As a health psychologist, I know that our brains excel at making associations between things. As a person with common sense, I know that people tend to really like sleeping and having sex. One of the problems of chronic sleep issues is that the bedroom becomes associated with lots of different activities: watching TV, checking FaceBook, working on a laptop, or laying awake wishing you could sleep.
Clean the slate! Move the TV out of the bedroom and move all non-sleeping or sexing (is that even a word?) activities to other rooms or, if you’re tight on space, at least not on the bed. When getting into bed is only associated with sleepy time (or sexy time), it helps our minds relax and our brains send signals that it’s time to fall asleep.
Our brains just love patterns and routines. Creating a relaxing bedtime ritual trains our brains that it’s time for bed and helps us relax and get ready to fall sound asleep. What kinds of activities make good pre-bed rituals? Try relaxing, screen-free experiences like going through and turning off or dimming the lights in the house, taking a nice warm bath, meditating, and reading (just nothing too saucy!), all of which are excellent ways to relax the body and mind for sleep. Make sure to use this same ritual each night and remember that it may take some time for your brain to catch on.
Did you know that our brains are hardwired to wake us up in the presence of certain wavelengths of light? Did you know that electronic screens, such as televisions, iPads, and smartphones all emit that kind of light? It’s true! In addition to stimulating our minds, watching screens before (or worse, while in) bed actually sends signals to the part of our brain that tell us it’s time to wake up. So for greater ease falling and staying asleep it’s essential to turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime.