Goodnight, sweet dreams!
Are your children getting the right kinds of sleep for wellbeing?
Suffolk Mind are making 2022 the year for better sleep, and this includes our children and young people. Lots of children and young people find going to sleep or staying asleep challenging. We all need the right kinds of sleep to make sure we are able to meet our emotional needs to stay mentally well. There are two main kinds of sleep that are needed: Deep sleep, for rest and repair, and REM sleep, to discharge emotional arousal. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is when most of our dreaming happens. We need both types of sleep in the right amounts to be well.
Here are some top tips to encourage good sleep:
Making sure our bodies are well looked after means that we are also looking after our brains and mental health. Choosing balanced foods and drinks throughout the day can manage the way our brains respond to challenges, but also in the latter part of the day, ensure that we are ready for sleep. Can a small bedtime drink, either a warm drink or water, be part of your bedtime routine? What signals the end of day’s food for your child? Is it fruit after dinner?
Movement throughout the day is vital for good rest. It allows us to burn off cortisol that comes when we feel stressed, and gives us endorphins, which come with feeling good, as well as making sure that the blood is pumping round our bodies, making our heart and lungs work a bit harder so that we are ready for sleep. What other movement could you include in your day? You could try movement that allows for increase in heart rate earlier in the day as well as stretchy calm movement closer to bedtime that will lead the way to a restful sleep.
Making your bedtime routine include elements that set your child up for good sleep are vital for everyone’s restful evenings! Making sure the bedroom is calm and quiet, introducing a predictable and consistent ‘wind down’ routine such as wash, teeth, book, bed can signal to your child that sleep time is coming. Making sleep a happy and safe state to enter into is also important, so whilst it can sometimes be frustrating that children always want to drag out bedtime just that little bit longer, finding the right balance between having firm boundaries and making sure the child feels safe and loved and ready to sleep is worth it for long-term mental health.
Feeling CALM and in CONTROL
After exciting after-school activities or screen time, make time to process thoughts before bedtime. Drawing or Lego can work well. Have choices within your usual routine- would you like to read to me, or shall I read to you tonight? Have boundaries for bedtime routines so children know what to expect- time for being clean, winding down and feeling ready for sleep. Set up predictable patterns that have an element of choice- would you like music or audiobooks to listen to? Would you like calming spray on your pillow or bed cover?
Bedtime is often the time which children decided to process their day, and you may find that this is the time that they ask lots of questions or have lots to say, just as you are about to turn off the light. If your child is in need of this talk time, schedule it in for earlier in the routine. Can you have a chat whilst getting clothes ready for the next day or in the bath? Take time to talk about your day, read or tell stories together, nurture the secure relationship so that sleep feels safe and happy. Your child will also meet their need for emotional connection and attention through this exchange and be more ready to fall asleep when it is time.
Feeling that I CAN
Involve your child in making their bedtime routine. What is it that makes them feel safe and secure? What things can they do independently, and which do they need or want some help with to feel settled? Do they understand why going to sleep at the right time is important? Can they draw or make a ticklist of their bedtime routine that can be used every day so that they have a predictable and consistent way of being independent?
Written by Louise Harris, Children and Young People’s Lead
Author: Ellie Winch
Stress, sleep and current affairs
Distressing news can be a source of worry and concern. Our emotional needs for security and control can be impacted by these situations.
The more we worry and over-use our imagination to catastrophise about the future, the more likely it is that our sleep will be affected. Our brains use dream sleep (REM) to clear out the emotional charges of the day, so the more that worries, angers or stresses us, the more dreaming needs to be done. This can leave us feeling more tired the next day because as we dream more, we get less deep regenerative sleep.
Our staff have been supporting more people recently who are worried by events in the news. To them, and the general population, we are suggesting the following steps:
· If you can, donate items to an organised collection and engage with local Suffolk refugee organisations supporting Ukrainians. These kinds of practical actions can connect us with meaningful efforts to bring about change for the better, giving us meaning and purpose.
· Accept that there are things we cannot control by making a list of things you can control, like where you’re going to go for a walk today, what time you’ll make yourself something to eat, what colour socks you’re going to wear, and so on. Then, throughout the day, focus attention on the list of those things you can control.
· Avoid doom-scrolling, which is the term psychologists use when we look for updates and find ourselves in a cycle of negative news stories, impacting our need for security. This keeps the ‘fight-or-flight’ response switched on and our brain looking out for more signs of danger. This can keep us in a constant state of worry, which can then tip us into anxiety and depression.
· Protect yourself by limiting the time spent on the news to ten minutes a day. This can enable you to gain some control over the situation.
· After reading or watching a negative news story, take the time to do something relaxing, like breathing exercises or going for a walk in the park, or reading some fiction. Movement burns off the stress hormone, cortisol, which can in turn help us achieve better quality sleep.
· Practice kind-scrolling by searching for positive news stories which give us a more optimistic view of the world.
Author: Ellie Winch
Feeling content – meeting your physical needs
If you or your young people are having mood swings, feeling irritable, cross and impatient or having low moods, why don’t you try meeting your physical needs to improve wellbeing?
Food and Drink
Do I need some Food and Drink that is good for my mind and body?
What kinds of Food and Drink should I choose to help me to stay well?
Regular, balanced meals and snacks as well as enough water to make our pee a pale yellow can help to regulate our moods. When we have large amounts of sugary foods or drinks, it can make us feel a rush of energy at the time, but later it leads to a crash. This makes us reach for more sugar, creating a cycle of highs and lows that can be hard to manage. Making and sharing food that nourishes our bodies can be a good way to meet lots of emotional needs at the same time. Be aware of reaching for treat foods when your mood is low- try and find another way to meet your needs and improve your mood.
Three things to do now to help bring you back to wellbeing:
- Drink water
- Eat a balanced meal or snack
- Prepare some food together to share
Sometimes, even when we think we are getting enough sleep, we are not getting the right kind of sleep. Make sure you are ready for sleep by having a bedtime routine, no matter how old you are!
The two kinds of sleep we need to make sure we have had the right amounts of are deep sleep and REM or dreaming sleep. Deep sleep repairs our minds and bodies, and REM sleep helps us to switch off emotions from the day before.
To get the right kinds of sleep, make sure you have a good bedtime environment, a relaxing routine before bed, and have had time during the day to process any thoughts or talk about them so that you don’t take them to bed with you! A really good way to do this is to do something quiet and away from screens before getting ready for your bedtime routine, like drawing or playing with toys.
Three things to do now to help bring you back to wellbeing:
- Make sure your bedroom is ready for bedtime
- Switch off screens a while before bed
- Make a routine that makes you feel ready for sleep.
Moving our bodies helps us to release chemicals called endorphins, which come with feeling good, and burn off unhealthy amounts of stress hormones called cortisol which can make us feel tense. Moving our bodies in a way that feels good to us and we enjoy helps us to protect our brains. If we have a low mood, the first we can do is to move. We need to raise our heart and lung rate to help protect our brain and bring us back into wellbeing. Moving can be chasing each other round the park, inventing a dance routine at home or playing a game with a ball!
Three things to do now to help bring you back into wellbeing:
- Find new ways to move around outside with a ball, on your way to school or at home to music!
- If you feel you have been in one place for a long time, find ways to move to get the energy flowing around your body, your heart rate up and your lungs to work a bit harder for a few minutes!
- Make sure you enjoy moving- so do something FUN! Finding someone or a group to move with can be motivating and make it more fun, as well as meeting your needs for connection or community!
To find out more about how Suffolk Mind can help you and your young person, visit our EARLY Minds page.
Author: Beren Reid
Are you experiencing vivid dreams at the moment?
Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Jo Flack explains what dreaming means and how we can use it to our advantage to stay well.
Is anyone else experiencing really vivid dreams at the moment? I have a recurring one where I am halfway up a really precarious staircase and I suddenly freeze and find I can neither carry up on the steps nor take myself back down. I sometimes wake up from this dream feeling really anxious and out of control and this no doubt reflects my emotional state during the current situation.
Because dreams are not simply random; everything the brain does has a purpose and there is a reason nature has given us a dreaming brain. Precisely why we dream is still a hotly debated topic among the scientific community. But what we do know, from decades of research, is that the content of our dreams reflects waking concerns, both positive and negative. And we also know that dreaming serves to discharge emotional arousal from the previous day; hence the phrase ‘sleep on it.’ People report feeling calmer after short periods of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the phase in which dreaming occurs.
Dreaming is an inbuilt resource we all have that can help keep us well and help the brain respond afresh to each new day. However, if we find ourselves with too much worry in the day we will do more dreaming as the brain tries its best to calm us down. And this is a problem, because too much dreaming is tiring and it affects the amount of deep, restorative sleep we get. So if we dream too much we will wake up still feeling tired.
The key then is to do our best to get our emotional needs well met so we do not have too much for the dreaming brain to process when we go to sleep. We could also try:
- Resolving stress or worries in the day, for example by talking them through with someone.
- Writing down any concerns that are on our minds before we go to sleep so we can put them aside to deal with later.
- Developing a relaxing bedtime routine to help calm the brain in preparation for sleep.
- Finding some space for reflection and privacy in the day so we are not processing every incident at night when we are trying to get into the land of nod.
- Or even using our dreaming brain as a resource during waking hours to enjoy a pleasant daydream.
And don’t forget to address any unmet needs to lower your stress; if I work on getting my need for control met I may just find I can make it up the staircase in my dreams…
Author: Ellie Winch
Sleep: Have you found your sleep pattern?
Staying well – we know we need the right diet and regular exercise. And we know we need the right amount of sleep. But why are so many of us struggling with poor sleeping patterns? Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind explains more.
Finding the right sleep pattern
Are you or is somebody you know stuck in a bad sleep pattern? As any parent knows, trying to get small children into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the right time can be hard work – especially when parents are need of sleep too! Establishing regular going to bed and getting up time takes effort. And that’s because sleep patterns are a learnt behaviour – for children and adults.(more…)
Author: Ellie Winch
Sleep: Are you getting enough quality sleep?
Written by Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education, Suffolk Mind
Staying well – we know we need the right diet and regular exercise. And we know we need the right dose of sleep. But why are so many of us struggling to get it? And what can we do about it?(more…)
Author: Stuart Dent