affect the quality of sleep you get. Typically, the best temperature for sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but be sure to adjust according to your comfort level. While you may want to save money on your electric bill, bedtime is not the time to keep the AC at 80 degrees for the sake of saving money.
5. Implement Self-Care Into Your Routine
With a busy schedule, it may be hard to try and squeeze in self-care, but it’s essential to your mental health. As you get ready for bed and are trying to establish a nighttime routine, now is the perfect time to add self-care.
A great way to end the day is by using a gratuity journal to notate three things you are grateful for each day. Journaling helps calm the mind and can help keep life in perspective.
You can also use journaling to write notes about any last-minute thoughts that pop into your mind before you go to sleep, such as making sure you remember a dentist appointment or jotting down a quick note to grab milk when you go to the grocery store.
Other ways you can practice self-care is by taking this time to practice a guided meditation or a relaxing bedtime yoga session. You may even want to do something simpler, such as apply a relaxing face mask before you go to sleep.
Sleep is an important part of our lives. Not only do we need it to recover and function throughout the day, but it is also a crucial part of our health. When we’re feeling sick, our bodies need more sleep than usual.
Similarly, when we don’t sleep enough our immune system weakens and we might catch a cold more easily.
But it’s not only our general health that is affected by our sleep patterns. It turns out that our mental health might even be much more susceptible to changes in our sleep routines. In this article, we’re going to talk about all the ways sleep can affect your mind.
However, let’s first mention why is sleep important and what happens to our bodies and brains while we’re asleep.
Why Do We Need Sleep?
For animals, as well as for humans, it is impossible to survive without sleep. In order to prove that, several scientists have deprived themselves or their research participants from sleep for days, and the results were always the same.
What they all experienced was a decrease in cognitive skills, a drop in awareness and focus to their surroundings, as well as an over-exhaustion. They also felt much weaker, their immune system was damaged and so on.
So, what are the main reasons we sleep?
We sleep in order to:
Repair our organs and muscles
Restore and strengthen our immune system
Rebalance our hormones
Help our brain retain information
When putting it like this, it seems all quite simple. But what can sleep do to our minds apart from making us feel cranky when we’re sleep-deprived, or making us feel happy when we’re well rested?
Let’s find out what are the main ways your sleep can affect your brain.
Sleeping Affects Learning and Memory
Staying up all night before an exam was found to have really poor effects on how we memorize and learn. On the other hand, getting a night of good sleep before heading to an exam has shown to have many more benefits on our brain and how we remember things.
This is why naps often provide a fairly good and efficient boost to our learning capabilities. Some people claim that they managed to memorize better and improve their performances thanks to using power naps to recover during studying or working.
Our brain simply needs sleep in order to process all new information received throughout the day. When not sleeping sufficiently, our brains don’t have enough energy to store new things we learn.
As a result of this lack of energy, it becomes much harder to recall things. Without having and maintaining a regular sleeping pattern <strong>humans can become forgetful</strong> and develop mentally.
Thanks to these findings, it became evident that chronic sleep deprivation increases one’s dementia risks in older age.
Lack Of Sleep Decreases Our Cognitive Skills
Sleep does more than just enhancing our memory skills. Apparently, when we are well-rested our mind is much clearer, and our brain cells function properly. When we’re tired or sleep-deprived, our brain cells become unable to process information accordingly or to translate images into conscious thoughts.
This is exactly the reason why driving is highly discouraged when a person is tired. In fact, a research study has shown that sleep deprivation had almost the same effects on our brain as alcohol.
A sleepless night will slow you down, make your brain less active and potentially lead to poorer decisions.
You Might Eat More Unhealthy When Sleep Deprived
Since sleep affects and recovers our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for planning and decision making, it can become much easier to lose self-control which will result in faulty decisions.
As a result of this change in the way your brain thinks, you might be less self-controlled when it comes to food. It has been shown that self deprived people tend to eat more processed and unhealthy food compared to people that get the proper amount of sleep.
This is also why obesity is often linked to sleep deprivation as well.
Sleeping Affects Your Mood
Not only will decreased amount of sleep make you less efficient on work, decrease your performance and lead to poorer decisions, but it will also affect your mood.
A study has found that women that were deprived of sleep experienced higher levels of anger, depression, and hostility early in the morning when compared to women that slept full 8 hours.
It’s not so uncommon to feel cranky, more irritable and impatient when we lack sleep. On the flipside, when we sleep well, we feel happier, full of energy and ready to take on whatever the day might bring.
This is why depression, anxiety and other mental issues are often connected to sleeping disorders such as shift work sleep disorder, insomnia, interrupted sleep and so on.
Not Sleeping Enough Might Result In Less Creativity
Researches have shown that people that were deprived of sleep, or that have slept only a few hours less than 8 hours, were less likely to think outside of the box, come up with creative solutions and maintain their problem-solving skills.
On the other side, getting a full night of sleep promotes creativity. This was proven thanks to a study testing participants on a task involving numbers. People that have slept more managed to figure out the problem faster and at a more successful rate than people who were sleep-deprived.
Sleep Enables More Efficient Multitasking Skills
Multitasking is possible thanks to the activity of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that enables us to do several tasks simultaneously and that needs sleep in order to function properly.
This is also another reason why it is better not to drive when tired. Not only our brain functions more slowly and isn’t able to alertly respond to our surroundings, but the cortical function of multitasking is weakened by a lot when we don’t get enough sleep.
Your Brain Gets Rid Of Unnecessary “Trash”
Our brains have a system that gets rid of unnecessary toxins and, apparently, this system seems to be most active during sleep. A recent study about this brain’s system has thought us that by sleeping, our brains manage to eliminate bad toxins that can cause Alzheimer’s or other neurological disorders.
During this process, brain cells also shrink in size in order to allow toxic waste to be eliminated properly from the brain.
I love reading, and there is nothing I love more than a good psychology book.
I developed this reading list based off of some of my favourite books over the past few years.
If you are a psychology student, graduate, qualified psychologist, therapist or simply just interested in the topic of psychology then there will be a book in here for you, or maybe two, or maybe all of them!
Check out my reviews of all 20 books and simply click on the name of the book to be taken straight to a link to purchase it!
Blackbox thinking really came at the right time for me.
I had just started my doctorate in counselling psychology and was struggling to come to terms with a failed assignment.
This book really opened my eyes to the power and true purpose of failure.
Blackbox Thinking looks at different professional industries in our society and tries to teach lessons of industries that refuse to learn from failure, those that do and the differences in those industries as a result.
If you want to gain a better understanding of what failure is all about, the purpose and power of what failure can do for us, then this book is a must read!
Carl Rogers is one of the greatest pioneers of psychotherapy and psychology!
His work created a new age of therapeutic work during times of psychodynamic and behaviourist principles.
With a focus on the client as an individual, in their subjective world, Rogers’ work was revolutionary.
This book really encapsulates his ideology and philosophy better than any other.
What’s more, is that you don’t need to be a therapist to really appreciate and gain benefit from his work and knowledge
A new appreciation of the individual, empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence, an appreciation of the principles in this book and enhance the life of any reader, from any background and profession.
The book, unsurprisingly so, introduces the concept of ‘flow’.
Flow is a state that if reached, it is argued, can enrich the lives of people, and is the key to true happiness.
combination of a number of things such as minimising some of the challenges we catastrophise in life, as well as learning from our failures encapsulates what flow is about, however, it includes so much more.
This book is a bit of a classic in psychology and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
Backed with real sound empirical principles this book is one for the people looking to introduce a new concept in their lives to experience some more happiness in 2019!
Thinking fast and slow can be a challenging read I will not deny it
However, this is in the GetPsyched Reading List 2019 because of how thought-provoking it is.
If you can get past the challenges you might experience in reading it, this book talks in great detail about the two different parts of our decision making brain, the logic behind them and how it rules everything we do.
How rational we think we are when we are reactive compared to when we are considered and think situations through thoroughly, is very different from reality.
Similar to his other work, Yalom in the Gift of Therapy talks about his personal experiences and process of becoming the establish therapist he is today.
He goes into brutal detail about his trials and successes, something I rarely come across form professional therapists talking about their work.
The lessons he has learned and is willing to relay to the reader are so so valuable.
I really believe this book is not only a must read for therapists and trainees, but for anyone wishing to develop empathic and interpersonal skills with a desire to communicate and relate to others better.
This is one of those books that I just love picking up every now and again.
It’s by no means a self-discovery or intellectual based book but it is so so fun to read and actually gives more detail than I thought it would at first.
If like me you are interested in the basic principles of psychology but have limited time or resources to remind your self of some of the experiments that established these principles…then this is the book for you.
It gives wonderful illustrations and descriptions of the most famous studies in psychologies history.
It’s so easy to read and a really nice break from some of the harder texts I read often.
This book also looks at some of the ethical and legal issues some of these studies raised as well as their findings and how they still influence our lives and understand of psychology today. A really brilliant book!
Very similar to Pavlov’s Dogs and Other Experiments, the Psychology Book is one of those books I love to big up and just have a scan through.
Its nothing heavy and in truth was actually given to me as a bit of a joke.
It’s honestly brilliant though.
It’s a book that makes some of the most challenging and difficult to absorb concepts and principles in psychology easy to digest.
With awesome illustrations and key facts about studies, research, psychologists and experiments, it is everything you need in order to learn the most valuable points of some of the key principles to psychology.
We are all familiar with the moment our favourite lead character is shown to have a memory back to a horrifying moment from their past, or from earlier on in the series equating to their psychological state and unravelling storyline.
This is PTSD, known as post-traumatic stress disorder. There are increasing media representations of PTSD, but what exactly is it?
PTSD is an after effect of a traumatic event that has the potential to last months or years, often associated with soldiers, the rest of us are not exempt.
Traumatic events are overwhelming and frightening experiences, like being involved in an assault, witnessing an accident or attack. For some life carries on unaffected, whilst others are subject to psychological symptoms of grief, depression, guilt, shame and blame and specific to PTSD flashbacks and nightmares; avoidance and numbing; and hypervigilance, being constantly on alert.
Physical effects of irregular heartbeats, diarrhoea and pains are often occurrent with PTSD as a result of the continued activation of the fight, flight response.
A flashback of the traumatic memory will induce the same physiological responses as at the time of the traumatic experience itself.
Then the less commonly known complex-PTSD (cPTSD) is suffered when individuals suffer repeated severe neglect or abuse.
In addition to PTSD symptoms, cPTSD has symptoms of difficulties with regulating emotions; distrust towards the world; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness as if they are damaged goods; feeling alienated; avoiding interpersonal relationships; suicidality and dissociative symptoms.
Dissociation is literally ‘ignorance is bliss’ in psychology terms with your brain disconnecting from the trauma and associated memories, feelings and identity, acting in self-preservation from the psychological turmoil.
This further creates difficulties with symptoms of amnesia, detachment to yourself and your emotions with a loss of self, a distorted perception of those and the world around you.
For some it’s a natural response to trauma, others decide to tune-out (this is often found with children) and for those with schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorder it’s a symptom of their disorder.
Trauma fundamental changes us, from the hardwiring of our brain to the bodies responses, operating from an instinctive drive in the face of trauma.
We are familiar with the four Fs- fighting, fleeing, feeding and f(love)-ing; fighting and fleeing are geared up in trauma and freezing can also occur. The reptilian brain, a drive in our survival, activates shutting down non-essential processes to conserve energy, the nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones to prepare the body in particular cortisol.
Cortisol prepares the body for its chosen method of survival, the vagus nerve sending signals to the heart, lungs and stomach, creating that feeling we get when we are in the grips of fear (for those who fear nothing, let me know how, for others with acrophobia or ophidiophobia (an evolutionary rationalised fear) will be all too familiar with this feeling.)
Generally, we sense danger, and no it’s not a sixth sense or the Illuminati (associated with the reptilian brain), its an innate instinct and further taught to us by our caregivers, aiding the development of part of our autonomic nervous system.
Mirror neurons aid this learning process with mimicry and in the development of empathy (if you are on the Autistic Disorder spectrum this may be more difficult), these handy neurons guide our perception and action.
Its mirror neurons that enable us to interpret individuals’ intentions or make us wince when someone gets hurt (unless it’s our sibling or best mate falling over, then we malfunction and laugh).
Consider walking home at night and a large, conspicuous hooded hulk of an individual approaches, alarm bells go off, you cross the road or your heart rate increases, and you hope to pass them unbothered, with wallet and limbs intact.
When someone approaches you in a bar we can sense their intentions and that niggle of your partners infidelity, this particular one is a paradox as we generally trust the person we love and therefore what they say, yet our instinct is flagging up something else putting us into conflict.
This conflict is particularly difficult in differentiating for individuals who have been abused by their care giver and by partners, the very people we look for love and security, are the very people who risk that safety and neglect us.
The potentiation of this can result in the dysregulated response occurrent with PTSD; overactivated amygdala, resulting in hypervigilance, underactive hippocampus, restricting consolidation of what has happened to put it as a past event resulting in the continued heightened preparation of flight or fight and finally the continued elevation of stress hormones.
There are a number of therapies that aid PTSD for some medication aids the turning down of heightened responses, likely the combination of medication and therapeutic techniques may be suitable.
Therapies include eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing, cognitive processing therapy and other cognitive therapeutic frameworks providing individuals with an opportunity to rationalise what has happened and gain skills to thrive and move out of survival mode.
Other holistic techniques engaging writing therapy to come to terms with what has happened; art therapy as an alternative expression; and yoga to get back into your body, effective for individuals who have experienced sexual and physical abuse and have disconnected with their bodies.
Trauma is attributable to the development of mental health difficulties and physical ill-health, finding individuals who experienced traumas in childhood, known as adverse childhood effects (ACEs) have increased mortality from heart disease, chronic lung disease and other health management.
Individuals working in professions dealing with traumatic events (paramedics, police and emergency services) or those dealing with disturbing details of forensic cases all are susceptible.
The outing of trauma can often result in a post-truth wake and can incur in mental health, especially in light of the shame and blame associated, particularly in the #metoo movement and clergy sexual abuse causes.
This is the tip of an iceberg that may explain and be a precursor in the development of mental health difficulties and physical health.
For further reading check out Dr van de Kolk, who articulates trauma beautifully, advocating building trust with patients and the holistic alternatives from a one pill fix, find it here.
Self-care has definitely had a moment in 2018. Social media platforms are regularly awash with images of people wearing facemasks, eating chocolate or reading a book in a candlelit nook, paired with the #self-care hashtag. Taking small moments like this to take stock and recharge, has become something many people shout about online, and quite rightly so.
In recent years, we have been working longer and harder, with growing to do lists and never-ending tasks to complete, places to be and people to catch up with. With this culture growing, self-care is now more than ever, an essential part of survival.
However, many people have become so accustomed to this fast-paced world, that it feels almost impossible to know where to begin with taking time out to do things just for the pure joy of it. This is where the online presence of self-care in action can have a positive effect.
Self-care & Social Media
With 8.3 million people sharing the #self-care hashtag on Instagram, it is clear that there is a growing understanding of just how important it is. Taking time out to look after ourselves and recharge has become something people are proud to both advocate and demonstrate, meaning there is less stigma or guilt around self-care.
It has also created a space for discussion around what we need to achieve and maintain good mental health and life balance, and to feel safe in asking for these things from employers, relatives or partners.
One of the main concerns amidst the growing popularity of the #self-care hashtag is that it can contribute to an already dangerous environment where social media platforms are used as a tool for comparison, rather than connection.
Trending buzzwords can create acceptance and change but can just as easily breed feelings of inferiority and exclusivity. This goes against some of the core notions of self-care, in that, it can be mentally harmful to compare ourselves to others and feel we do not measure up.
Self-care looks different for everyone. For some it means alone time, for others, it might mean socialising with friends. Taking a bath, saying no to an invite, or eating a favourite food are all examples of making time to purely care for ourselves and no one else.
What Self-care Really Means
Not to be confused with ‘treating yourself’ or a spa day, self-care can be as big or small, cheap or costly, quiet or raucous as you need it to be. There is no one size fits all and we each deserve a self-care routine that works for us and our life.
Making time for ourselves in this way is not something that comes naturally to some, in fact, many people feel guilt around self-care and think it is selfish to put themselves first.
Going a little deeper, however, it can be argued that self-care is actually an important part of caring and supporting others. After all, if we are not making time to care for ourselves and keep ourselves well, how can we possibly expect to do this for others?
As children, we look to others as we learn and understand the world around us. The people in our lives help us navigate things we come across that are new and often hard to make sense of, from learning to tieing our shoelaces to first fall outs with best friends. When we get stuck with something, we ask our parents, guardians or teachers for help. It is something we are encouraged to do in life from an early age, so why do people find asking for help so difficult?
So many things can influence our views on asking for help, and some of the most common reasons are rooted in our social identity and sense of self.
Fear is a powerful driver when it comes to thoughts and behaviours and asking for help is no exception. Often times asking for help is assumed to be a sign of weakness or failure when in reality it demonstrates great self-awareness and strength. Being strong enough to ask for help -whether you are a new parent in need of some shut-eye, a student struggling to understand course material or simply someone who is not tall enough to reach the top shelf- requires a level of self-awareness to identify what you need.
This sounds simple but figuring out what we need is not always easy. Having a good understanding of your needs is a key part of asking for help. Knowing specifically what we could use a helping hand with, makes it easier for those around us to understand how we feel and also to offer the support we need.
Independence and Identity
Asking for help can sometimes feel like you are relying on others, rather than being capable of doing things alone. These thoughts can lead to feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness and can threaten our sense of independence and identity. However, it is important to remember that everyone needs help sometimes and that no one can do everything alone. Getting support to achieve our goals, or even just to get through a tough day, doesn’t make you any less independent. In asking for help, you are taking control of your situation and how it is handled.
Why asking for help is important
Asking for help is important because it is one of the first steps we can take to truly accept ourselves. Acknowledging our limits and understanding our imperfections allows us to grow. Brené Brown, who is based at the University of Texas, carried out research in vulnerability, and her work found that being vulnerable is a key part of self-acceptance and knowing our worth.
So we can help others
“When you cannot ask for help without self-judgement, you are never really offering help without judgement”
Another important part of being able to reach out to others is that we can create an environment where we are able to help others. Seeking help and being able to offer it, with empathy and compassion, provides a network of support for and between the people in your life. But first we need to treat ourselves with that same compassion; if we are able to accept ourselves then we can begin to offer unconditional and non-judgemental support to others.
You are not alone
The saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and in asking for help there is definitely truth in that.
Sharing a problem or issue with someone you trust can really lighten the load of working through a problem on your own. Opening up in this way can also let someone know that you are willing to listen when they ask for help. Often when we share problems we realise that many others have similar experiences, feelings and needs with us, which can make us feel less alone.
It can be daunting to ask for help, and even if you have decided that it is the right thing for you to do, knowing where to start can be tricky. Depending on what kind of help you are looking for there may be a different starting point, but there is no shortage of people who are willing to help and want to help.
Friends and family are a big part of our support network and can be a good place to start. Talking to someone you trust and asking for support might feel more comfortable if it is someone you know well.
There are also community groups and charity organisations that can offer a multitude of resources that can help, for example, local meet-ups, legal advice, and helplines for people experiencing suicidal thoughts or loneliness. Community groups normally post information on local notice boards in public spaces, and of course, most of these organisations and information can be found easily online.
Talking to your GP is also a great way to ask for help if you are struggling with physical or mental health problems. Your GP is there to listen and advise you in a confidential setting and can help you get the treatment and support you need.
Whichever way works best for you, the most important thing to remember is that asking for help is not a weakness, it is a strength. No one gets through everything alone, and it’s ok to get a little help in making sure your needs are met.
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