Better Sleep to Maintain Mental Health

Adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep. About 1 in 3 people in the U.S. report difficulty sleeping at least one night per week. Insomnia is caused by difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Sleep deprivation is known to adversely affect mental health, so it’s best to take efforts to improve or maintain good sleep. Here are some tips for getting better sleep.

Stick to a schedule. Aim to develop a regular sleep schedule and go to bed the same time every night.

Prepare for bedtime. Avoid stimulating activities such as exercise before bedtime or consuming caffeine or sugar. Also, shut down electronic, screened devices at least a half-hour before you plan to sleep, as the blue light they emit stimulates the brain.

Create a comfortable sleep environment. Is your bedroom cool and dark? Are your bed and pillow comfortable? Try to create an oasis that feels comfortable and cozy, so that getting into bed feels welcoming.

Employ relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, body scan meditation, and mindfulness can help calm individuals and decrease anxiety about going to sleep.

Exercise. Studies show that exercise is associated with improved sleep quality. Talk with your health care provider about the kind of exercise that will work for you.

Try therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.

Find time to nap. A brief nap—up to 30 minutes—can help you feel alert again during the day. Even 15 minutes of daytime sleep is helpful.

Don’t fight sleeplessness. If you wake up and find you cannot fall back asleep, try getting up to reading a book or listen to music, instead of tossing and turning.

Talk to your doctor about medication and herbal remedies. If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your health care provider about medications and herbal remedies. Doctors don’t generally recommend staying on medication for more than a few weeks for insomnia, but there are a few medications that have been approved for longer term use. The effectiveness of natural remedies, including melatonin and valerian root, have not been proven for most people, and neither treatment has been approved by the FDA. Also, avoid mixing drugs and alcohol with prescribed medications.

More on the Subject

“Sleep Tips That Can Help with Depression” (NAMI National blog)

Find more information on sleep and mental health from NAMI National.