How do you rate your sleep?
This week it is brilliant to see the results published from Tempur’s first Mental Health Survey, which asks the age-old questions; how do you manage your sleep? Do you get enough? What millions of things at night stop you sleeping? And why do so many of us wake in the night feeling our minds racing?
I know for me, sleep is something that is at times very up and down, particularly when I lose my routine and I feel stressed about work. I go from sleeping solidly through the night to being up at the crack of dawn, lying awake for hours on end worrying. When I was born I was a fantastic sleeper (lucky for my Mum), then I developed anorexia and my sleep was massively disrupted. I would lay awake in bed worrying about food, calories, exercise, my mind constantly racing about what I should do and how I should feel. After I began my recovery from anorexia my sleep wasn’t much better, which was actually an added bonus I thought whilst at Uni. The fact I needed such little sleep meant I could go out but still get in my exercise and work.
Something changed after University, I was away in Barcelona and I slept. I didn’t just sleep the set 7 / 8 hours but I just kept on sleeping. Ever since then my sleep has massively improved. I don’t know what changed for me when I was away but I maybe felt more relaxed than I had done in a long time. I am not here to give you a history of my sleep pattern but wanted to highlight a few keys things.
The results showed that there are key things that keep us awake at night, from stress (27%), to health concerns (15%) to work stress (15%) and family worries (20%). These are the main things that keep me up. Part of my worries also come in the form of worrying about my routine. Worrying that if I am away travelling with work for a week, will I be able to fit in my exercise, my meals that I want, or will work take over me?
I know that I spend far too much time on my phone before bed, thinking about work, replying to emails or even lying in bed scrolling through social. It was no surprise to me when I saw the high numbers in the survey of people using tablets before bed. A shocking 24% of people are on social media, 27% on email, and 15% playing games on their phones. No wonder we find it so hard to sleep and switch off. No wonder it feels impossible to switch off before bed. We surely have ourselves to blame for at least some of that? Or is it the added pressure from society which is causing us to feel completely trapped in this dangerous cycle?
So what next? What do we do to tackle this directly for ourselves?
For me it is essential for my mental health to have a good night’s sleep. Combining sleep with my other recovery tools I am able to stay in a positive place with my recovery from anorexia and keep moving forward.
The hardest thing for me is switching off before bed. I have one of those brains which goes into full-on work mode late at night. My way of coping with this so it doesn’t interfere with my sleep is to try and make a list of everything I need to think about for the next day. This helps me to write down everything that I might potentially forget. Part of this is being disciplined and realising that I need to focus more on myself and my own self-care. Working for myself and as a Mental Health campaigner I get a lot of messages from people who need support. I love getting these messages but quite often it is about being disciplined and not reading them or getting in to a conversation right before bed. Then the biggest one of all is not looking at my phone if I wake up in the night.
It is also good to have an environment that encourages sleep. For me it is about making my bedroom cosy and making that a restful and not work environment. Things like the duvet and I find that a good mattress really helps my quality of sleep are important in helping me sleep better and having a restful night.
Routine is crucial for me. I go to bed and get up every day in the week at the same time. Having this allows me to plan my days but also gives me consistency. Whilst sometimes this doesn’t always work with work, or if I am seeing friends it is helpful the majority of the time. The routine is also helpful for my general mental wellbeing.
Exercise not only helps me sleep better but it has hugely positive effects on my wellbeing. It helps me to challenge my anorexia recovery further changing my whole understanding around food, fuel and my body generally, as well as giving me that time to de-stress and switch off. It gives my brain thinking space and helps me to feel fresh for the day.
For all of us we need to find what works for us, whether that’s going for a brisk walk in the evening, or having a cup of tea. I can say confidently that when you crack your sleeping pattern it will help your wellbeing.
This post is in conjunction with TEMPUR® but all thoughts are my own