Setting aside an opportunity for 'worry time' can help you sleep

Bad habits can make your brain associate your bed with stress

  • Best to give yourself an hour to wind down
  • Your brain can associate places with moods
  • Leave bed if stressful thoughts are keeping you awake

Whether it’s personal troubles or COVID-19, stressful thoughts can mess with your sleep.

One local expert said it is normal and natural for people to have trouble turning their mind off when they go to bed. But there are a few things you can do to clear your mind and ease your bedtime woes.

“If you have troubles sleeping and you’re tired the next day, it’s harder to cope. Molehills turn into mountains more easily when you’re tired. It’s really important to protect your sleep, especially when you’re stressed,” Dr. Ron Cridland, medical director at the Kelowna Sleep Clinic told Kelowna10.

It’s important to allow your brain to actually think about the persistent thoughts keeping you awake at night, he said. He recommends setting aside an opportunity for ‘worry time,' as it's crucial to not let your mind race with worry in bed or places where you relax. Otherwise, your brain will associate those locations with worry and stress, which can prevent you from resting.

During ‘worry time,’ the doctor said to sit at a table or desk and allow yourself to think. You can write things down, make notes in calendars or a journal to help process thoughts disrupting your sleep.

“Do whatever it takes so you can give yourself permission to forget about it for the rest of the night,” Cridland said.

“You might not have solved things, but you’ve taken things as far as they can go, and any more thinking is redundant.”

For an hour before bed, he recommends winding down with relaxing activities like puzzles, reading, listening to your favorite music, etc.

However, Cridland said to resist the urge to pick up the TV remote. Bright flashing lights can have the opposite effect.

Even just looking at your smartphone before bed can suppress your natural melatonin and stimulate the brain. While some people may fall asleep with the TV on, the quality of rest won’t be as good.

He said the hour to wind down is important to insulate your sleep from the events in your life and the stresses which can disrupt it. It also helps build good sleep habits.

If you are staring up at the ceiling with stressful thoughts keeping you awake, Cridland said to leave bed in order to avoid creating that negative association with where you rest.

“If you’re lying in bed for an hour or two every night awake, what you’re doing is you’re practicing insomnia and that’s what you’re getting good at,” Cridland said.

“You should get out of bed, go into another room and do something relaxing until you start to feel sleepy and then go back to bed.”

Published 2022-01-11 by David Hanson

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