After graduating from the Psychiatric Nursing program, I wrote and passed the Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination (RPNCE) exam and am enjoying life as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. Part of my job entails creating and running psychoeducational groups, which is a type of group therapy aimed at educating clients about their conditions and how to cope.
While creating a psychoeducational group on sleep and sleep hygiene for psychiatric patients, I took a hard look at my own sleep hygiene. What I found wasn’t great. Since childhood I’ve been a terrible sleeper and my habits certainly don’t help. In fact, they probably make my already bad sleeping habits worse! I love an afternoon siesta on my hammock. I like to watch tv late at night, peruse apps on my phone, study, and do a few last-minute chores right before bed. However, none of those habits help me sleep well. I used to tell myself “I need to wear my brain out” but I learned my actions do the opposite.
What the research says
In my research to build the psychoeducational group, I listened to informative podcasts by sleep expert, Dr. Matthew Walker, and read peer-reviewed articles about sleep habits. In Psychiatric Nursing school, I learned the basics about sleep, and how sleep dysfunction can contribute to or be a symptom of illness like mania or depression. What I didn’t realize is how much sleep deprivation affects me, an average, neuro-typical person, each time I have a poor night of sleep.
Dr. Walker discusses the brain’s inability to function and make new memories when tired. So, what does this mean for my late night studying? IT’S POINTLESS!
Peer reviewed articles talk about overstimulation leading to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Lights from a phone or television disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, causing your internal clock to be disrupted. It seems like there are so many things we need to avoid to fall asleep, stay asleep, and then feel rested in the morning. I needed to find some things I could do to replace my habits and improve my bedtime routine.
Tips to fall asleep and stay asleep
Here are a few actions that can replace the late night routine that I think are worth sharing:
- Relax: Find something that relaxes the body and mind. This could be a nice smelling lotion, restful background noise, a cup of herbal tea, or maybe a gentle stretch.
- Switch to paper: If you enjoy reading, try switching to a paper book. While the bedside light is on and there is a bit of stimulation, reading a personal interest piece or a fiction novel can move a person closer to sleep, rather than disrupt it.
- Evening routine: Set a routine and follow it. Cue the body that it’s time to start winding down and then repeat this pattern with as much fidelity as possible each night and each morning.
- Morning route: Yes, the morning routine matters too! Following a consistent morning pattern helps the body stay on rhythm and keep it in the optimal sleep range of 7-9 hours per night.
Overall, I’ve got a few bad sleep habits and I have learned that many of us are in the same situation. Sleep hygiene education isn’t just for those with mental illness, it’s applicable to everybody. Everybody sleeps and can benefit from a good night of sleep.