We’ve all been there. It starts out fine, you change into pajamas, wash your face, brush your teeth and then finally climb into bed at the end of a hectic day. You’ve been wanting to have time to rest all day and finally it’s here.
That’s when it all hits you … everything that you haven’t had time to think about or worry about during the day is now right in your head, swirling around and around, creating worst case scenarios and catastrophes that take away any chance of falling asleep. You lie there for what seems like an eternity, tossing and turning, your thoughts spinning out of control, now amplified by intrusive thoughts about how tired you’ll be tomorrow if you can’t fall asleep.
This is a familiar scenario for so many of us. So what can you do?
Change the settings on your phone and computer screen. Studies have found that the blue light emitted from screens interferes with melatonin production and can make it harder to fall asleep. The standard advice about staying off the phone or computer is totally valid but next to impossible for most of us. If you can’t stay off the phone or computer before bed change your screen settings to a night setting that screens out blue light. Or alternatively, buy a yellow screen filter that you can put on your phone and computer screen. Blue light has also been found to be a factor in the development of macular degeneration. For more information, see https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm.
Stay away from caffeine. Even if you are a regular caffeine drinker, even a small amount of caffeine within four hours of bedtime can stimulate your nervous system and interfere with sleep.
Get rid of any lights in your bedroom. Do you have an alarm clock next to your bed with a digital display that is brightly lit so you can see it at night? Dim it as much as you can and turn it to face away from you. Any light in your bedroom can keep you alert and make it harder to fall asleep.
Stay away from any violent shows or news right before bed. These cause your nervous system to become activated and are a significant source of anxiety. As the news frequently focuses on negative and catastrophic events, this can lead you directly into catastrophic thinking and worrying, which is the last thing you need if you’re trying to sleep.
Make it a habit to write down or journal before bed, to try to empty your mind. Worrying about forgetting something the next day is a common cause of rumination and worry. Emptying your mind by writing things down can also help you to relax and, if done regularly, will provide closure to your day.
If anxiety is causing problems for you in your daily life, it could be causing problems with sleep. If this is true for you, you might want to make an appointment to see if medication might be helpful for you.
Sleep is important for overall mental health and wellbeing. Make taking care of yourself a priority and give the above steps a try if you are struggling with insomnia.