Why good quality sleep is crucial to your mental health and how to get it

sleep

We all know that sleep is good for our bodies and minds but most of us resist going to bed early and decide we'd rather be doing other, less productive things.

We’d prefer to be watching a show.

Or scrolling on our phones. 

Or playing a video game.

They’re all more exciting than going to bed at a reasonable hour, right?

Perhaps. But unfortunately, if you consistently stay up late, it can have a detrimental effect on how well you play, perform, behave and carry out all your normal everyday routines in the coming days and weeks. 

 

Why is sleep important?

You might think you’re just resting your physical body and getting it ready for the next day but, there’s a lot more to it than just that.

While you sleep your entire body is going through a process that has massive benefits on your brain function, mental health as well as all boosting your immune system and lots more. 

Here are just some of the benefits of getting good quality sleep: 

  • It helps us learn and process information better – Without adequate sleep, it’s impossible to have the focus to learn. As well as that, sleep plays a role in consolidating what you’ve already learned during the day, meaning you’ll retain the information for longer.

  • It promotes heart health – During sleep, your body releases hormones, some of which are associated with maintaining healthy blood vessels which are essential for keeping heart disease which is important as you get older.

  • It prevents overeating and weight gain – Sleep on it’s own won’t help you lose weight. However, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces a hormone called ghrelin which boosts your appetite and makes you hungry. And if you’re too tired to prepare a nutritious meal, chances are you’re going to go for the easy (and usually unhealthy!) option.

  • It regulates your blood sugar and balances your mood – Have you noticed that you get more irritable when you’re tired? Sleep deprivation can cause many problems with metabolism, including fluctuating blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels go up and down, these affect your mood, energy levels and mental function.

  • It reduces stress and anxiety – A good night’s sleep helps your mind and body relax and recover from your day. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases stress hormones. These can lead you to react poorly in certain situations due to irritability and anxiety. This will last until you get some much-needed rest.

 

How to get a good night’s sleep

If you struggle to get to sleep at night or find yourself waking up and not being able to get back to sleep, try some of the following tips: 

  • Try to put your phone and/or laptop away an hour before bed

  • Get blackout blinds

  • Wear an eyemask

  • Listen to a meditation

  • Wear ear plugs

  • Use a lavender-scented sleep spray

  • Stop eating about two hours before bed

  • Lower the temperature in your bedroom or have a bath/shower before bed

Safe ways to vent your frustration at the world

frustration

We all feel anger at different times in our lives. Some experience it on a daily basis whereas other people might only really feel angry once every few weeks or months.

 

If you’re someone who feels angry quite often, it’s important to know how to express it in a safe way.  

Your priority is to bring down your heartrate and frustration levels to make sure you don’t do or say something you end up regretting. 

Here are a few ways you can safely express your anger: 

 

Tell someone how you feel 

If there’s someone you trust at your disposal, take them somewhere private and tell them what’s going on inside your head.  

Simply saying it out loud will reduce the intensity of the emotion and you will get another perspective that may help you see things differently. 

 

Write it out 

If there’s no one you feel comfortable talking to, write out your feelings in a diary or a piece of paper that you can tear up afterwards.  

Once you see the issue in black and white you will hopefully realise that it’s not as huge as you first thought.  

 

Do some physical activity 

Anger can manifest as a physical rush of energy (adrenaline) that makes us feel like we need to lash out. 

Instead, channel that energy into an activity like running, boxing or weight-lifting. Not only will you feel calmer afterwards, your body will benefit from the exercise. 

 

Talk to the person you’re angry with 

Being angry with someone is not a pleasant feeling so it’s good to release it as soon as you can.  

However, if you’re going to talk to the person you’re angry with, make sure you don’t go to them while you’re still fired up. Take the time to calm down and plan what you want to say. 

Be prepared for them to disagree with you but take comfort in the fact that you said what you needed to say. 

 

Complain to someone 

If you are angry about how you’ve been treated or you see an injustice done to someone else, report it to a person in authority.  

Doing nothing will make you feel more frustrated and hopefully, by complaining, something will change. 

 

Start a petition 

It can be very disheartening when you see something that needs to be changed for the greater good. However, there is something you can do. As the saying goes, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’  

Start a petition, start a movement, see what can happen. The longest journey starts with a first step… 

 

Ask for support 

Don’t ever be afraid to reach out and look for support if you’re having a hard time controlling your anger.  Childline is available to you at all times by phone 1800 66 66 66, text 50101 or webchat on childline.ie 

 

Why you should get fresh air at least once a day

fresh air

Are your parents always telling you to play outside when it’s not raining? Or talking about when they were young and there were no smartphones to entertain them?!

 

Well, next time, instead of insisting that you’d prefer to watch TV, play a video game or scroll on the iPad, you should head outside! 

Not only will your parents will be delighted, you’ll also feel so much better when you’re there. You might not realise it but being outdoors is fantastic for your mental wellbeing.  

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should get some fresh air every day: 

 

  • Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is produced in your skin in response to sunlight so it’s not surprising that many of us in Ireland don’t have enough of it in our bodies. 

Vitamin D is connected to your mood so when you don’t get enough of it, it can lead to depression and anxiety which is why you should get out in the fresh air at every opportunity. Just remember to wear plenty of suncream (SPF) too! 

 

  • Brain power 

Being outside provides more oxygen to your brain after being cooped up inside all day. This promotes creativity, focus and an overall sense of wellbeing.  

So, if you’re trying to do your homework and finding yourself getting distracted easily and losing concentration, go outside for 15 minutes – you’ll fly through your work when you get back inside! 

 

  • Mood 

Studies have shown a significant reduction in anger, anxiety and low mood after being outdoors. If that’s not a good reason to go for a hike, we don’t know what is! 

 

  • Better sleep 

Have you ever noticed that you have a great night’s sleep after being at the beach all day or spending a few hours in the park?  

Well, that’s because being outdoors reduces anxiety and negative emotions meaning that you go to bed happier. And when you’re feeling happier, you’re more relaxed and you sleep better. 

 

  • Exercise 

Another great reason to spend time outdoors is because it usually means you’re exercising! Whether it’s walking, running, swimming, cycling, skating, hiking or just playing with your friends, you’re moving your body, you’re away from screens and this has a great effect on your physical and mental health.