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Sleep and Our Mental Health

1st Feb 2021

With Children’s Mental Health Week taking place this week (Feb 1st-7th), what better time to look at how all-encompassing mental wellbeing really is. Many of us, children and parents alike, are finding these weeks a struggle, and as a result, are noticing issues with sleep.

Sleep and our mental health are closely intertwined. A lack of sleep affects our mental health, but if we are worried or anxious this then affects our ability to get sleep, making it a vicious circle where one impacts the other until both have been so severely affected, we cannot see a way out.

Having problems with your sleep can lead to many issues. Anxiety, stress and depression can be common side effects. You may find a lack of sleep leaves you irritable, or with a lack of energy or an inability to concentrate or make decisions. All of which then impacts upon your personal and professional relationships. As a result of the impact on your personal and professional all the above listed feelings can then be further exacerbated which in turn further affects our ability to sleep leading to very much a chicken and egg scenario where it can feel insurmountable to find a way to resolve it.

Your child’s brain needs sleep to restore resources that were used up during the day. A well-rested brain can solve problems, learn new information and enjoy the day a lot more than a tired brain. Is there anything worrying your child that could be disrupting their sleep? For children who are worried, night-time is when things they may be anxious or worried about will play on their mind and stop them from getting a good night’s sleep. Talking through any concerns and worries can be useful and help alleviate any worries.

This has been a year in which issues with both sleep and mental health have increased amongst us all. So, what can we do to help ourselves and our children?

  1. Maintain regular hours. Try and go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day.
  2. Ensure your bedroom has a calm and relaxed ambience. Think about the temperature, the lighting and noise. Perhaps use lavender scent to promote soporific feelings.
  3. Try and get regular exercise in. Even just a walk outdoors can be sufficient to help to promote a good night’s sleep. Be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime though.
  4. Cut down caffeine and alcohol intake. Both have a disruptive affect upon sleep.
  5. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. Digestion will disrupt your ability to sleep.
  6. Turn off digital devices at least an hour before bed and set do not disturb settings where possible. Encourage your children to read a book for a while before sleep and if possible, consider a paperback rather than a kindle or tablet for a bedtime read.
  7. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed. If you find something is on your mind and making it hard to sleep write it down. Problems can seem magnified in the small hours of the night. By writing it down, it allows you to compartmentalise it until the morning when the chances are, it won’t seem nearly as much of a worry.
  8. If you aren’t asleep within thirty minutes get up and do something and try again. Lying away tossing and turning only builds frustration.
  9. Try to allow yourself some downtime to relax before bed. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, even a warm bath– any technique that allows you to slow your brain down and gets both your body and mind to relax.
  10. Keep a sleep journal. It may help you to discover patterns or issues that are preventing your sleep on certain days or at certain times.

Above all else be kind to yourselves. This is a time in which we are facing uncertainties and struggles unlike any most of us have known before. It is normal and natural for that to impact both our mental health and our sleep patterns. If the techniques above don’t help and you have concerns then reach out to our e-Mentors or your GP for assistance.

If you have concerns regarding your mental health late at night and need to chat, then SHOUT is a 24/7 free text line service. Text SHOUT to 85258 and speak with someone about your concerns.

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s always best to stay connected.

 

Lucy Howard, BulliesOut Digital Communications Officer

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