Tag Archives: sleep

The Mental Health Bedroom: Making Your Room a Sanctuary

How to make your room a sanctuary.

Sleep-only zone
Studies have shown that if you engage in a number of activities in your bedroom, you will come to think of your room as a place of activity and even stress rather than one of relaxation and peacefulness. So, out go the exercise equipment, office set-up, computer, textbooks, television, snacks and that mound of clothes you’ve been meaning to launder. Of course, there are exceptions to the sleeping-only rule. These are reading, dressing, relaxing to music, and of course, intimacy.

Your brain is actually calmed by the sight of an empty or well-organized table top or dresser top. Decluttering at night, before bed, will keep your room feeling less like a busy traffic lane, and more like a private oasis.

Out of mind
Closed storage can be anything from a dresser or armoire with doors, to simple baskets or boxes. The idea is to put out of sight all those items that used to live on the top of your nightstand or dresser. It’s a good idea to have a small tray or drawer to corral the keys and pens and change that you might empty out of your pockets when you get home, but everything else should be put away, out of sight. You’ll feel instantly more relaxed when you put “Out of sight, out of mind” to work in your bedroom. If you have something that needs to be done, like a bill or email, do it in another part of the house. Your bedroom should be for relaxing and resting only, not working.

Have a seat
If you have room, it’s a great idea to have an extra chair or bench in your bedroom. It just feels more homey when you can carve out a little bit of sitting area, such as a reading corner by a window or lamp.

Cool down your bedroom
Try to crank up the air conditioning a little more at night before bed. Cooling down your body actually mimics sleep and promotes sleepiness.

White noise machines
Noise can also affect your sleep in a negative way. When you hear sounds, your brain tries to actively process them, which can cause problems when you’re trying to fall asleep. While noise affects everyone differently—some are more sensitive to it than others—it’s still important to create a quiet environment as possible for a good night’s sleep.

Write a single sentence
Simply write one sentence in a journal that you keep by your bedside, every night. It helps you reflect on the day, consider your word choice, and summarize your thoughts. It’s a powerful way to close the day.

Add some greenery
Add greenery to your room but if you don’t want to add the stress of keeping it alive, choose one of the low-maintenance, hard-to-kill indoor plants, such as English Ivy or a Snake Plant.

Soft music
Music does wonders to set the mood. In the case of your bedroom, your objective is to create a peaceful, relaxing mood, so choose your music accordingly. Whether you prefer soft jazz, classical, world, or trip hop, keep the beat and the sound soft and calm. Keep the volume low. Set the music to shut off automatically after a certain amount of time, because even though the soft sounds may lull you to sleep, they are likely to wake you during the night.

Your sense of smell is a very powerful thing. It is our only sense that goes directly into our brains. Smells enter our nostrils and up the olfactory nerve onto the surface of our brain. Integrating essential oils like lavender and chamomile into your bedtime routine can work wonders at keeping your mind calm and centered. These scents can also get the brain to release the hormone melatonin. When that hormone is released, it washes over the brain and uses it as a signal to shut down all those distracting thoughts and just go to sleep.

Listening to podcasts is a great way to lull yourself to sleep without the intrusive glare of television, telephone, laptop, or tablet screens. Find some podcasts that are soothing to you.

Relaxation apps
The Calm App (Android and Apple) has sleep meditations, breathing exercises, bedtime stories, and white noise to promote sleep and relaxation.

Yoga Nidra
This is an ancient breath work tradition used to battle insomnia and facilitate deep rest. https://www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads

For more tips check out, Making Sleep Your Best Friend. 

The Small Things That Are Huge

  • Telling people that you can’t take on any more tasks.
  • Allowing yourself to sleep when you are tired. (See also Making Sleep Your Best Friend)
  • Spending your time with people who get you.
  • Respecting your limitations and boundaries.
  • Being honest. With you and others.
  • Walking your talk.
  • Asking for help.
  • Enjoying your leisure time.
  • Throwing away guilt.
  • Speaking about your expectations in relationships.
  • Recognizing red flags. This is intuition, an ancient trait.
  • Not arguing with people about your values.
  • Stepping away when angry, instead of engaging in that moment.
  • Allowing yourself to be loved and supported by others.
  • Forgiving yourself.

Making Sleep Your Best Friend

Sleep loss is linked to a slew of medical and mental health issues, including: Cancer, Diabetes, Dementia, and Heart Disease.

Dr. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has focused his research on the impact that sleep has on human health and disease. In his 2017 book; Why We Sleep, Walker discusses how sleep is our best friend.

Sleep Tips:
Stick to a sleep schedule
This means weekends too! Sleeping in late on the weekends only interrupts the pattern you have spent the week nailing down. Schedule your sleep schedule and stick to it.

Don’t exercise too late in the day

Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed
If alcohol is present in your system before going to bed, it will interrupt your REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep.

Don’t nap after 3 pm
Although naps can be a great pick-me-up, taking them too late in the day, or napping too long can make it hard to fall asleep at night.

Scheduling in time to relax before bed is a great way to prep your body to unwind before falling to sleep.

Take a hot bath
If you like aromatherapy, include lavender and chamomile, which are natural sleep inducers.

Turn off screens
Cell phones, televisions, and computers can be a major distraction if used before bed. The light they emit, especially the blue light, suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycle which increases in the evening.

Get outdoor time
Sun exposure during the day helps to regulate sleeping patterns. It’s recommended to soak in the sun at least 30 minutes a day.

Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep
If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy, like reading a book.
(Painting, Gerrit Dou)

Got sleep?

How did you sleep seems to be a question that people frequently ask each other. Did you rest? Some sleep patterns mean a person will sleep once per day while others mean they sleep at intervals. However, the pattern that is most common or traditional in a population may or may not be the healthiest option for people. A person’s internal circadian rhythm is responsible for their sleep-wake cycle.

A monophasic sleep pattern is when an individual sleeps once per day, typically for 8 or so hours a night.

A biphasic sleep pattern is when someone sleeps twice per day, sometimes referred to as a siesta sleeping pattern. In many cultures, particularly along the equator, people sleep in the afternoon especially during the hottest part of the day, and the workday is extended into the evening.

A polyphasic sleep pattern is when a person sleeps for periods of time throughout the day.

People have an internal circadian rhythm, a routine of biological and behavioral processes that roughly occur every day over a 24-hour cycle. Despite this, what is the correct time for a person to sleep per night?

Monophasic sleep
Monophasic sleep is what today’s society would refer to as a “normal” sleeping pattern. There is, however, discussion that this has not always been the case.
This sleep pattern became “the norm” during the industrial revolution’s longer-than-normal hours of working time. Some argue that since the advent of electricity and increased exposure to bright artificial indoor light instead of sunshine, melatonin and Vitamin D levels are decreasing. This can interrupt a person’s sleep-wake cycle and have a negative impact on their sleep durations.

Biphasic sleep
Those who practice biphasic sleep typically sleep for a long duration at night, for 5-6 hours, and have a shorter period of sleep or siesta during the day. The shorter period of rest typically lasts 30 minutes and gives an energy boost to finish the day. I asked my patients to set their alarm so that they wake up after 30 minutes, thereby not disrupting their sleep later on in the day. Some neuropsychology research shows that biphasic sleep is a healthier sleep pattern than a monophasic pattern, and some countries have adopted a biphasic sleep pattern as the norm.

Another form of biphasic sleep is segmented sleep, which some may refer to as the most natural of all sleeping patterns. Segmented sleep includes two sleep periods, both of which occur at night. A person experiencing segmented sleep will sleep for 6-8 hours but in two shifts during the night. This becomes more common as we age.

Naps may be beneficial and be a more natural way of sleeping. The suggested benefits of brief naps include improved memory and learning ability, increased alertness, and an improved mood. In fact, certain innovative companies have implemented napping periods or even rooms where employees can rest during the workday. If naps improve health, then is insomnia an actual disorder or a natural form of the sleep-wake cycle?

One theory by social psychologists is that before industrialization in the modern world, it was normal for people to have what was called first and second sleep. This meant that a person would sleep in two segments of time throughout the night with a waking period of about one to three hours in between.

Polyphasic sleep
Polyphasic sleepers can rest 4 to 6 times during a day. These sleep combinations are broken down into categories including:
– A long sleep time of around 3 hours with approximately three 20-30minute naps throughout the day.
– Only 3 hours of sleep per day in the form of six 30 minute naps throughout the day.
No individual person’s sleep requirements are exactly the same. Some require 8 solid hours of sleep for optimal function. Someone else, however, may lead a productive and healthy life on 5 hours of sleep per night with a short nap or naps during the day.

At my practice, we individualize and fine-tune sleeping patterns, and figure out what works best for each person, from sleep hygiene patterns, to duration.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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