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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Why a good night’s sleep is vital to our mental health

May 26, 2011

Sleep, like eating, drinking and even breathing is something that everyone does but many people take for granted.

The importance of a good night’s sleep is being highlighted this week, which is Mental Health Awareness Week (May 23-30).

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has produced a sleep guide, which contains helpful tips to help people sleep better at night.

Interrupted or poor quality sleep can affect physical and mental health, but it is often a symptom of underlying mental health problems, such as depression.  Lack of sleep can also have a major impact on a person’s mood, energy levels, relationships and ability to concentrate.

Eating a light snack before bed can aid sleep, as a rumbling stomach – whether it’s empty or is still digesting a heavy meal – can interfere with sleep.  Dairy foods, cereals, peanut butter, bananas and turkey all contain tryptophan, which produce the sleep hormone melatonin.

Sometimes it can be difficult to ‘switch off’, especially after a long or busy day, so if after 30 minutes of going to bed sleep is still allusive, trying reading a book or listening to soothing music, but avoid turning on the television or bright lights as these will “wake up” the brain.

If waking during the night is a problem, spend 15 to 20 minutes doing similar activities which will relax your mind and body.

Older couples often say the secret to a happy marriage is “never to go to bed on an argument”, so try to avoid taking worries to bed. Instead dedicate some time to deal with any issues before going to bed, or write them down so they can be addressed in the morning.

Jenny Reynolds, support services manager for our mental health service for older people, said: “This is one of the leaflets we’ve produced with our older service users in mind, but these tips should help people of all ages get a better night’s sleep.

“Simple things like avoiding alcohol, caffeine or smoking before going to bed can help. These are stimulants and therefore will prevent you from sleeping.
“Regular exercise, preferably in the morning or early afternoon, such as walking or swimming can help you get to sleep quickly, but avoid strenuous exercise four hours before going to bed.”
If you try these strategies and you are still having problems with your sleep, then please speak to your healthcare professional. 

For more information about Mental Health Week 2011 visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk