Mental Health and Sleep

By Pam Jenkinson – Night Light Café Project Worker 

I Can’t Get No Sleep ……

Have you ever lay awake at night unable to sleep? What keeps you awake? What goes through your mind? How does lack of sleep impact your following day? 

We all need to sleep! According to the Sleep foundation, ‘sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly’.  

So, it is no surprise then that lack of sleep can be detrimental to our mental health. If you have a mental health problem it can affect how well you sleep, but likewise poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. It’s a vicious cycle, one of which can be difficult to break

In the Night Light Cafes, often our guests talk about sleep difficulties. They are trapped in a cycle of worry and anxiety, which then impacts their abilities to sleep, causing further anxiety and stress. We recently put together a signposting document for our volunteers to share in the cafes of ways to help with sleep hygiene and attempt to break the cycle. Here are some of the tips we put together to help:-

  1. Try and keep to a consistent bedtime routine – Try to go to sleep and wake up at about the same times every day — even on weekends. This reinforces your body’s sleep cycle (your internal clock), which can make it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up every day
  2. Try and create a relaxing bedtime routine about 30 – 60 minutes before you intend to fall asleep. This could include a warm bath, gentle stretches, switching off devices, relaxing music or reading a book
  3. Purposefully do some exercise every day. Whether this is a full work out or a gentle walk, the benefits may help you feel more ready to sleep
  4. Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it will give you a quick burst of energy, but then may disturb your sleep. 
  5. Make your sleep environment work for you – when thinking about the environment consider your senses. So think about what temperature, noise level, light level, the feel of your bedding, the smell of the room – do they work for you and adapt it if you need to.
  6. Manage your stress before you go to sleep. Keeping a sleep diary or notepad by your bed can help. Write down your worries to help get them out of your head. If your to-do list stresses you out, write that down as well. Prioritize what you need to do tomorrow and the rest of the week, then try to relax.

However, it is also worth noting that If you continue to have issues with your sleep patterns or insomnia, be sure to follow up with your doctor. They can determine whether an underlying condition is causing your sleep problems and can provide the treatment you may need.

The Night Light Café is also a place you can visit as part of your journey to break your difficulties sleeping. A quiet environment, a decaffeinated drink and a place to talk about your worries, can all be found at the cafes seven days a week. For more information click the links below.

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