Around a third of adults are thought to have trouble sleeping. In fact, sleep problems are one of the most common psychological reasons for GP appointments and, left untreated, insomnia increases the risk of development or worsening of anxiety, depression, hypertension and diabetes.
At the moment, the rising cost of living is affecting many people’s sleep and mental health. In a recent survey by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), 52% of therapists said their clients are losing sleep due to money worries.
As Martin Bell, Head of Policy at the BACP, notes, “What our members are already seeing in the therapy room is just the tip of the iceberg of how the cost of living crisis is affecting people’s mental health. We fear this will only get worse over the next few months and is on top of the growing mental health need which arose from the pandemic.”
If you’re worrying about your finances and other practical issues, prioritising sleep can help you to tackle them more effectively. In fact, research shows that being helped to sleep better helps to reduce stress so, in this article, Good Thinking provides some tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
If you’d like more comprehensive advice, check out the Good Thinking Sleep Workbook, which we developed with sleep expert Majella Cogan and which is based on a well-established and effective therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia.
Three reasons to put sleep first
1. Self-control: When we’re sleep deprived, the brain enters survival mode – we dial up activity in the emotional fear centres, making us feel more anxious and sensitive to threats. At the same time, we downgrade activity in the parts of the brain responsible for less urgent activities like planning and self-control. This is why it’s much harder to stick to our goals when we’re not getting enough sleep.
2. Appetite: When we cut sleep short, we throw our internal body clocks into disarray. We produce more of a hormone called grehlin, which makes us hungry, and less leptin, which makes us feel full. So, we get more of the munchies after a bad night’s sleep and we’re less likely to resist our cravings.
3. Memory: We consolidate new memories while we’re sleeping at night, putting the most important into long-term storage and discarding the unnecessary ones.
Three things that can help you sleep better
1. Start a sleep diary: For seven days, write down when you go to sleep, what time you wake up and how energised you feel during the day. Most adults need at least seven hours sleep to function at their best but your sleep need is unique to you.
2. Prepare for sleep: An hour before bed, start to unwind and detach from the day. Leave tech out of the bedroom – it interferes with melatonin, your body’s signal for sleep. A daily ritual of relaxation, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music, will help with readiness for sleep.
3. Learn the tricks of the trade: To transform your sleep habits for the better and ease a racing mind, take some time to learn more about sleep and why it’s so important. Read our short guide to getting better sleep and use our sleep quiz to find out about the apps and tools, such as Be Mindful can help you.
Good Thinking resources
- Benefits of healthy sleep patterns (podcast)
- Getting better sleep: Common questions and top tips
- Sleep self-assessment
- Sleep Workbook (six-module programme for better sleep)
- Symptoms of sleep disorder
- Types of sleep disorder
- Cost of living crisis: How to look after your mental health
- Free NHS-approved wellbeing apps