The Healthy Mind

With Dr. Olga Filippa Nel, Clinical Psychologist

The quality and quantity of our sleep has a significant influence on our mental and physical health, as well as on our overall wellbeing. Inadequate sleep can take a serious toll on and affect every area of functioning, including energy levels, emotional balance and even moods.

We know that many different factors affect sleep, including stress, anxiety, depression, pain and medical conditions. Sometimes, sleep disturbances are short-lived, for example, if a stressful situation is resolved or pain subsides. But many people struggle, on a regular basis, to fall asleep or they constantly wake up during the night.

If you are wide awake at 3 a.m., getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal, however, you have more control than you probably realise. Often the solution lies in optimising your daily routine because unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can deprive you of the kind of sleep you need.

Try some of the following tips. Tune in to your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, as this helps to stabilise your internal clock. Avoid sleeping in, even on weekends. If you have trouble falling asleep, daytime napping is not a good idea. Exercise daily, even if it is only for ten minutes!

Melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy, is controlled by the amount of light we are exposed to. During the day, sunlight is ideal. Ensure that your home and workspace are bright and filled with natural light. At night, avoid bright screens for at least two hours before bedtime, including phones, tablets, kindles and computers. Try substituting television watching with listening to relaxing music or reading a book. Ideally, sleep in a dark room.

Your daytime eating habits also play a role, especially before bedtime. Make your evening meal a light, early one. If you like to snack before bed, try some milk, a plain yoghurt or a banana. Limit caffeine and nicotine intake. Avoid drinking alcohol and excessive liquids. Finally, unwind, by meditating or listening to some calming music and keep a notebook and pencil by your bedside for those thoughts that keep you awake.

Live mindfully and blossom!

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