Why is sleep so important?

Mental Health

All in all, we spend about one third of our lives asleep! It is an essential part of our everyday routine and is just as important as eating, drinking and even breathing. Sleep is absolutely crucial for maintaining a good mental and physical health.

Sleep disturbances can be one of the first signs of distress. Common mental health problems like anxiety and depression can often underpin sleep problems. You may find that having a sleep problem can lead you to have negative thoughts and as a result lead to a negative cycle which seems impossible to get out of. Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself, and that is a horrible place to be.

Recently, I have found myself unable to sleep properly. This has been a big adjustment for myself as I am usually one of the ‘lucky ones’ who is out cold once I hit the pillow. For around 2 weeks now I have been getting into bed at night staring at the ceiling for hours, eventually when I do drift off I wake up again around 4 hours later. This became very frustrating and I got myself into that negative cycle. I would dread going to bed as I knew I would be there for hours attempting to sleep. A big impact of this may be due to the current situation we are all experiencing as I am sure many of you have been finding it more difficult than usual to sleep due to the stress and worry of the uncertainty we are facing.

My lack of sleep eventually started to affect my mood and my attitudes towards anything. I did not feel motivated to do anything and my eyes were constantly irritated during the days because I was so tired. I bought eye drops to attempt to ease the pain, this worked temporarily but I knew nothing would properly change until my sleeping pattern changed.

So, how can you change this negative cycle?

  • Number 1 is routine. Try going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, this prepares your brain and body for going to sleep. I have been getting in bed around 10.30pm every night and waking up around 6.00am every morning. I wake up naturally in the morning, however, I do still struggle to get to sleep at night sometimes.
  • It is also essential to relax before going to bed. There is an app called ‘calm’ this talks you though some breathing exercises you can do and also some meditation and muscle relaxation, which has helped me greatly! All of these things are really good for helping the mind relax before bed and helping you drift off with ease.
  • Another thing you can do is to make sure your surroundings are comfortable, for example, temperature and light can have an impact on your sleep.
  • I have not tried this myself yet but I have read that writing a sleep journal or even just a journal on how you have felt that day to help you wind down before going to sleep helps.
  • Food, drink and exercise can help play a big factor. Exercising during the day can help make your body tired and more inclined to sleep at night and also a reduction in caffeine!

All these little tips have helped me gain more than 4 hours of sleep per night and will hopefully help you ease into a sleep routine and remove that negative cycle of worrying about sleep before you have even got into bed.

People also tend to underestimate the importance of good-quality sleep and many aren’t even aware of what good quality sleep is. The appropriate amount of sleep for an adult is between 7 and 9 hours, meaning that anything over 9 hours can actually be just as bad for you. But what determines the quality of your sleep? A number of things can affect this.

It is essential to remember that your bed should be for sleeping only, try to avoid working in bed or taking your laptop to bed with you. Another major factor is using your phone in bed. The blue light emitted from your screen disrupts natural sleep patterns by affecting your sleep hormone levels. Try to avoid using your laptops and phones for a few hours before bed or set your phone to the yellow tint display which minimises the negative effect on your hormones. Following these steps will allow for a higher quality of sleep.

I hope you have found this blog somewhat helpful and can practice some of the tips I have written here today in order for you to get a good quality sleep and a nice productive morning!

Written by Mollie

Mollie is doing work experience with Thrive Law through Leeds Beckett University as a part of her final year law degree.  She is continuing to support Thrive on the free helpline and with other tasks remotely. 

Anything within this article should not be taken as legal advice. Any information provided will be general advice and for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. If you wish to obtain specific advice to your situation and your decisions, please contact us and we will thereafter be able to advise.

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