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World Sleep Day: How quality sleep encourages a positive mindset

March 11, 2024
Dan Kearsley

The power of sleep is being celebrated on World Sleep Day, which takes place on 15th March. The organisers, World Sleep Society say that sleep is key to maintaining our physical and mental wellbeing. This year’s theme is ‘Sleep Equity for Global Health’, which aims to shine a light on the “measurable differences in sleep health” across different populations.

Although the need for sleep is universal, our gender, ethnicity, occupation and economic background can play a part in how much sleep we get. Women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds are thought to be particularly impacted by a lack of sleep, as are frontline workers in health, social care, education and childcare; fields where women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds are overrepresented.

We know that a lack of sleep can leave us feeling more irritable and less motivated, but it can also cause more serious health issues, such as increasing our risk of depression, heart disease and stroke. It’s important that we recognise the link between sleep and health, and address the sleep gap between certain groups.

World Sleep Day wants to magnify this conversation and raise awareness so that all of us have the information and tools we need to develop a better relationship with sleep and ultimately live healthier, happier lives. If you want to join in, you can use the hashtag #worldsleepday on social media.

What do we mean by ‘quality sleep’?

Although we tend to focus on the number of hours that we get, the quality of our sleep matters too. During sleep, we move through multiple cycles, which are regulated by hormones and other chemicals produced in our brains. Quiet sleep, which restores the body, alternates with REM (dreaming), which is when our brains consolidate our memories. To enter the REM phase, and achieve the best quality of rest, we need to sleep deeply without interruption.

How are mindset and sleep linked?

When we haven’t had enough sleep, we might find that we’re more emotional than usual. This is because the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which provides us with logic and reason, loses influence and the amygdala, the brain’s emotional centre, takes a front-seat. This means that we might struggle to control our feelings, giving us less emotional stability.

On the other hand, a good sleep allows us to feel refreshed and recharged. It improves our concentration and increases our productivity levels. If there’s things happening in our lives that we need to process, sleep helps us to make sense of them so that we wake up feeling more balanced with a clearer and sounder mind.

Creating healthy sleep habits

  1. Set a bedtime

Humans are creatures of habit; our brains tend to thrive when we have routine and structure. Setting ourselves a specific bedtime lets our brains know when it's time to wind down and go to sleep. The more that we stick to it, the more embedded it will become.  

  1. Comfort is key

Make your sleep environment as comfortable as possible. The temperature in your bedroom shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, and if there are any noises or lights that bother you, you could try using earplugs or an eye mask. Things like having a tidy room, a quality mattress and clean bedsheets can also help you to relax.

  1. Wind down  

Have you ever lay down to sleep and found your head buzzing with thoughts and worries? If our mind is still active when we turn out the light, this makes our body restless too. Before you go to sleep, try to empty your mind by writing down your thoughts. You could make a to-do list for the next day or just write about how you’re feeling.  

Some people find that progressive muscle relaxation is a good way to wind down. Tense each part of your body in turn and then relax it, starting with your toes, and moving upwards. Pay attention to how it feels. This gets the brain focused on the body, which can help the mind to switch off.

Meditation apps could also help clear your head. You might need to practise using these to get the full benefit – and don’t judge yourself for not doing it ‘well’ if your mind wanders; this is normal. Focusing on a particular memory or daydream can also encourage your brain to let unwanted thoughts drift away.

  1. Reduce screen time

It’s a good idea to avoid watching television or going on your smartphone close to bedtime as this will stimulate your brain, rather than quieting it. The blue light from smartphones and tablets can also affect your sleep by suppressing the release of melatonin.  

  1. Stop over-analysing

More people are wearing devices that record how they sleep, with the aim of monitoring their sleep pattern to try and improve their rest. However, sleep trackers may actually heighten anxiety about sleep, especially in those with insomnia. Rather than letting themselves nod off, people can become worried that if they don’t fall asleep right away, they’re not going to get enough rest, which, ironically, keeps them up. If you’re feeling worried about getting the ‘perfect’ night’s sleep, it might be time to stop tracking yourself and take the pressure off.

Poor sleep quality can have an impact on our mental health, affecting our mood and general wellbeing. CBT has been shown to work well as a treatment for sleep problems: you can find out more about how it can help here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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