Maybe I should just sing you a lullaby. Would that help? No, probably not. I'm a psychologist. I want to help you understand how to calm your mind down before sleep.
Let's take a look at the 4 main culprits that disturb your sleep and then we will come up with a strategy for each one.
The four culprits that disturb sleep the most are:
Blue light, (maybe that one surprised you), and
Anxiety (that one didn't surprise you)
I attended a professional conference not too long ago with Dr. Preston out of Stanford University. Dr. Preston shared with us these culprits that disturb our sleep, and that particularly get in the way with our stage 4 sleep. Stage 4 is the deeper levels of sleep that tends to be restorative. As he shared these findings, he also shared something that we can do about each one of these.
Take alcohol for example. Alcohol has been shown to disturb certain parts of our sleep. Now, this surprises some people because a lot of people will drink to relax or to help themselves go to sleep. It's true that sometimes if you become intoxicated, you will just fall asleep at some point. But it disturbs some of the parts of our sleep that we don't even notice. And that's why it's one of the culprits that was listed.
Dr. Preston suggested that we avoid alcohol as much as possible. Now, I know that some people drink much more responsibly than others. Please, if you use alcohol, be very judicious and wise about how you do so. We know that it predisposes some people toward addictions. We know that it causes impairment that can make people unsafe when they are driving or operating equipment.
So, beside all of those things, if we get right down to the sleeping issue, staying away from alcohol could improve your ability to fall to sleep and to get the right kind of sleep that you need. It's rare that you find someone who says, “Oh, I really wish that I could start drinking.” No, it usually goes the other direction. “I really wish that I could stop,” if they are in an addictive pattern. Let's take a look at that in a very responsible and mature way as it relates to our sleep.
Let's go to caffeine next. Caffeine is a stimulant and it's obvious why that might interfere with our sleep. Kind of like alcohol, it has some effects that are unseen. In other words, you might be able to fall asleep but if you are consuming a lot of caffeine, you might not get all of the restorative levels of sleep that you need. The suggestion here is that you limit your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams before noon. Now, you go check your favorite beverages or sources of caffeine and just see what the milligram count is. This will give you an idea of what we are talking about.
Before noon, really? Yeah, because like a lot of other substances, caffeine has a half-life. Half-life just means how long it takes to get rid of, or metabolize, or flush out of your system about half of the potency of that chemical. The half-life of caffeine has been shown to be about 5 to 6 hours. Wow! So, do the math if you ingest 100 milligrams of caffeine at noon, you still may have the effects of about 50 milligrams floating through your body at about 6 pm. If you are on a regular sleep schedule, you don't want to have much caffeine in your system as you are trying to go to sleep. Because that works counter to the processes that will naturally help you to sleep.
A quick word about blue light. This one caught my attention because I didn't really expect it to happen, but the kinds of light that are emitted from screens are actually counterproductive when we are trying to sleep. Our body is wired in this way.
There are some organisms in your retina for example that are tied into your thalamus –one of the glands of your body. We call it the retina thalamic response. Certain things are triggered to either get you more wired up or calm you down for sleep. Different wavelengths of light have different effects. The findings are showing that the kind of light that comes out of a screen like a computer, a tablet, or smartphone are the kinds that are counter-productive toward our sleep.
There are things you can do about this like limiting your screen time before bedtime. You might try a good old-fashioned book once in a while and read by a lamp as opposed to reading something off of your screen or viewing videos or playing games which have become more common of course in today's culture in the Information Age and the availability of all of those devices.
Limit your screen time before bed. You probably don't want to have much screen time at all within an hour of going to sleep. See if that helps and there are also some lenses that can help, glasses that you can wear that filter out certain wavelengths. Check around and see what you can find along those lines. That could help as well.
Now, let's get to the last one. Anxiety is probably one of the biggest culprits to disturbing our sleep. It's because we can't turn off our mind. Anxiety is something that you can develop some skills to handle in a way that will allow you to sleep better. In fact, we've got a lot of videos on YouTube at Live On Purpose TV. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the video, you can go watch it. When we know that it's one of the major culprits to disturbing our sleep, we can gain some skills to take that on. There is also a 3-day challenge on the channel about how to become more positive, I think that one would help. There is also a video about how to avoid a nervous breakdown. Check out that one. It's going to give you some ideas.
Here's the thing: We get really good at whatever we practice. If your mind is really accustomed to thinking about things in a way that causes you anxiety or fear or apprehension, that triggers something in your brain that prevents sleep. That little part of your brain wants to keep you safe, it doesn't want you to be in danger. When you feel fear or anxiety, your body is trying to take care of you to keep you safe, so it's not going to let you sleep. That's why this is such an important one to address.
I think as you start to get serious about taking on anxiety, you are going to find it much easier to sleep and practice it so that you can train your brain to think differently about the things that are causing that anxiety in the first place. That will give you a few things to think about. There is plenty to think about, isn't there?
I'm ready to help you out with this. I think the best place to start would be getting a copy of my book, Pathological Positivity. I'll send it to you for free, you just pay the shipping. Go to drpauljenkins.info. That's going to take you right over to my website or drpauljenkins.com. Get your hands on the book and I'll help you out.