Ad – In Partnership with Tempur.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is between the 13-19th May and this year’s focus is on body image. As someone who has suffered with mental health issues since I was 16, I wanted to share a bit of my story and experiences, and to discuss how things like sleep can and has impacted my journey.
My journey officially began at age 18 when I was diagnosed with clinical depression after struggling for several years after a traumatic event. At this age I had a type of breakdown that took me a full year/18 months to recover from. Since then I have suffered with bouts of depression on-and-off, ranging in severity from moderate to extreme. At it’s worst I would find myself on high-dosage anti-depressants for several years at a time, which handled my symptoms and allowed me to function. Occasional therapy helped too.
I lived this way until about a year or two ago. The previous coping mechanisms of turning to anti-depressants when I was struggling had got me through many difficult and dark times. But I was ready to make changes. I started to look at ways of handling my dark times, recognising their arrival and helping to treat the more minor bouts myself. This included things like diet, wellbeing and sleep.
I’ve always been someone who needs a lot of sleep – nothing beats a good early night and a midday snooze, right? At its best, a good nap or a proper night’s sleep can alleviate my anxiety and cast a whole new and positive glow on something I may have gone to sleep worrying about or fearing. Sleep has been something I find relief in ever since my teens – but as someone who needs sleep for more than just ‘rest’, I also know that it can become easily disrupted and this then impacts my mental health. It’s a difficult cycle and a really fine balance.
Tempur recently conducted its first ever Mental Health Survey in the UK in association with Mental Health Awareness Week to find out what the effects of quality sleep can be on mental health and wellbeing.* And I personally found it fascinating to read about how many other people found sleep to be integral to their mental health.
21% said poor quality sleep affects their work
As someone who runs a successful and full-on business, my work is something I’m extremely passionate about and love. I genuinely adore my job and give it my all. But being your own boss isn’t without its stresses and it’s not easy if you already suffer from anxiety. When I sleep badly or when I don’t get enough of the good quality sleep (I’m talking about the types that see you sleep deeply, then wake or just generally struggle to go into that full restorative sleep) I will notice the next day how much harder it is to concentrate on my work. I also struggle with work motivation – it seems to be MIA when sleep is scarce. It’s not just work though, in general my daily routine can also be affected by poor quality sleep. I just lose my normal drive as a whole. Both my physical energy levels and my mental energy levels dip so low that only a good sleep can help me recover.
15% said work stress keeps them awake at night
It’s difficult if you suffer with mental health problems because sleep issues usually come hand-in-hand with it. When I’m depressed or suffering with anxiety I wake in the early hours and don’t go back to sleep. I lose vital hours of sleep time worrying, which adds to my cycle of lacking in concentration and motivation the following day.
For me one of my biggest sources of being kept awake is worrying about work. My brain can feel like a computer with a million tabs open and my to-do list doubles in front of my eyes while I lie awake at night. I worry I’ll miss deadlines (which I won’t) or that I’ll miss something vital (I won’t) or I’ll simply worry that I’m not good enough at my job (I am.) It’s mentally exhausting and yet physically I still can’t sleep.
24% said they use social media before bed
So, when I decided I wanted to take more control of my mental health, one of the key areas of focus for me was sleep. I realised that I needed a lot of sleep to function well and fight the symptoms of depression and anxiety. But the nature of the beast was that I lacked the ability to secure good quality sleep on a regular basis. So, it was time to put in to practice some small details to make big differences. The first was looking at my sleep routine and what I did before bed. Like 58% of people, I watch TV before bed, but rather than being over-stimulated, I find personally this is something that relaxes me, so I decided to make sure I watch something simple, that doesn’t require a huge amount of attention, something ‘fun’ before bed each night. A 30 minute sitcom is a great way for me to unwind.
I then made sure to cut down my social media time in the evenings. I now make sure that when I start to get tired I don’t reach for my phone. I’m usually awol on social media from 9:30pm because of this. There’s lot of research to show the way the light on your phone can negatively affect your ability to get to sleep, and I can vouch for this. Putting the phone down earlier in the evenings has been really useful in getting to sleep quicker and falling into a deeper sleep in less time too.
I also decided that it was time to invest in some new bedding to make sure my body was as comfortable as possible to get that top quality sleep. Being relaxed isn’t just about my mental wellbeing but also my physical position. I noticed that I was getting a lot of tension headaches from hunched shoulders and unsupportive pillows. So myself and my husband invested in a new mattress and new pillows which both helped a lot. Tempur make a range of products designed to evenly distribute body weight and pressure to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible while you sleep. Their mattress technology means your bedding almost sculpts around your body each night to relieve pressure points. And their pillows give proper neck support that allows your body to settle evenly and comfortably. The result is that your body is supported in all the key areas and it feels like stress melts away.
I find when I go to sleep having spent some time watching something to help mentally relax me, and then physically cutting off the phone from a certain point, and having good quality bedding means I’m in the optimum position to get to sleep and secure good quality sleep while I’m at it.
These few simple changes have contributed to the huge difference in my mental wellbeing in the past year or so. I’ve managed all symptoms myself, felt more in control of my mental health and have been motivated to implement positive and constructive changes in other areas of my life as well.
For Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share a bit of my story with you, with thanks to Tempur who have made it possible. I believe we should all talk more, help more and listen more to combat any stigma around mental health issues. Even if that means talking about the basics like how does sleep affect mental health and wellbeing – and what can we do to improve it. The outcome can be massive.
**This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Tempur but as ever all opinions are entirely my own. Please refer to my Disclaimer page for more details.
*Survey conducted on 2,000 Uk respondents aged 18+