As you know, the link between sleep and mental health is a rather potent one.
Those with mental health issues are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders. At the same time, sleep-related problems may raise the risk of developing certain mental illnesses.
To offer better treatment options, it means respecting this link. It also means not just encouraging self-care and optimal sleep hygiene in clients, but also remembering to apply these steps to your own life.
Do you remember to get enough sleep? Are you taking some time each day to focus on your own wellbeing? As a therapist, it’s possible to be so preoccupied with caring for others that you miss the signs that it’s you who is in need of a tune-up!
Establishing a self-care routine
Setting aside time for yourself can get a little tricky. Depending on how you schedule your leisure time, you may end up taking the fun and relaxation right out of it!
That’s because there’s a tendency to physically be one place while having your mind on your various schedules, client needs, and family-related responsibilities.
Proper self-care means putting everything aside and taking time for yourself – and only for yourself. Make sure you do something that you genuinely enjoy. If you prefer reading books over a half hour of yoga, then hit the books! Self-care doesn’t work if you aren’t genuinely enthusiastic about how you’re spending your time.
Another aspect of self-care is a stable, non-stressful routine. Wake up around the same time each day, eat healthy meals, and make sure you get a good night’s sleep. These behavioral adjustments can make the difference between optimal care-giving and burnout in the long run!
Improve your overall sleep hygiene
When you think of ‘hygiene’, no doubt the first thing that comes to mind is scrubbing up as to be germ-free. While a nightly scrubbing can figure into your sleep preparation, the concept of sleep hygiene is a little different. Overall, it emphasizes a series of steps and behaviors that prepare you for bed and optimizes the quality of your sleep. Sleep preparation can differ from person to person, but there are a few common suggestions. For starters, avoid using electronic devices in bed. That means you leave your phone and laptop on the table and focus solely on sleeping the minute you hit the mattress.
If you happen to suffer from sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines with humidifiers are a worthwhile investment. The easier you breathe during the night, the better you’ll be able to rest.
It’s also good to note that not all sleep hygiene behaviors happen right before bed. You should also make it a point to get regular exercise and limit daytime naps whenever possible. These daily behavioral adaptations should allow you to rest better at night and function at your best during the day.
The consequences of not taking the time to work on self-care and sleep hygiene can be severe. Therapists often experience ‘compassion fatigue’, and this emotional burnout often interferes with your therapeutic services. These problems can also present risks to your own mental health.
It might be your instinct to go above and beyond for others, but you should never put your own mental and physical health on the back burner. Your health is important, and you should make it a point to take care of yourself and get as much sleep as possible.
Remember – you can’t properly care for others if you don’t take time to care for yourself!
About the Author
Sarah is a researcher for the sleep science hub www.tuck.com. She specializes in sleep’s role in mental and physical health and wellness. Sarah lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.