The last article dealt with accepting stress and anxiety as a normal response to the current situation that we are in. Accepting the problem at hand will help you cope better and find ways to ensure mental health during these tumultuous times. The current article deals with using sleep as an effective adaptive behavioural coping strategy.
What is a coping strategy?
Coping strategies help individuals in dealing with the situation at hand by understanding what the problem is, and then working to resolve what may cause the problem. This is a common methodology used to combat stress and anxiety which uses behaviour and approach modification to respond appropriately to problematic situations.
How can sleep reduce my anxiety?
Sleep is one of the most powerful tools your body has to ensure that you stay happy, healthy and in control. This is easily showcased in the case of little children. Children who have slept enough will wake up happy and cheerful. Children who do not get enough sleep will be cranky, throw tantrums and will not be at ease until they can catch up on their sleep.
According to Anxiety.org, Sleep is a fundamental cure for anxiety. Sleep reduces anxiety by enhancing your emotional well-being. When you have a good night’s sleep, you feel relaxed, calm and in control. Not getting enough sleep has been linked with heightened levels of depression, anxiety and general mental distress. Committing to healthy and adequate amounts of sleep can go a long way in ensuring that you lead a happier, healthier life.
What can cause me to lose sleep?
Sleep is extremely important for your physical, emotional and mental well-being due to its restorative nature. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “Sleep is an essential part of protection from and response to any infection”. However, for those suffering from anxiety, depression or stress, sleep may be hard to come by. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for you to concentrate, solve common problems and is linked to many industrial and automotive accidents.
What happens if I do not get enough sleep?
Lack of sleep affects your interest in activities that contribute greatly to managing anxiety. These activities include enjoying free time with friends and family, a lowered sex drive, enjoying solving problems, learning new things and playing games to name a few. These activities help you bond better with your friends, family and loved ones, and enhance your mental ability which is directly linked to lowered anxiety levels. Lack of sleep also affects your productivity, performance, judgement and memory, giving rise to heightened levels of tension and stress. In short, anxiety can cause sleeping problems, and sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder – it is a vicious cycle.
Modifying your pre-sleep regimen for a better night’s sleep
The good news is, it is possible to address your pre-sleep regimen to ensure a good night’s sleep. Here’s what we think can help you sleep through the night:
- Set up your room for sleeping
Turn off bright lights, draw the curtains and turn on a night-light if you have to. Remove any distractions like mobile phones to ensure that you fall asleep quickly.
- Avoid stimulants before bedtime
Avoiding stimulants like tea, coffee and cigarettes at least 2 hours before bedtime will ensure that you fall asleep easily.
- Creating and adhering to consistent sleep schedules
If you go to bed at nearly the same time each night, your body gets used to this practice, ensuring that you start feeling sleepy somewhere around your usual sleeping time. This will also help you in keeping a nearly consistent waking time and will help your body function consistently, enhancing overall well-being.
- Set an electronic curfew
Ensure that your cut-off time for electronic devices is at least one hour before bedtime. Blue light emitted from LEDs can disrupt your sleep schedule. Devices connected to the internet can make you binge-watch shows and movies or troll social media feeds, disrupting your sleep cycle. Light music, however, can help you get sleepy.
- Stay away from news updates before bedtime
Do not watch the news or read a newspaper before bedtime. This can make you anxious and potentially disrupt your sleep cycle. If you must read to fall asleep, read a good book or a novel you enjoy.
- Do not drink yourself to sleep
Intoxicants like alcohol can make you drowsy but will also wake you up midway through the night, disrupting your sleep cycle. Also, alcohol and other intoxicant consumption are contraindicated during this crisis.
- Do not eat a heavy meal right before going to bed
Ensure that there is a 1-hour gap between your last meal and bedtime. Going to bed with a full stomach can make you feel bloated and will not let you easily fall asleep.
- Take a warm shower before going to bed
A warm shower around 90 minutes before going to bed can calm you down and help you fall asleep better.
Although this list is not exhaustive due to the sheer number of reasons that could affect sleep in general, it is a good starting point for you to understand what may have caused you to lose out on sleep. Once you have figured out the root cause of the lack of sleep, you can then work on modifying your behaviour or routine to try and sleep better. Remember – if you cannot solve a problem all day just sleep on it, for mornings are wiser than evenings.
Our next article will showcase a major factor affecting our mental well-being during the quarantine. This article will also help you understand and address this causal factor to boost your emotional health. Stay tuned!