I always think of the brain like a really weird muscle. I’m pretty sure every physiology professor ever just cringed, but I’ve found we can train our brain just like we can train our muscles. To keep your brain (and your subconscious) from being confused only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Only go to bed when you’re sleepy; if you can’t sleep it’s important to get out of bed and go to another room until you’re sleepy. Avoid anything stimulating right before bed; instead of TV pick up a book. How many times have you dozed off while reading a textbook? After a while your brain will start to associate your bedroom with sleep again which is exactly what we want!
3. Sleep Consolidation
I’ve been there, after a bad sleep I’ve taken a nap after work and then found my mind was working overtime by the time I wanted to get to bed. Although it’s actually super uncomfortable it’s really important to avoid napping no matter how tired you are. There are several substances in the body (ADP being one of them) that build up over the day and signal our bodies that they need sleep. If we nap these signals get disrupted and our internal clocks get messed up.
The regimen is like this: set a time to get up that would work for every day of the week (ie. 0700). Over the next week force yourself to get up at that time, even if you’ve only had 1 hour of sleep. The next day will feel awful. Don’t nap. But that night it’ll be a bit easier to fall asleep earlier. In the majority of people within 1 week the body will have shifted it’s internal clock back to a normal rhythm.
When I have trouble sleeping I find it’s usually because my mind is racing a mile-a-minute and I can’t quite reach the off switch. Mindfulness is a way of training the brain that allows us to reach the off switch and quiet our minds. I have a few sections of this website dedicated to it. But to get started try this: tonight focus all your attention on your breathing while you’re in bed. It’s normal to get distracted. When you become aware that your mind has wandered gently refocus your attention on your breathing. Each time you redirect your attention you’ll find that your mind softens. With practice you’ll find that you’re able to fall asleep much quicker than you previously were.
If you’ve given everything else a go and you still can’t sleep medication may help. If you’ve seen me for sleep issues in the past you probably know how hesitant I am to give out sleeping medication. My favourite choice is available over the counter. Melatonin 2-5 mg before bed can help you to feel sleepy. A relatively long trial (2 years) didn’t find any issues with dependancy.
Other medication choices may help you fall asleep but they can cause a dependancy if used too long. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck on a medication they can’t ever get off of. That’s why it’s important to have a sleeping plan in place before starting any prescribed sleeping medication. If you feel you need sleep medication have a chat with your doctor about the risks and benefits of