How does sleep impact mental health?


Sleep often feels like a distant memory. Are the ups and downs of life keeping you awake at night? Perhaps the transition of the season is playing havoc with your sleep routine and causing you to feel more anxious and irritable?

Sleep is integral to all aspects of our lives, yet sleep is often one of the first things we compromise when things become busy or overwhelming. The Mental Health Foundation published their new report - Taking Sleep Seriously: Sleep and our Mental Health, and found that more than a third of adults (35%) said that sleeping poorly had made them feel more anxious, more than four in ten adults (42%) said poor sleep over the previous month had made them feel more stressed and overwhelmed – while more than four in ten (43%) said poor sleep had made them feel more irritable.

Professor Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford says, “Sleep is a ‘need to have’, just like oxygen, water and food. We need to value and prioritise the benefits of sleep because good sleep has a very significant positive impact on our mental health.”

So how do we get a good night’s sleep? We pulled out three pieces of advice from our archive:

WHAT IS A GOOD BEDTIME ROUTINE?

 

1. Start with a tryptophan-rich dinner. Think of a protein source along with whole grains and veggies.

2. Turn off all computers, TV’s and phones at least an hour before bed. The LED from screens (blue light) can disrupt the circadian rhythm and cause sleep dysfunctions.

3. Set the mood for your bedtime sleep routine by lighting a candle or using a diffuser with essential oils. Studies have proved the benefits of using aromatherapy to improve sleep. We love the Soothe essential oil and Soothe candle as they have been designed specifically for sleep and are blended with lavender essential oil to relax the body, geranium to balance and eucalyptus to clear the mind.

4. Make yourself a warm cup of herbal tea such as chamomile, valerian, passionflower or whip up an ashwagandha latte to calm the nervous system and prepare you for bed.

5. Run a warm bath with 2 cups of salts and soak for at least 20 minutes. Epsom salts are a rich form of magnesium and will help relax the muscles. Double up on the relaxation by massaging the soak salts onto your body. 

6. Try some deep breathing. Breathing exercises before bedtime have been shown to promote better sleep as it acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. We love the Calm app and Mind Detox app for meditation and breath work. 

7. Ensure the room is completely dark and quiet. Opt for an eye mask or blackout blind if you have light in your room. Melatonin is stimulated by darkness, so this is essential!

So here we have it, the Yougi sleep routine. Now, remember, this is the sleep routine which is of course not achievable for everyone every night with the busy lifestyles and schedules that we live.

However, I urge you to try this routine a couple of times per week or at least try a few of the points and see how much of an effect it will have on your sleep!

 

FOODS/DRINKS THAT IMPACT OUR SLEEP

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen which means it adapts to the body’s stressors. It is a wonderful herb for calming effects and has been shown to regulate the circadian rhythm, reduce anxiety and aid a deeper sleep. 1 hour before bed try this recipe: 1 tsp Ashwagandha, powder, 1 cup oat milk, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp coconut oil – simmer on the hob for 5 minutes. 

2. Tryptophan Rich Foods

 Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in foods such as tuna, bananas, nuts, dates, figs, yogurt, and whole grains. Now tryptophan has a very important role in sleep as it induces the hormone Melatonin which regulates sleep. Your body should produce the most melatonin in the evening, which tells you its bedtime and makes you feel sleepy 

3. Cherry Juice

Cherries are extremely high in melatonin. Many studies have examined the effect of cherries and specifically, tart cherries on sleep regulation. Studies show that the consumption of 8 ounces of tart cherry juice for just 2 weeks is associated with a significant reduction in insomnia.

4. Herbal Tea

There are specific herbal teas that work to calm down the nervous system and promote restorative sleep. These include chamomile which can be used as a mild sedative to calm nerves, Valerian which is shown to improve sleep quality, and Passionflower to reduce sleep disturbances.

5. Removing Stimulants

You may think that a bedtime nightcap will send you off to sleep but alcohol, as well as tobacco and caffeine, are actually stimulants so will keep your brain active throughout the night. This can then result in frequent night-time awakenings. For a good night’s sleep, avoiding these in the evening is a must. 

 

WHICH VITAMINS & MINERALS CAN AFFECT OUR SLEEP?

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is able to help you wind down at night as it regulates the neurotransmitters involved in the sleep process. Studies show that using magnesium supplements improves the efficiency of sleep by increasing the amount of time you sleep, enabling you to fall asleep quicker, and reducing early morning awakening. 

VITAMIN B6

Studies show a strong link between B6 and improved sleep and that a deficiency of B6 promotes psychological distress and sleep disturbances. B6 is involved in the production of the important melatonin so it is essential to induce sleep.

CALCIUM

The intake of calcium is associated with an improved ability to fall asleep and increased restorative sleep. Studies found that in some cases of sleep disturbances calcium deficiency was related. 

* It's best to speak to your health professional before taking new supplements*