How many of us have a hard time winding down and falling asleep at night? You’re yawing and sleepy until the moment you lay in bed and feel your eyes snap open like a set of blinds in a cartoon. Your legs and arms get that tingly, restless sensation and you suddenly feel as though you could walk outside and lift your car clear off the ground. You turn off the light, close your eyes and an inventory of your day floods your mind, jumping up and down on your brain. You finally fall asleep and somehow turn into a roller weenie from the gas station down the street, just rolling around until you finally give up. Sleep is an important ritual in our lives and when it is constantly interrupted our bodies and our brain take notice.
Think of your bedtime routine and what you typically do prior to laying down. Most people watch a little TV, catch up on cleaning the house, wrestle their kids to bed or stare at their phones until their eyes bleed. Maybe you do a little mix of everything! If you are nodding your head to all of these and don’t add in relaxation at any point you shouldn’t be surprised that sleep doesn’t come easily or that you wake up feeling groggy most mornings. You may be saying, “Sara watching TV is my relaxation” or “I have to scroll through Facebook for the 175th time in order to relax, those cat videos won’t watch themselves!”. All of these things act as stimulants to the brain which are keeping your brain active and awake. Our body is set to work with the rise and fall of the sun. As the sun goes to sleep, so to speak, so should you. If you are watching TV, sitting in front of the computer or staring at your phone, you are tricking your body into thinking the sun is still up. The blue light being emitted from these devices is capable of stopping the body’s production of melatonin, which is a hormone that induces sleep. You may be able to fall asleep while watching reruns of Friends but don’t be fooled, that type of exposure can delay your ability to reach REM sleep, which poses an issue on the quality of sleep you’re receiving.
Our brains do not simply go to sleep when we do, they actually begin a process of clearing out waste and toxins. Not allowing your brain to do this can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Sleep helps us remember our day, store memories and improves our ability to make decisions. It allows for better coordination, concentration and helps the nervous system to function properly. We all know that lack of sleep or poor sleep will greatly affect your mood as well as your appetite. The list goes on and I encourage you to do a little research on brain health to not only help your sleep but to help prevent disease and memory issues down the road.
Everyone should have a bedtime routine in place that helps to relax and calm the body and mind. You should set aside an hour before you intend to lay down and actually fall asleep that you dedicate to connecting with your inner clock. Take a bath or shower, have a cup of herbal tea, meditate, journal or read on a device that does not emit light, maybe a real life book even, you know, one with pages! There are many ways you can relax and quiet the mind before bed and it’s very important to the health of your brain to do this. Your bedroom should be a place free of distraction and should help promote comfort and relaxation. Utilizing muted colors, soft lighting and scents that promote calming can greatly help in your quest for sleep.
So power down an hour earlier, give yourself a break from all that stimulation and allow your brain to rest. It is a pretty important organ after all.