By Cheryl Conklin
Sleep and mental health have a complicated relationship. When you don’t get enough sleep, your mental well-being can suffer, lowering your mood and making you fatigued. Meanwhile, stress and anxiety can keep you up at night, creating an endless loop of poor sleep and poor mental health. In order to break this cycle, you need to focus on relaxing and winding down at night so you can get the shut-eye you need.
The Ideal Bed
Start by looking at the most important element of your sleep: your bed. Is your bed as comfortable and relaxing as it can be? What can you do to make yourself feel cozy the second you get under the covers?
Take your mattress, for instance. If it’s been a while since you switched mattresses, chances are you could do with a change. Consider one of the many “bed-in-a-box” options available online these days, which accommodate a variety of sleep styles and budgets.
Once you have the perfect mattress, think about pillows. Pillows should be replaced every 18 months – when was the last time you bought a new pillow? Try out a few different materials, fills, and weights at a store to see what feels right.
Finally, it can seem like a hassle but commit to making your bed every morning. A made bed is a lot more comfortable and relaxing than a tangle of sheets. You should also be washing your bedding at least once every two weeks, weekly if you sweat a lot.
Tidy Room, Tidy Mind
The clutter and chaos in your room aren’t just inconvenient – they’re bad for your mental health. Clutter can make us feel stressed, which means that it can be a lot harder to fall asleep in a messy room than a tidy one. Putting in the effort to clear your room of clutter and keep it reasonably tidy can have a huge impact on both your overall mental health and your quality of sleep.
Unsurprisingly, the less stuff there is in a room, the easier it is to keep it tidy. A decluttering session can be a great stress-buster and it can make your bedroom a much more pleasant space. According to House Beautiful, the three-box method is the best. Go through your stuff methodically, separating them into “keep”, “get rid of”, and “storage”. Remember to donate or recycle as much as you can.
Once your bed and bedroom are comfortable, tidy, and welcoming, it’s time to create a soothing nighttime routine that will allow you to wind down. This can consist of anything you like, but it’s best if you avoid electronic screens or anything that causes you stress.
You could, for example, add some aromatherapy with candles or an essential oil diffuser. A few scents that are great for relaxing and sleeping include lavender, lemon, and ylang ylang. You could play some relaxing music or sounds – classical music and nature sounds are favorites for a reason – or even get a white noise machine. A cup of bedtime tea can also do wonders – just make sure it’s something herbal and caffeine-free like chamomile, valerian root, or lavender.
Make an effort to make this routine consistent. Set an alarm for about half an hour before your ideal bedtime so you know it’s time to start with the routine. On a day-to-day basis, these relaxing steps will help dissipate the stress that is keeping you awake. Eventually, the routine itself will be a signal to your body that it’s time to rest.
As a society, we tend to think of sleep as an indulgence. We glorify people who sleep 4 hours a night and feel guilty if we hit that snooze button. The truth is, however, that good sleep is essential for our bodies and our minds. Getting enough quality sleep is one of the best forms of self-care there is, especially when it comes to our mental health, so make an effort to create a relaxing environment for yourself at night.
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