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by Kat Rowe | August 9, 2023

After a night of tossing and turning, the restlessness can flow on into your day.

When you have a good night’s sleep, your brain and body have a chance to recharge and prepare for the day. That’s why a bad night’s sleep can make us feel like we’re running on an empty tank.

And there’s science to back this feeling up. According to the Sleep Foundation, those with mental health concerns are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. And poor sleep can be a contributing factor for the progression of mental health concerns.

So, how can you get your sleep routine back on track? Come with us on a deep dive into the science behind your restless nights and how you can get a restful night’s sleep.

The science of sleep

Our brain activity fluctuates during the different sleep stages, and each one is equally important for our brain health.

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM)

Activated from when you fall asleep through until you’re in a deep sleep is the NREM sleep stage. 

This is the restorative phase. Your brain activity slows down and your body gets to work repairing tissues, reinforcing your immune system and building up energy for the next day.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

Next up is the dreaming phase. Brain activity increases to levels similar to when you’re awake. This phase is associated with dreams and is important for cognitive functions like memory, learning and creativity. 

Dreaming is the brain’s way of processing emotional information and has a big influence on our moods and how we deal with daily pressures.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep

From feeling more energised to making better decisions throughout the day, a good night’s sleep is the ideal foundation for a good day. Sleep has proven to:

  • Improve attention and concentration. We’re able to comprehend and move between different brain regions to deal with higher loads of information.
  • Better memory and learning. From remembering to lock the front door to retaining important facts at work, sleep improves your capacity to absorb and retain information.
  • Improved creativity and problem solving. Restful sleep can mean you’re more patient throughout the day and able to manage emotions more effectively.

How much sleep is enough?

  • Children: 10-13 hours
  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Older adults: 7-8 hours

Factors that can disrupt your sleep pattern

There could be more than one reason why you’re not sleeping well. A poor night’s sleep can look and feel different for everyone depending on their history and current circumstances. Some factors include:

  • Finding it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep 
  • Vivid dreams
  • Hard to wake up or get out of bed
  • Feeling tired or sleepy throughout the day
  • Oversleeping
  • Stress and worries. For example, about family, money or work
  • Taking medication, including coming off medications
  • Shift work
  • Current or past trauma
  • Mental and physical health problems
  • Diet and exercise routine

Tips on improving your sleep routine

If you’re looking to improve your sleep routine, there are several tips you can incorporate into your daily habits.

Firstly, establishing a set bedtime can help regulate your body’s internal clock and promote a consistent sleep schedule. To get the full benefit, start winding down about an hour before bed by reducing screen time and dimming the lights. 

Consider using helpful tools such as meditation apps or listening to sleep podcasts, which can aid in relaxation and prepare your mind for rest. And if possible, make your bed a place solely dedicated to sleep. By doing this, your brain will associate your bed with sleep, enhancing your ability to fall asleep quickly and maintain a restful night.

While napping may seem tempting, try to avoid it throughout the day to ensure you’re tired when bedtime arrives. It’s also important to avoid consuming substances that can disrupt sleep patterns before bed, such as alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Additionally, regular exercise and exposure to natural light during the day can make a difference.

Is your sleep routine impacting your mental health?

Sometimes poor sleep can be the first sign or red flag that something isn’t right.

If your mental health is becoming a concern, you’re welcome to drop by one of our Safe Space, Safe Havens or headspace centres for a chat.

We can help you with next steps on how you can get back to feeling like yourself again. Get in touch to start your journey towards a better today, tomorrow and future.

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