Before bed, our brains are preparing to work differently. The brain transitions from active awareness to filing. During sleep, our brain works to discard information that it determines is useless and stores information that is helpful.
The evolving brain
Over thousands of years of evolution, our brains have figured out that when we are in danger, we need to be hyper-aware. For example, if you’re camping and you hear a growl, you’re probably not going to fall asleep right away. Instead, you’ll be amped up for a while, wondering if it was a bear. Even if you find out it was a chipmunk, you’re still not going to fall asleep right away.
This is because your brain wants to make sure it is safe before it starts filing.
Fear in the brain before sleep
However, numerous things in our modern life trigger this same fear response:
1. Screens and apps stimulate the brain.
2. Reading in bed confuses the brain, since it does not know if it should be conscious or unconscious.
3. Keeping track of a “to do” list makes the brain stay in an unrestful state.
Tips for better sleep
Here are some tips to shut off your brain before bed:
- Stop all technology 30-60 minutes before bed
- Don’t read email for an hour before bed
- Exercise earlier in the day rather than later
- Keep a notepad next to your bed so you can write down ideas or thoughts
- Ask yourself what you can do/not do while in bed, get up and complete the item you are pondering or let it go
- Categorize your worries, anxiety, and thoughts before going to bed so you have sorted through what is making your mind race