When working with clients using art therapy, it becomes apparent that sleep is a basic need for everyone. It plays such a big role in one's well-being that we offer education around how to create a good sleep schedule. We do this because sleep is essential for good mental and physical health. People often run their bodies like a machine, pushing themselves to do more on fewer hours of sleep. Less sleep is linked to problems such as diabetes, arthrosis, fibromyalgia, headaches, obesity and heart disease for example. Mental health is impacted by a lack of sleep. The obvious assumption is that it is hard to be one’s best self when we are tired since people are more irritable and reactive when they are tired. Just think of a baby or toddler who has missed their nap time, there may be anger, tears and even temper tantrums. An hour less sleep can be linked to conduct disorders in children. Poor sleep is linked to an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. As adults, we know that our actions have consequences but running on empty can leave us open to more fluctuations in mood and negative interactions with others. Restorative sleep is necessary for psychological and physical health.
Here are some simple tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate), nicotine and certain prescription and OTC drugs. Be sure to discuss with your doctor how your sleep is affected by any prescription before you adjust your medications.
Try a weighted blanket. They help relax the sympathetic nervous system. Studies have shown it is a simple way to improve sleep in a variety of mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Be mindful of what, when and how you are eating and drinking. Alcohol may help in the short term with anxiety, but it tends to cause frequent waking and restless sleep. Be sure not to eat too much close to bedtime, it can cause a restless night and acid reflux. When people lie down with a full stomach it can put pressure on the esophagus and cause it to be pushed open and leak stomach contents into the throat. Time your meals so that you are finished dinner at least two or three hours prior to bedtime. Focus on eating meals with a balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. Ideally, you eat mostly whole foods, which are foods that have not been processed or altered from their original form. They contain more nutritional value and don’t contain extra sugar, salt, food additives or dyes that can upset the nervous system. For example, eat brown or wild rice rather than minute rice or an apple rather than canned apple sauce.
Another thing that you can do to help yourself get a good night's rest is to avoid certain types of media before bed. For example, watching action-packed television shows or news before bed is not relaxing and can be too mentally stimulating. Turn off your computer and cell phone as well. Social media can be both positive and negative. It tends to be a place where people express things that they would never say in person. Make your bedroom a sleep oasis. For example, consider using comfortable soft bedding that soothes your skin, having a dark room to sleep in and removing any unnecessary noise. Keep the temperature at a comfortable level at night.
Be sure to get a full medical checkup for any underlying conditions that may be negatively affecting your sleep. For example, sleep apnea can cause frequent waking. This condition is linked to other problems such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Pain can cause frequent waking as well. Sometimes medications can be the cause of poor sleep as well.
There are a variety of herbs that help with relaxation such as valerian, chamomile, lavender, old straw, passionflower, and lemon balm. They are often mixed in with patented herbal sleep teas. If you are taking medication be sure to check with your doctor in case, there are interactions with these herbs.
If your mind is becoming anxious and thoughts are preventing your sleep, try mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, counting or being aware of different body parts and subsequently relaxing them may help. Although sleep is only one aspect of managing our health, it can mean the difference between feeling irritated or Moody and feeling more grounded within yourself and ready to take on the day.
If you are interested in becoming an Art Therapy Guelph client, contact us to book a get-acquainted chat at 519 827 9237 or book online click here.
 Sivertson et al. (2013). Insomnia as a risk factor for ill health: results from the large population‐based prospective HUNT Study in Norway. Journal of sleep research. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12102
 Holley, S., Hill, C.M. (2011). An hour less sleep is a risk factor for childhood conduct problems. Child: Care health and development. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01203.x
 Ekholm et al, (2020). A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders. Journal of clinical sleep medicine. (16) 9.