Counter insomnia with a relaxing pre-bed routine

Q:  My sleep is spotty, and I often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Will a wind-down period before sleep help me?  Is it a good idea to avoid computers and TV before bed?  Can I have just a small amount of caffeine before bed?  How long before going to sleep should I start winding down?  Finally, can stress and anxiety that bother me during the day affect my sleep at night?

A:  Good questions all.  Let’s work through them one at a time.

Will a pre-bed routine help me, and how long before going to sleep should I start winding down?

Absolutely yes, and we suggest scheduling at least an hour or more if you can.  There are many different kinds of relaxing things you can do during this period, but the general idea is to minimize stress or anxiety.  So things like arguments, work if it’s stressful, watching a really scary movie, and so forth are not especially good at transitioning you from wakefulness to sleep.  Reading a relaxing book, working with your hands at a hobby you enjoy, taking a bath, getting your clothes ready for morning, and so on, might be very good things you can do during your pre-bed routine.

A sleep-supportive pre-bed routine also has the benefit of establishing a conditioned response over time that you begin to automatically associate with a good night’s rest.  This response can help counter the negative association many insomniacs have with their beds and the idea of sleep.  The underlying concept is that over time we associate our consistent pre-bed routines with the idea of good sleep.  Everyone’s different, but you will over time find the routine that works best for you.

Can even a small amount of caffeine before bed disrupt sleep?

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can and will disrupt sleep, but it can be consumed within reason.  Most sleep experts say you can enjoy products with caffeine in them providing you give yourself enough time to metabolize it through your system before bed.  For some people this can take 5 or more hours, but everyone is different, with different tolerances.   We suggest first be aware of what foods and drinks contain it (there are many, including chocolate), and then try to minimize caffeine after mid-day or so.  This does not necessarily mean you have stop any and all caffeine later in the day, just be reasonably aware of what it is doing to you.

Is it a good idea to avoid computers and TV before bed?

The research says yes. Light, particularly in blue wavelengths often produced by LEDs, has been clinically shown to reduce melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone that’s produced naturally in our bodies before and during sleep.

However, many people’s experience says otherwise, at least within reasonable limits.  Before bed many people watch TV, read, go online on a smartphone or computer, and without a noticeable impact on sleep.

So this is a personal decision based on your specific circumstances.  Yes, light does have at least some affect, so whatever you do before bed, we suggest doing it in subdued lighting if you can.  Then test this for yourself.  See if, over time, your sleep is or is not impacted by use of such devices before bed.

Can stress and anxiety during the day affect my sleep at night? 

Absolutely. Stress and anxiety experienced during the day can result in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.  Cortisol can act as a stimulant and disrupt sleep.  If the experience of stress and/or anxiety is excessive during the day, cortisol, like caffeine, may still be present in the body hours later and disturb sleep.

For insomniacs, it can actually go far beyond this.  For many insomniacs, just the thought of sleep, just the idea of yet another night of tossing and turning in bed for hours on end in frustration, only leads to more cortisol produced throughout the night.  For some, the production of cortisol can be a vicious nearly nonstop cycle!

We cannot completely stop stress and anxiety, nor should we try.  That’s unrealistic.  But we can take proactive steps to reduce them both, to manage them, and thereby experience a benefit.  And not only for sleep.

There are proven ways to manage stress and anxiety without drugs.  We suggest the best approach is to get to the root sources, which are often the largely automatic recurring negative thought patterns that underlie stress and anxiety.

So even if we cannot stop experiences that may be stressful and cause anxiety, we can manage how we react to them.  Our reactions are something we control.  By learning to do this, we create a permanent solution that includes better sleep and much more.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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9 Comments on “Counter insomnia with a relaxing pre-bed routine”

  1. wartica Says:

    I’ve never had luck watching a movie, or being on the internet before bed, but meditation and reading have changed all that:)

    jonwatersauthor.com


  2. […] you can pamper yourself a little to help reduce stress.  Schedule yourself a quiet relaxing downtime before bed to help prepare your mind and body for sleep, and try to tune out any household fighting during […]


  3. […] is to plan a relaxing pre-bed routine every night.  The general idea is to minimize stress or anxiety during this time, to help […]


  4. […] addition, before bed use a relaxing routine to help transition yourself to a calm and restful state conducive to falling […]


  5. […] Prebed sleep routines are important providing they are relaxing and help you transition to a rested state conducive to falling asleep.  However, if and when they get to the point you feel rigidly compelled to follow them, and getting out of line causes you stress, then the idea has backfired. […]


  6. […] Prebed sleep routines are important providing they are relaxing and help you transition to a rested state conducive to falling asleep.  However, if and when they get to the point you feel rigidly compelled to follow them, and getting out of line causes you stress, then the idea has backfired. […]


  7. […] and colas) after about mid-day, avoiding alcohol or nicotine close to bedtime, and using a relaxing pre-bed routine to help transition to a drowsy state conducive to […]


  8. […] course watching any caffeine intake, getting daily exercise, minimizing stress before bed, and so forth, are also […]


  9. […] can also try a relaxing wind down period starting about an hour or so before your scheduled bedtime.  The idea is to begin […]


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