Sleep for Natural Mental Health
Sleep to support natural mental health and resilience.
Good sleep is non-negotiable.
Your sleep, mood, and brain function are intimately related. Scientific studies tell us that our emotional states affect sleep and that sleep affects emotions. The good news is that you can create better sleep with fairly simple strategies.
Assess your current sleep patterns.
Think about how you would honestly answer the following questions:
- How many hours do you sleep each night?
- How well do you sleep at night? Do you feel rested after you've slept a full night?
Did you know that your answers to these questions are intimately connected to your mood and brain function? Difficulty sleeping is sometimes the first symptom of a mood disorder; 15-20% of people diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression (source). Getting your sleep right is one of the best things you can do if you have a mood disorder. Studies show that improving insomnia boosts the chances of recovering from depression by a remarkable 50%!
Recent studies have also shown that not only does sleep affect your emotions, your emotional state can affect your sleep. Anxiety, stress, and over-arousal can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, which can in turn create a predisposition for mental health issues. Sleep problems can quickly become a vicious cycle that is challenging to break. That's why we've created the easy-to-follow resources in this section to help you improve your sleep.
1. Check your hours.
2. Do you feel rested?
3. Download the NMH Sleep Quiz.
Nourish your brain for sleep.
What you eat--and when!--can have a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This may be more obvious for things like coffee and energy drinks, but there are other food items and the timing of when you eat them that may be helpful or detrimental to your sleep.
The nourishment steps and food list on the next page can help you refine your diet so that it supports your sleep. Pair these resources with The Resilient Diet and you'll have nourishment that fuels a good night's sleep.
1. Timing is everything.
2. Set your foundation with the Resilient Diet.
3. Add sleep enhancing foods and limit sleep disrupting foods.
Move your body for better sleep.
Your recipe for better sleep also includes movement. Moving your body in certain ways while you're awake can prepare it for better, longer sleep. Specifically, there are two powerful movement strategies that can help you sleep better:
1. Exercise during the day, well before sleep.
2. Incorporate more meaningful movement throughout the day.
Create routines for better sleep.
These sleep-enhancing routines are simple to follow and won't take long to implement. Below, you will find morning and evening sleep-enhancing routines, along with a bonus sleep space guide to ensure your bedroom is a sleep-friendly space. You can implement all three at once, or just begin with one.
Sleeping well starts during the day-- particularly the first several hours of your day. Integrate this morning routine to set yourself up for a great day and a night of restorative sleep.
It was true when you were a kid and it's true today: An evening routine makes bedtime easier. Use this evening routine for to wind down and promote better, longer sleep.
Your efforts to sleep better may not be as fruitful if your bedroom is not conducive to sleep. Learn simple changes you can make to ensure your space is sleep-friendly.
1. Morning Routine
2. Evening Routine
3. Bonus: Create a sleep-friendly space.
Enhance awakening for better sleep.
Pair your nourishment and movement routines with a simple but powerful heart-awakening practice to support sleep. While it may seem strange to be talking about "awakening" in a category devoted to improving sleep, we aren't using "awaken" in the literal sense here. Instead, we're talking about awakening your senses to the world around you, cultivating positive emotions, and engaging more intentionally and fully in your life. Frequent stress and depleting or negative emotions (such as frustration, anger, anxiety, or fear) drain energy from body, mind, and heart and interfere with sleep. Falling asleep in a positive emotional state and with a relaxed balance in your autonomic nervous system is ideal for promoting restful, restorative, and pleasant sleep. Regularly experiencing positive emotions such as joy, compassion, love, and appreciation can stop this energy drain and help you re-balance.
One of the most effective ways to achieve balance is through awareness and control of the patterns of our heart rhythms. The heart and brain communicate constantly and influence each other’s functions. Stress and other negative emotional states are reflected in certain heart rhythm patterns. You may be familiar with the sensation of your heart "racing" when you are under stress. In reality, your heartbeat is speeding up and slowing down all the time, even under normal circumstances. It can speed up and slow down in a disorganized, chaotic pattern (called “incoherence" and shown in the red graph below) or in an organized, predictable, rhythmic pattern (called “heart coherence” and shown in the blue graph).
Quick Coherence Technique
(Used with permission from HeartMath LLC. Learn more about using HeartMath to support resilience here).
The Quick Coherence Technique is made up of two simple steps. You can do the technique anywhere at any time, but to promote sleep, we recommend you practice it in bed after you've done your evening routine.
Focus your attention on the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Breathe at whatever rhythm is comfortable, perhaps aiming to inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds.
Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative, renewing feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. You could do this by revisiting positive feelings you have about someone you love, a pet, a special place, or an accomplishment. You can also simply focus on cultivating a feeling of calm or ease.
Explore Natural Mental Health Foundations
Follow the practices found in each of the following sections to build a strong foundation and optimize your mental health.
Learn about the NMH foundations and how to use the practices and implement the information found in this section.
Sleep is one of the most important foundational steps on your journey to resilience and natural mental health. Learn practices to help you sleep.
Learn about the Resilient Diet, a set of twelve nutrition principles that can optimize your brain for better mental health.
We've created three Resilient Movement Plans in order to help you find a movement routine that works for you.
Mind-body practices are valuable tool to help you feel more comfort in your body, settle down your mind, and awaken your being.
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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional regarding specific health questions. Individuals providing content to this website take no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. It is also essential to consult your physician or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program.