4 days to Mental Health Day

4 steps to a better Mental Health

Did you know that three out of five people suffer from sleep issues? Especially during the recent pandemic lockdowns, a lot of people faced great sleep difficulties as a consequence of the situation. Sleep and mental health are strongly interconnected. Insomnia particularly has a big impact on individuals mental health. Years of lower sleep quality can lead to depression and anxiety, and vice versa, if someone feels depressed or anxious, one’s ability to sleep will be impacted negatively as well. This means that the individuals facing mental health issues are more likely to also suffer from insomnia and sleep difficulties.

We spend around one third of our lives sleeping. Food, water, breathing and resting are the main ways we maintain our health and physicality. More importantly, sleep is necessary for the functioning of our body as it prepares us for the next day, not only physically but also mentally. It strengthens our immune system and impacts all parts of our everyday lives such as our ability to use language and speak correctly, to concentrate, understanding we hear or what we are reading too, it helps with comprehension. Sleeping is an unconscious process, during which the brain moves into Α -waves, still partly active as it has to go through a lot of tasks, our brain still works subtly while we sleep too. It takes time for brain to fully recover and rest too. During sleep, the “conflation” procedure enhances our memories. It processes information, strengthens memory links, consolidates knowledge gained, helps us come up with novel ideas and also reorganize our memories in meaningful ways, storing the emotionally meaningful parts. Especially for children, sleep is important for every part of the body as both their body and brains are still developing. Lack of sleep-in young ages can contribute to behavioral difficulties, lower ability to learn and recall information as well as appetite and weight issues.

During sleep we have little of interaction with the environment around as, the muscles relax and the person experiences an array of dreams. It is easier for some individuals to remember their dreams once they have awoken, and usually, what is recalled means something significant to the person and their life. The most known theory about dreams comes from Sigmund Freud, who supported that the dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. Unconscious refers to desires, images, thoughts and emotions, in our dreams, these appear in an unconscious attempt to fix an everyday problem. On the other hand, there is another theory, according to which dreams are way to help us remain asleep and keep brain busy while we are asleep. The amount each person needs to sleep is subjective and individualized, however, there are general recommendations based on age. Although, it is wiser for each person to listen to their body and respect their body’s need for quality sleep and rest.

Caffeine affects sleep quality negatively while also delaying sleep. On the other hand, there is research supporting that some foods like tuna, salmon, kiwis are helpful in promoting sleep. Generally, a healthy diet helps enhance our sleep duration and the rate at which we fall asleep. It is believed that alcohol can aid individuals to sleep more easily. However, the sleep quality will not be sound, with interruptions of waking up occur nine out to ten times. Based on this, it is recommended to consume alcohol several hours before sleep in order for the alcohol to be properly absorbed by the body and allow for quality sleep to take place. According to research, using screens such as computer, tv, phones before sleep affects our level of sleep due to the blue light emitted from electronic devices. This light slows down the release of serotonin, which is the hormone responsible for sleep.  There also seems to be an association with what exactly an individual views through these screens, such as a scary movie or reading an emotional article may also impact one’s ability to sleep.

Apart from seeking out counseling services to explore sleep or anxiety issues, other effective strategies to maintain a healthy sleep routine includes:

  • A warm cup of tea such as chamomile tea which helps with relaxation
  • Dim light in the bedroom
  • Refrain from using electronic devices one hour before sleep
  • A relaxing habit or practice that promotes sleep: a warm bath, relaxing music or reading a book
  • Use of essential oils and clean bed sheets in calm colors
  • Journaling achievements of the day, the goals for the next one and also stressful thoughts. Getting these out can make us feel relieved and lighter for the night.