If you are active in your work and home life, your brain will always be working hard and won’t slow down at night. Here are some tips that may be helpful;
- When you have finished work, you need to tell your brain that it is time to stop. You can do so by having some form of practical action accompanied with a mantra to get your physiology & psychology (body & brain) working together. When you arrive home, as you turn the door handle to enter your house, say to yourself “work is over”, “I am home”, or “time to relax”. Some statement that tells your brain that it is time to stop and helps differentiate work from home. Do this for 66 days (sorry, it takes that long to change your pattern of behaviour) and you will find in due course that just by opening the door your brain will automatically switch to ‘home mode’.
- Go for a walk in the evening to calm your brain.
- Exercise creates endorphins which helps you to sleep so get some form of exercise daily during the working week. 30 minutes medium-to-high energy walk is enough.
- If you can, get out in the sun for half an hour each day – don’t use sunblock as you need to absorb vitamin D plus this will help build your melatonin levels which is needed at night for you to go to sleep.
- Don’t use any electronic devices (phone, i-Pad, e-reader, etc.) at least one hour before bedtime. Your brain will think that you are back at work and the back-light doesn’t help much either.
- Make sure your room is completely dark – we used to live in caves that were really dark so your brain is accustomed to total blackness at night.
- Have a hot shower 30 minutes before bedtime. As the brain cools, it sends a signal to that it is night-time.
- When you are in bed, don’t have too many blankets on. If you feel a little cold, that is good. The brain needs to cool down for you to sleep. Too many blankets = too hot = brain won’t stop = bad dreams = argh!
- Your brain will be rushing as you become anxious at trying to get to sleep and not achieving the goal. Your brain hates to lose. If you can do so, try to think about nothing. To do this, look into the darkness of your closed eyes and keep looking at it intensely. That is the best method of slowing your brain. If you can’t do that then think of something pleasant and stay focused on that one thing. It could be a beach, a river, even a tree. If it is a tree, look at the branches, then then leaves, then the veins on the leaf, then the holes in the leaf. The idea is to distract your brain from thinking about the fact that you can’t sleep. Your mind will keep going back to the fact that you can’t sleep, when this happens stop your thoughts and go back to your ‘happy place’.
- If you get up in the night, don’t turn the light on. To your brain, light equals daytime.
- We go through 2 to 3 REM cycles per night, each cycle gets deeper. If you had a bad night, you have probably slept but only had one REM cycle. Our brain de-frags during REM sleep.
- Don’t continually worry about not getting enough sleep. If you are struggling to get to sleep after a week or two then go and get some expert advice. Worrying about sleep puts your brain in the wrong head-space when you eventually do go to bed.