Have you seen a child at the playing zone or the fair? The more you try to pull him out and get back home, the more it howls and wants some more time to play. Your efforts to get hold of him are inversely proportional to its enthusiasm to stay put! That’s exactly how our brain behaves when we try to quiet it and put it to sleep. Even when you are tired, why, especially when you’ve had a busy day, the mind just refuses to shut its factory and keeps churning thoughts at a fast speed. So much so, you’re tired of the thoughts too at some point in time. Nothing can undermine the importance of a good night’s sleep. It not only helps us rejuvenate, but also helps solidify memory, aids digestion, flushes toxins, improves cognition, keeps you positive, clarify confusion, sort things out, be more creative the next day, relax aching muscles and in general, feel refreshed. How we sleep, when we sleep at the end of the day and how much we sleep throughout the night also depends on our age. Kids sleep early and quickly and can easily get upto 9 hours of undisturbed sleep. You feel more sleepy in the morning when you’re young. As you grow older, we sleep late and tend to wake up early too. That is our body’s mechanism designed towards a growing body in the initial years.
How do I stop the mind and get some sleep is all you’re worried. But why does the brain not quiten?
Scientists have many theories about the brain and its machinations. Some reasons why the brain is in overdrive even when it ought to take some rest are
- Excess activity: With our current lifestyles, we pack in a lot of stuff in a day’s work. Home, office, kids, their school schedules, work demands, social life, friends, after hours parties, social media, web-series, shopping, incomplete tasks…you get the drift. There’s an overdose of stimuli to the brain, all of which it must process, store and retrieve on demand. Add to it the caffeine that you consume to keep yourself alert, it’s a sure-shot formula to stay awake. So at the end of the day, the brain finds itself still doing that, not knowing where to stop
What you can do: Take time to wind down after a day full of activity. Slow down your movements, dim the lights and put on some soothing music well before bedtime. Speak less, finish dinner a good couple of hours before hitting the sack.
- Excess stress: Fretting about your investments, kids’ education, EMI’s, job security, health of loved ones and in general thinking about the future causes stress levels to spike. Stress causes excess release of stress hormones like cortisol which keep the body alert by working on the muscles. So even though you’re tired physically, the mind doesn’t allow you to sleep.
What you can do: Put down all your issues on paper and write the possible solutions besides it. Mark fixed timelines for completion. This way, you know you are in control of things
- Physical causes like pain in the limbs, stomach, head or joints does not allow you to fall asleep even when you’re feeling dead tired. Certain medications also alter our sleep patterns to a great extent. Ignoring slight pains in the initial stage can lead to aggravated conditions later that can have a deep impact on the way we rest and feel invigorated the next morning
What can you do: Get timely treatment for the root cause of pain anywhere in the body. Check with your doctor if you can alter the medicines that leaves you deprived of sleep
- When the mind is filled with anxiety, worries, negative thoughts, it’s time to replace them with positive ones. Negative thoughts, fears, envy all create a downward spiral that saps you of energy and keeps you awake.
What you can do: Consciously train your mind to see positivity in life. Make a mental list of people you must thank for helping you throughout the day. Speak to yourself that everyone is out there to help you and you can tide through any difficult situation with some effort and goodwill. Say a small prayer of gratitude.
- Many times, with a packed day, the only time you get to think, plan, analyze important things in life, is the time when you hit bed. But that is supposed to be the time to actually lend it some much needed sleep. Many people complain that they just don’t get the time to relax and think in the entire day. So when you’re supposed to shut down the brain and relax, you’re actually putting it to tasks that require urgent attention.
What you can do: Make some time in the day for thinking, worrying, planning, strategizing and stick to it. An hour’s time while commuting to and from, the time spent unnecessarily watching TV or surfing the net, checking social media posts, etc. can be put to good use as the thinking hour. That way, you can be more productive in your thoughts than keeping the mind alert late at night
- If you’ve had one or both your parents and grandparents with amnesia, you may be predisposed genetically towards inheriting it. Many people are known to live with four or five hours of sleep throughout their lives and just can’t sleep early.
What you can do: If you realize that you’ve done all you could to get some quick and adequate sleep but are unable to find the reason why it’s not happening, get yourself tested for genetics. A DNA test allows you insights into whether you are predisposed to amnesia. This way you’re clear that come what may, you have to take efforts to fall asleep all your life.
- Too much noise, cranky kids, a talkative spouse, neighbors who enjoy loud TV and music, trains or airplanes passing nearby, a busy road across your home can cause you to be alert till late in the night. Though you can’t change the surroundings you’re in, you can always have control how you shut down on the disturbances that enter your home.
What you can do: Start preparing kids for sleep few hours before bedtime. Make a sleep regimen that triggers sleep in them. Have a dedicated time to speak with your spouse about daily matters. Try to create soundproof rooms for sleeping if the surroundings are too noisy.
Sleep is not just another body function, it’s much more than just shutting your eyes and hitting the pillow. It’s an effort that can have a profound impact on your overall health.
How have you overcome a wildly active mind before going to bed? Are there any tips and tricks that you recommend? Take a moment and comment below.
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