How to Improve Your Sleep According to Research

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Expressions Counselling - How to Improve Your Sleep According to Research

How can sleep affect your mental health?

Not getting enough sleep can impact our daily lives and how we function throughout the day. You might notice that you feel exhausted or irritated when you are not well rested for the day. These symptoms and feelings tell us that our body and mind have not rested. Lack of sleep can decrease focus on important tasks and decrease one’s ability to think clearly and concisely. It can also lead to mood changes and one can feel frustrated and irritated at insignificant things. Not sleeping enough can lead to anxiety and many other issues. These can all affect one’s mental health and lead to more significant issues.

Why do we dream during REM sleep?

REM stands for rapid eye movement. When we are in REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly in all different directions. However, we do not send any visual information to our brains. Research shows that we dream during REM sleep because that is when our brains are more active. According to research, sleep deprivation impairs attention span and one’s working memory and affects one’s long-term memory and decision-making skills. Dreams during REM sleep are typically more vivid, fantasy like, and/or bizarre even though they may involve elements of waking life. By contrast, non-REM dreams tend to involve more coherent content that involves thoughts or memories grounded to a specific time and place. It is said that REM sleep helps in consolidating memories and is in average sleep cycles.

What are some strategies to improve sleep according to research?

1. Turn off all devices at least one hour prior to bedtime so that it is easier to fall asleep. Blue light from phones and other devices can hinder one’s ability to sleep. Researchers have found that restricting mobile phone use before bedtime for four weeks was effective in reducing sleep latency, increasing sleep duration, improving sleep quality, reducing pre-sleep arousal, and improving positive affect and working memory.
 
2. Make sure to have a consistent sleep and wake cycle. Try to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same each morning. Research states that this can help you get quality sleep and help you feel well rested.
 
3. Avoid doing work in bed. Doing work in bed can decreases one sleep quality and it can also hinder one’s ability to sleep.
 
4. Limit naps during the daytime. Long naps during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep. It you nap, it should be limited to about 20 minutes maximum.
 
5. Do a mindfulness or meditation exercise. Doing something relaxing can calm the body down and make you feel more present in the moment.
 
6. Take a hot shower or bath. Research states that a warm shower can help with improving sleep.
 
7. Use essential oils. Essential oils can be a strong way to help you relax and sleep better. Research shows that lavender can improve the sleep quality.

Pavneet Sandhu

Pavneet Sandhu is a junior Clinical Counsellor at Expressions Counselling, awaiting her registration with BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She is passionate about working with individuals to overcome grief and depression. She sees clients in-person at our Burnaby and Port Moody locations as well as online.

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