When I think of unplugging it seems like something that should be done quickly. However, we know that sleep is not simply an on/off switch. It is more like slowly pulling your foot off of the gas and slowly putting it on the brake. It's not always easy--but if you set the stage you could make it much easier, by creating a process for your mind and body to "power down."
Here is what I suggest:
- Create an inviting and relaxing environment for your sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is cool, dark and a great place for your body to rejuvenate.
- Remove any laundry or electronics, and set the temperature to between 65 and 75 degrees if possible.
The Power Down Hour™--Get your brain and body ready for sleep.
Set aside one hour before lights out for your nightly routine. I ask my patients to:
- Take 20 minutes for activities that simply must be done before morning, without exception: getting clothes laid out for the kids or yourself, finding backpacks and briefcases, etc.
- Take 20 minutes for your hygiene routine: wash your face, brush your teeth (maybe take a quick hot bath). Quick tip: Lower the lights during this time to tell your brain to start getting ready for sleep.
- Take 20 minutes to do something relaxing: reading (with a book light), meditation, prayer or relaxation techniques.
- Keep your body clock running on time. Inside we all have a circadian rhythm that tells us when to eat and when to sleep. If we go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day it makes a TREMENDOUS difference in making it easier to get your much needed rest. If that part of your brain just "knows" when it's time for bed, unplugging becomes a regular routine. Quick tip: set an alarm clock for YOUR BEDTIME. When you go in to turn it off, you will remind yourself that it is time for bed, instead of wondering "where did my night go?!"
Think of it like an exercise warm up--to get the most out of a workout or run, you need to warm up properly. The same is true in creating a "warm up" for sleep--to get the most out of the workout your body gets when it recharges for the next day.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™