How to Shut my Brain Down So I Can Sleep
Many people suffer from insomnia or sleeplessness at some point. Insomnia is often a symptom of something else, although it is a diagnosis all its own. You may have read about sleep hygiene 101 telling you to limit caffeine and cut caffeine intake by noon or 2pm. Ladies on birth control, keep in mind that when taking the pill, sedatives and stimulants have longer half lives, meaning it stays in your system longer. So you might need to stop the caffeine earlier in the day. I wish my physician or pharmacist told me that, but that fact came from several sites on Dr. Google. I found it to be true for myself as well. You may have heard to keep TVs out of the bedroom, only use the bedroom for sleep and sex, not to eat a full meal too close to bedtime etc. Everybody is different. Some people can sleep with caffeine, and some can fall asleep to the TV. In fact some may fall asleep right as the show ends missing the ending. Those people are likely dealing with anticipatory anxiety about sleep. You have to find out what works for you. Some people benefit from journaling before bed. If tossing and turning too much, just get up and do something non-strenuous until tired. Don’t go to bed until tired. One thing many people struggle with is mind-racing, when their minds just won’t stop.
When your mind is on overdrive like you have 12 monkeys jumping around up there, there are some things you can do. Some people might need to get up and write down all the things they are obsessing about having to do the next day or things they feel ashamed about from that day. Another thing to do is called thought stopping. Basically you tell yourself to shut up and sleep. You tell yourself you will worry about whatever is on your mind the next day, perhaps during your hour long commute. You keep telling yourself to sleep, be quiet, whatever short phrases work for you until you fall asleep. If you don’t what happens is your mind keeps going on and on, until before you know it, you’re thinking about something that happened in grade school. By that time you are aroused and wide awake. Then you start obsessing about the time and telling yourself how little sleep you’ll be getting and how miserable you’ll feel the next day. You might be thinking about how much coffee or red bull you’ll need to survive which will tax your adrenal system setting you up for more sleepless nights. Instead remind yourself that you have survived without much sleep before and one night of poor sleep won’t kill you, and that tomorrow night you will employ the thought stopping strategies and sleep good. Should the sleepless nights continue it would be wise to seek some brief therapy to get at the underlying cause. Sometimes it is sleep hygiene. One patient stopped taking afternoon naps and slept fine. Sometimes it is more serious. Taking medication is a set up for dependency on medication to sleep. You will build a tolerance, not sleep as well as you should and may be fatigued the next day. Please avoid going down that road if you haven’t already. It sucks. Sometimes lifestyle changes are what is in order. However we all know how hard it can be to eat clean, exercise, meditate and keep toxic people out of our lives. Now shut up and sleep:)