Sleep, both its quantity and its quality, can affect your mental health.
Recent surveys have found that more than one-third of New Zealand adults are unable to consistently get a good night’s sleep, with many having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. And Covid-19 has made things worse, even for those who were previously “good” sleepers.
Remote work gave many people more hours in the day for personal use, but at the same time turned the workday into a 24/7 endeavour, with emails, texts, and Zoom calls occurring at odd and often unpredictable times.
Working parents who lacked child care options or had to help young children with online schoolwork during the day have resorted to late-night or early-morning hours to get their own work done with minimal interruptions. They essentially became shift workers with erratic sleep schedules. Others lost sleep pondering whether their jobs were worth the stress and how they might reshape their working lives going forward.
Poor sleep takes a toll on the mind and body. Persistent fatigue may be the main complaint of sleep-deprived people. But beneath the surface, growing evidence indicates that disrupted or insufficient sleep can have widespread damaging impacts on their physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. It muddies clear thinking, depletes energy, increases irritability, and dampens one’s sex drive.
Even for those who sleep soundly but for fewer than the commonly recommended seven or eight hours, a night may not be as medically well off with short sleep cycles as they think.
For example, a major study suggests that middle-aged people who are chronically short on shut-eye face an increased risk of developing dementia in their later years.
Try the following 5 tips to get a good night's sleep:
1 - Have a regular sleep pattern
Establish a regular bedtime and rising time routine. Through repetition, you will train your body and your brain into this pattern.
2 - Keep your bedroom dark
Ensure your bedroom is sufficiently darkened, as this will promote uninterrupted sleep.
3 - Neutralise noise
Sleep in a quiet environment. Our brain focuses on the noise around us just in case it proves to be dangerous.
4 - Wind-down
Create a routine before going to bed that promotes relaxation. This could include a warm bath, reading a book, or drinking warm milk. The amino acid tryptophan in milk helps produce serotonin (happy hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone).
5 - Switch off
Turn computers and phones off at least an hour before bed. The screens promote wakefulness; so don’t get into the habit of using these devices in bed.