It's been pressing on your mind.
Every day, the same thoughts. The same checking your personal list of dos and don'ts to figure it out.
Your diet is fine, more or less. (Sometimes less than more.)
Exercise? You're not an Olympic gymnast, but you're definitely not a couch potato either.
Those big issues you dealt with are well and truly in the past. Sure things come up, the every day battles. That's normal.
But you should be thriving.
Sometimes it feels like the world is weighing on your back. Everything is too hard and you don't know why.
You are left feeling powerless.
Years ago, I was caught up in this same battle of unanswered thoughts.
My mind was overwhelmed.
What was wrong with me? What else could I do? What emotional uphill battle did I still have to fight?
One day, very clearly, a still, quiet voice whispered in my ear, "you're just tired".
It stopped me in my tracks.
I took a moment.
Yes. It had been months. It no longer seemed abnormal.
Every night, laying in bed, willing myself to go to sleep. Trying to figure out what problem I needed to solve to restore my mental health so I could sleep again.
Maybe I wasn't going crazy.
Maybe I was just tired.
In my spirit, I sensed the truth in this thought.
I had created my own perpetual cycle damaging my sleep with unfounded concerns about my physical and mental health.
A weight started to lift from my shoulders. I just needed a good night's sleep.*
The Science of Sleep and Mental Health
Over the last few years, scientists have begun to realise the role sleep has on mental and emotional health is far bigger than thought previously.
Traditionally, it has been widely held that sleep issues are a direct result of mental health disorders.
It is becoming clearer now to scientists that there is a bilateral relationship between sleep and mental health - sleep issues can be both a cause and a consequence of mental health issues.
We've all experienced it. A good night's sleep and problems seem to disappear overnight, literally.*
How Sleep Works
Understanding how sleep works helps us understand the specific benefits of sleep and gives us essential tools to help ensure a better night's sleep.
There are four stages of sleep.
(We recommend checking out the extensive list of sleep benefits listed in stage 3 sleep).
Otherwise known as "dozing off".
This stage generally only lasts a few minutes. You can easily be held hostage in this stage by your neighbour's barking dog, attempting to solve world problems or your spouse's incessant snoring, unless you take some serious action e.g. a good kick in the behind.
Scientifically speaking, your heart beat and breathing slow, your muscles begin to relax (unless you're kicking said spouse) and you start producing alpha and theta brain waves.
You spend more than half your night in this "light sleep" stage, so this is the time to get comfy and enjoy the show.
Light sleep acts as a bridge to entering REM and deep sleep (more on this shortly) and it's during this stage your body processes memories and emotions. It's also when your metabolism regulates itself.
And if you're clever enough to organise it in advance, it's the best stage to wake up and start your day. You won't feel nearly as groggy or disoriented as if you wake during REM or deep sleep (aka stage 3).
During this stage of sleep, your heartbeat and breathing slow down further, there are no eye movements, your body temperature drops and your brain waves start to spike up and down.
The Holy Grail of sleep, otherwise known as "deep sleep" and the best friend you never knew you desperately needed.
Scientists all tend to agree that deep sleep is the most essential of all sleep stages for feeling rested and staying healthy.
If someone could bottle this stuff up and sell it, they would be an instant millionaire. But they can't, so they sell expensive mattresses, pillows, sleep apps, "how to sleep" articles, and life-changing sleep tea instead.
Below is a simple list of what is supported during deep sleep:
- short term memory
- long term memory
- energy restoration
- cell regeneration
- blood supply to muscles
- growth and repair of tissues and bones
Physiologically, during stage 3, the heartbeat and breathing are at their slowest rate, the body is fully relaxed, there is no eye movement, delta brain waves are present.
Stands for Rapid Eye Movement (of course you know this). This stage of sleep is when most of your dreaming occurs (pretty sure you know this too).
Benefits of REM seem to be connected mostly to brain health (maybe you know this?).
During REM your brain refreshes and restores itself. Sufficient REM sleep is essential to feeling mentally and emotionally well. When you get enough REM, you perform at your best mentally during your waking life.
As you can see from the four stages of sleep, it's no surprise that your mental health is going to take a serious battering, even in the most healthy of mind environments, if any or all of these sleep stages are neglected.
How to Get Better Sleep
Here's some research and common sense based advice to support your sleep and your mental state.
1. Engage in Morning Exercise
Stop laughing, I'm being perfectly serious.
I know you really don't want to hear it, but exercise is actually one of the best science-backed ways of improving sleep, and there's more research than you can poke a stick at to back this up (
The good news is you don't have to run a marathon to benefit and you really shouldn't engage in exercise in the evening. Evening exercise will get you all hyped up with the stimulation and the increased alertness will have you writing a thesis rather than falling asleep reading one.
A 20 minute walk works wonders for sleep. Isn't that nice?
2. Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
We're talking about pillows and mattresses. There's research on this too (
The ideal room temperature for sleep is around 20°C (70°F).
3. Get Sunshine
This one is going to make you super-happy.
You think improving sleep by 60% with a fancy-schmancy mattress is amazing? One study in older adults showed that giving them two hours of sun exposure increased their sleep that night by two hours and sleep efficiency by 80% (
As if you needed another reason to move to sunny Queensland, Australia.
4. Drink Sleep Tea Before Bed (But Not Too Much)
This particular item deserves a dedicated article, but I will do my best to summarise in a few sentences.
Sitting down for a cup of tea is in itself, an act of unwinding, like taking a bath, or reading a book. When you are relaxed, when you create a space of calm, you are halfway to the land of snooze. You already know that.
Add to this ceremony a concoction of natural sleep-inducing herbs, quality, deep sleep is just a few sips away.
It's important to note that drinking too much will have you running to the bathroom during the night, which isn't great for sleep. Keep it to 200ml or less and don't enjoy it too close to bedtime.
Researchers at Wesleyan University in Connecticut studied the effects of lavender on sleep amongst 31 men and women and discovered lavender increased delta brain waves, which is a key characteristic of deep sleep. Subjects slept more soundly and felt more energetic the following day.
In a controlled study of 27 adults with sleep difficulties, 24 reported improved sleep and 12 of those reported “perfect sleep” after taking 400 mg of valerian root (
One study in adults with insomnia found that a single dose of valerian allowed them to achieve deep sleep 36% faster. Additionally, the time they spent in deep sleep increased during 14 days of taking valerian (
Tielka's Lavender Moon is a blend of lavender, valerian root, jasmine, lemongrass, and licorice root designed specifically for sleep.
We hear about the way customers rave about the improved sleep they are experiencing after enjoying Lavender Moon and we are excited to share this with you.
We recommend brewing Lavender Moon nightly for at least 14 days to experience the full benefits of these sleep herbs.
*It is important to note that not all mental health problems can be solved with a good night's sleep. Every season of life brings new challenges. Like dental check-ups, maintaining good mental health relies on regular support and attention. We recommend seeing your doctor for advice on this matter to ensure you are getting the right help.