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Sleep Secrets No One Taught You (But Therapy Will)

Experts agree that sleep doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a Darwinian point of view. It is costly for us to maintain, it could make us vulnerable prey, and it takes up about one-third of our lifetime. Yet, sleep has made it through since the beginning of our time, so it must serve an essential function. So, what are some ways sleep is good for your mental health? Let’s dig deeper to learn more about why sleep is important and how therapy can help you learn good sleep habits.

Recognize the Anxiety Affecting Your Good Night’s Sleep

Many who struggle to fall asleep say that their thoughts keep them up at night. This may be linked to underlying anxiety, which commonly causes ruminating thoughts and difficulty relaxing.

When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that are a call to action. This is appropriate when you are chasing a tiger, but not when you need to be resting or unwinding. Working with a therapist can be helpful in learning ways to decrease your stress and anxiety, so you can ease into a better night’s sleep.

Use Relaxation Tools to Wind Down

One study found that as many as 44% of adults have their sleep interrupted because of stress. To prepare for a good night’s sleep, you’ll want to quiet the stress response from your nervous system. 

Relaxation techniques are an effective tool for doing this. You may learn these relaxation techniques (and many more) with your therapist:
  • Gentle, rhythmic breathing – this is a regulation exercise that lowers heart rate and blood pressure and lowers the activation of stress hormones in your body.
  • Guided meditation – employing calming words or imagery to relax the mind and body.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation – this is an exercise to tense and relax your muscles throughout your body.
  • Body scan – mindfully using your senses to scan your body from head to toe.
sleep therapy helps you stop using your screens in bed

Set limits on technology

The National Sleep Foundation reports that at least 95% of people use electronic devices right up until they fall asleep. Unfortunately, using technology can distract you from getting a good night’s sleep. The use of tech can cause too much stimulation to effectively wind down.

Experts agree that this kind of activation interferes with the body and brain’s natural rhythms that aid in sleep. Furthermore, blue light that is emitted by electronics will block the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep. Individual therapy is extremely helpful for learning ways to ditch these bad habits.

Turn down the lights

In addition to keeping your room dark, it’s a good idea to dim the lights at least an hour before bedtime. Melatonin is produced at night (usually between the hours of 11pm and 4am) and when our eyes are exposed to artificial light, this interferes with its production.

Artificial light will also interfere with our natural circadian rhythm. This makes you more susceptible to developing serious disorders such as obesity, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

Bright lights will also interfere with your REM sleep. Interruptions in REM sleep can make you feel less productive, lowering your energy, and your mood the next day.

Avoid caffeine and watch your food intake

Upon waking, our brain produces a chemical called adenosine. This chemical accumulates throughout the day until so much of it is produced that you become sleepy. Caffeine blocks your brains’ receptors for adenosine so that you stay in a state of wakefulness longer. For this reason, it’s important to limit your caffeine intake in the 8 to 10 hours before you plan to sleep.

Eating before bed may make you sleepy, but too much food could also interfere with sleep by activating your digestion. Finding the sweet spot of when you should limit food intake will be different for everyone, but is important to be mindful of.

The benefits of healthy sleep habits

Sleep has important benefits for your mental and physical well-being. Quality sleep can lower your risk for serious health conditions and ultimately make you feel better throughout your waking hours.
Most agree that getting around 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night is considered quality sleep, though some bodies may differ by an hour or so. In addition to lowering your risk for negative consequences, good sleep hygiene can improve your mood, your athletic ability, and energy levels, keep your brain sharp, and help regulate weight.
a woman plays with her child because she feels happy and rested after sleep therapy helped her sleep better

Sleep therapy

If you struggle with keeping a balanced sleep regimen or are feeling the effects of stress and anxiety weigh heavily on your life, reach out to speak with one of our trained therapists.

We are here to support you and help you to get back to feeling more yourself.