We hope you are all well and continue to be safe and healthy, despite most of us still finding ourselves in an unusual and extraordinary situation. Now, more than ever, we need to be kind and caring both to ourselves and to those around us to keep our mental and physical health in balance.
It is therefore quite fitting that Mental Health Awareness week (18 – 24th May) focusses on the theme of kindness – something which seems so relevant at a time where we so depend on connecting with each other, even if we cannot yet be together physically other than than 2 metres / 6 feet apart.
Connect... to sleep
This lack of physical contact can have detrimental effects on mental health and subsequently sleep and there is indeed some science behind that. Essentially human touch moves the skin and helps the body release serotonin which is linked to better sleep – that then means that those who have had to go without a hug or even a handshake for an extended period of time do report trouble sleeping which then again goes hand in hand with increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Is your skin hungry ? If so, this could impact your sleep...
If you feel that a lack of touch (or "skin hunger" as it is also called) causes you to sleep less, some small tweaks can help, like “moving” your skin with a brisk walk, massaging your scalp or putting on moisturiser. So, until we can all give each other big hugs again, these methods offer some relief especially if they are combined with the maintenance and strengthening of your social connections.
Many studies have shown that strong relationships – not just the romantic kind but any social connection – have a big impact on our overall mental wellbeing.
In 2002, a comparison of two groups of very happy and less happy students showed that the main significant difference between them was having strong social relationships and that the happier group was then also better able to react appropriately to various life events. Similar results have been shown in a study that linked good social connections directly with quality of sleep – of the employees surveyed, those with good and stable social relationships showed more and better sleep patterns than those without those bonds.
One of Many's Gerardo: a story of personal loss and... a year without sleep
We have also been forging our own special connections and this week, we are honoured to introduce Gerardo who runs his blog called “One of Many” where he talks about mental health through his own personal journey. In his latest blog post, he tells us his story about struggles with mental Health leading to insomnia and how he managed to improve it through better sleep. He also shares what helped him break the cycle in this incredibly touching (no pun intended!) story. Click here to read Gerardo's story : My year without sleep
Relationships and kindness are so vital to our mind and sleep
While over 86% of people report having loved ones to rely on in times of stress, as a society, we have become lonelier, something that shows in many interactions happening online, work hours being extremely long and our definition of community. What also showed in previous studies is that women benefit more from a friendship network as their family tends to place more obligations on them, but overall we all have the same need for kindness and connection, regardless of who we are or where we come from.
So from all this, we can see why relationships and kindness are so vital to our mind and our sleep.
Connecting with others is beneficial for our mental wellbeing for two main reasons – firstly, we are able to share both the positive emotions as well as the negative ones in our lives, with our loved ones sharing our feelings and being understanding and supportive. Secondly, we feel like we belong somewhere – our tribe, if you like. As humans, we are inherently socially wired and driven to be part of a group or family – be it the one we were born into or the one we picked for ourselves.
If calls seem a bit overwhelming after a day of video conferences, try connecting with someone you might not have been in touch with for a while
But what makes a “strong” relationship or “good” connection?
There are many suggestions on how we can strengthen and improve our connections for better mental wellbeing and improved sleep – and although in the current situation we might have to tweak some of these ideas and ironically take them online, there are still many ways to connect and share the kindness.
- If you spend the lockdown with your partner, friend or family: make time each day to spend with each other, away from screens and doing something that is relaxing for you both. Have a chat, a glass of wine and a hug.
- Arrange a group video chat with friends and maybe host a virtual pub quiz or party for everyone to have a laugh.
- If calls seem a bit overwhelming after a day of video conferences, connect with someone you might not have been in touch with for a while through a text or message just to see how they’re doing.
- Even just a chat with a neighbour from your window or garden could help create a feeling of connection.
- With everyone making banana bread and learning a new skill, check if there are any online classes available – a great way to pick up a new talent while meeting new people even during a pandemic.
- Volunteering has also been found to be beneficial for our mental wellbeing, especially retired individuals. This goes to show that kindness always goes two ways and contributes to the wellbeing of others as much as it does to our own. We see so many examples of this across the UK and the world with people offering to go shopping for their vulnerable neighbours or make them some dinner (like this Ex-Masterchef contestant and what amazing meals he cooks!), making PPE equipment for medical staff. Lots of love to them and all you Kindness Heroes out there, your love and dedication goes a long way and we at WeSleep thank you hugely for that! It takes us yet another step closer to happier people and better sleep after all.
Volunteering is beneficial for our mental wellbeing, especially for those who retired
While we totally understand the current situation can feel eerie and lonely, please rest assured that support, love and kindness are probably just a phone call or a click away and until we can hug our loved ones again, let’s stay connected with and look after each other. We’ll all be rewarded by feeling happier and sleeping more soundly. If that is not the best reward ever we don’t know what is.
We will share more great content in our next article, until then, let’s all #BeKind to each other and ourselves. Lots of love from us at WeSleep!
Stay safe & healthy! And stay tuned for our next blog post in a couple of weeks time, subscribe below and we will let you know each time a new post is ready. Take good care !
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- The WeSleep Team