The One Thing We All Do That Affects Our Mental Health

Posted on Tuesday, 28th August 2018

There are many things we can do every day that positively or negatively impact our mental health. One of these things is something that all humans do- sleep.

Sleep can be a huge factor affecting our mental health. In mental health services, the subject of ‘sleep hygiene’ is always taken into account. Changes in sleep can be both a symptom and a cause of mental health issues.

Extreme sleep deprivation can cause very serious mental health problems. On a less extreme level I think everyone would agree that they feel better after a good night sleep. Sometimes a problem seems unmanageable at 1am, and a lot better a few days later after rest and taking care of yourself.

Many of my clients are busy working people, trying to keep up with the stressful pace of London. If we can give ourselves good quality sleep we are equipping ourselves better for what the day may throw at us.

Stick to the same timings

This means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day- even on weekends. This may be harder for some than others- if your job requires you to get up at 5am in the week, understandably you may not want to do this at the weekend. Also, lots of people enjoy a lie in, especially if it was a late one of Friday night.

However, if possible it is much better to go to sleep and get up at the same time 7 days a week. It allows your body to get in and stay in a routine. Also, losing sleep on one night and then making up for it a couple of days later by sleeping in, doesn’t actually effectively make up for that loss of sleep.

Bedtime routine

Create a bedtime routine for yourself. Do the same thing half an hour or an hour before going to bed each night. This might be having a bath, lighting some candles, reading a book, listening to relaxing music. This will do two things. It will naturally relax you due to the nature of the activities and also, keeping to this routine every night signals to your body and mind that bedtime and sleep are approaching. We are creatures of habit and these signals and cues are helpful in getting our bodies to learn patterns.

Bedroom temperature

It can be tempting, especially in the winter, to get our bedrooms warm and toasty to create a cosy feeling. However, we sleep best in a cooler climate. Our bedrooms should be 18–24 degrees celsius for the best sleep, according to the NHS website.


If possible, try to keep all electronic items (phone, laptop, iPad) out of the bedroom. I feel like this is something we are told a lot, especially about our phones but it is true. Blue light from screens wakes up our brains- the last thing you want before bed.

Dim light

Talking of light, ensure that the light in your surroundings are dim in the lead up to bed. If your main lights don’t have a dimming feature, turn on lamps instead, or light candles.

Don’t force it

If you’re lying in bed in the middle of the night and can’t get to sleep, sometimes it’s better to get up for a while. If you spend hours lying awake in bed, your mind may start to associate your bed and bedroom with this state, instead of the sleepy state you’d like to be in. Try getting up and moving to a different room. Keep the lights low and screens off. Try reading a book or doing some meditation. Then once you start to feel sleepier, go back to bed.

Outside interference

As much as we can try to control our immediate surroundings, we have less control over what goes on outside our home. So if outside noise, or bright street lamps are a problem for you, try using ear plugs or an eye mask.

Communicate with people you are living with

Do you live with anyone? Perhaps you share a bed with a partner and you both have different bedtime preferences, which can result in disturbed sleep. Perhaps you have housemates or children who have different sleep or work patterns to you and they wake you up coming in late. As with most things, communication can help greatly here. Discussing what you need from them and vice versa to create a harmonious environment in which your sleep doesn’t suffer could be very important.

Write a worry list

When you can’t sleep are you ruminating over things that are concerning you? A tip I sometimes give my clients is to write down the things you are thinking about. Either a worry list, or if the solutions are obvious, a to do list. This simple act of putting thoughts down on paper can help alleviate the thought cycle in your head and aid you in getting to sleep.

Give it time

If you’ve been struggling with sleep for a while, don’t expect everything to get better immediately after trying these things. Allow you and your body to adjust and get used to a new routine.

Is there more to it?

If you are finding that worries or stress are keeping you up night after night then you may find it helpful to talk to someone about what’s on your mind. If you feel that you may benefit from this then do get in touch.

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