Sleep is one of the most important things we do for our bodies and minds, but many of us struggle to get the amount and quality of sleep we need.
If you’re struggling with your sleep, it may not even be your fault. Maybe you work inconsistent hours, or maybe you’re waking up throughout the night to care for a child. And if you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety — or you’re experiencing high stress levels — you’re more likely to have insomnia and other sleep issues.
So what can you do to get better sleep? And why is it so important to prioritize? We’ll answer these questions and more in this blog post, in honor of National Sleep Awareness Week.
Sleep and Mental Health
You’ve maybe heard that there are different stages of sleep, and each one plays a role in the health of your brain. Quality sleep gives your brain an important opportunity to process emotional information.
Because of this, lack of sleep is tied to many mental health disorders, and it can make existing mental illnesses more severe.
Mental illness can also make it more difficult for you to get the sleep you need. For example, 75% of people with depression show symptoms of insomnia.
The Interaction Between Stress and Sleep
Just like with mental illness, the connection between stress and sleep can easily turn into a vicious cycle. When you’re stressed, it’s harder to sleep, but when you don’t get enough sleep, your stress levels increase.
This issue may be especially pronounced for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Americans, who often experience higher rates of stress compared to other groups. 72% of LGBTQ+ adults report stress over feeling as if their rights are under attack, and 75% of Black Americans say the racial climate is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Unfortunately, these same groups face unique barriers to accessing the resources that could help them cope with prolonged stress.
If consistent stress is making it difficult for you to sleep, it may be time to reach out for help. Therapy is an excellent resource for both talking through the sources of your stress and learning tools to help you better manage it.
At Hurdle, we practice culturally intentional therapy, prioritizing the unique identities and experiences of each of our members. We work hard to provide a space where you can feel seen, heard, and understood. If you’re interested in learning more, you can start the registration process here.
How to Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Along with working through sleep issues in therapy the Sleep Foundation emphasizes the importance of proper “sleep hygiene.” This means creating a bedroom environment and a daily routine that promotes consistent, uninterrupted sleep.
To start improving your sleep hygiene, they recommend building the following habits:
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Using relaxation techniques, meditation, or other methods to wind down
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine in the evening
- Dimming the lights as you’re preparing for bed
- Putting away electronic devices for at least an hour before bed
- Getting regular exercise
- Investing in a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding
- Spending time around natural light every day
- Blocking out light and sound that might disrupt your sleep
If this list feels overwhelming, don’t worry. Focusing on even one of these habits may make a major difference in your sleep. And every individual is different, so it’s important to test out different tactics and figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.