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Good night’s sleep vital to good health
Guest columnist

Krystal Horton


Whenever someone is seen by the physician, they are commonly asked about their sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits. We expect these questions as we know they are major contributing factors to heart health, Diabetes, and any number of other physical conditions. However, did you know these are all crucial features for good mental health as well?

At some point, many of us have stayed up way past bedtime. We may have felt a little loopy, overwhelmed, or even more emotional.

Perhaps, it was an early morning or restless night that left us feeling unfocused, foggy, or unmotivated.

Maybe you’ve missed a meal and found yourself feeling sluggish, “hangry,” or relating to those Snickers commercials more than you care to admit. Let’s not forget feeling a little stir crazy when we have been trapped in the house for an extended period or had to heal from an illness.

Every single one of the above circumstances is an example of physical well-being directly impacting mental well-being. Sleep allows our body to heal, but also our minds to reset. Food gives us the energy we need to complete daily tasks. Exercise, or activity in general, generates those chemicals that allow us to feel good or accomplished. If one or more of these areas are out of sync, here are some techniques for getting yourself back on track.

To improve sleep quality, consider changing your environment and nighttime behaviors. We call this sleep hygiene. Our brains stay alert when there are bright lights or loud noises. As the evening begins, try using soft or ambient lighting to mimic twilight. You may also want to turn down the sound on your television or music.

Discontinue the use of electronics at least 30-60 minutes before bed, choosing more calming activities instead. Our brains need to associate the bed with sleeping, not as a seat for entertainment.

Having a television in your room is discouraged, but if you insist, try creating a sitting area for viewing purposes. Sound machines or fans can be used to create white noise to drown out the inconsistent noises that wake you during the night.

Also, try to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule to promote a better sleep-wake cycle.

Adjustments to eating habits will depend on the specific issue you struggle with. If your daily routine allows minimal time for meals, try to keep a stash of healthy, high protein snacks on hand. Granola bars, string cheese, and turkey jerky are just some of the items that are easy to eat while on the go. When you are craving something salty or sweet, reach for the nuts or fruits instead of the chips or candy. Stay away from processed and fast foods if you are able, and when possible, allow yourself the chance to sit and enjoy a balanced meal without being rushed or becoming distracted.

Being active does not have to mean running a marathon or spending hours in the gym, but it does involve purposeful movement. Taking a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood or park will get you moving, but it will also allow you the chance to breathe some fresh air. Furthermore, it allows you the opportunity to get out of your head and to focus on the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Gardening, playing fetch with your dog, or dancing around your living room will also help you meet those step goals your smart devices keep fussing at you about.

Though everyone will need to find the routine that works best for them, being well-rested, eating healthy, and staying active will have undeniable benefits on mental health. Finding this balance typically results in increased energy and distress tolerance. This in turn allows for improvements in productivity, better interactions with others, and even more favorable views of self. Stress is often decreased, which means anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions are decreased as well.

Remember: Knowledge matters. Mental Health matters. Most importantly, you matter.

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