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December 11, 2019

How to Shut off Your Brain for Bedtime

As you set out to fall asleep at bedtime, the critical moments of that journey are influenced by your brain’s ability to shut off from the external world.

Basics in Shutting Out the World

Some of the obvious ways to shut off your brain from the external world are mere physical steps, which incidentally, can be most effective if done somewhat in this order– beginning 2 or more hours before bedtime:

  1. Change into cozy clothing that lets your body relax from the constraints of work clothes.
  2. Relieve early on long-acting organ functions, such as digesting food, alcohol, or processing caffeine late at night.
  3. Set your morning alarm clock early in the evening so you can calculate your bedtime based on getting 7-8 hours of sleep before your alarm clock will go off.
  4. Minimize your eyes’ exposure to light, especially electronics, since this helps your body to begin secretions of the important sleep hormone in the brain (Melatonin).
  5. Adjust your thermostat for sleeping; the body needs to lower its temperature to fall asleep–and ideally, your bedroom should be between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Beware of external noise interrupting your sleep: sleeping to the television is just never good. But also, even relaxing music that helps you fall asleep could fragment your sleep later in the night–try putting your “white noise” on a timer.

Riding Your Brain Waves into Sleep

When you shut off your brain from the external world, your brain can do its internal job.

scientific photo of a brain and electrical waves moving through it

In simpler terms, your brain generates various waves of power similar to an ocean’s wave. The brain goes from peaking, curling, and crashing in alertness to leveling off, flowing in sequences, which eventually ends in slow waves at the end of our day.

  • Beta state — when the brain is externally aroused and engaged, such as in focused debate or conversation, complex work performance, or stressful driving conditions.
  • Alpha state — when the brain is reflecting, partially engaged in the external, such as pleasure reading, easy cooking rituals, taking a stroll window shopping or in the garden (first step to sleep)
  • Theta state — often referred to as “auto-pilot”; typically a positive state, when the brain goes through the motions but is mentally disengaged (gaining on sleep)
  • Delta state — when the brain is solely internal, dreamless (non-REM), in deep sleep.

Why Do Our Brain Waves Keep Storming Sometimes?

One compelling scientific theory for why our brain won’t shut down at night, even when we desperately need it to, is that this is connected to our most primitive, hunter-gatherer, times of striving as a species to protect our survival.

Mankind has evolved, but our survival instincts still explain a lot about sleep. In more primitive times, man had to carefully assess their safety before dozing off:  Were there any signs of a predator nearby that day? Did they have a protective location or weapons? Could enough food and water be gathered for the week ahead?

a camp fire in a dark cave

Even though our American culture has come a long way from such a primal existence, our brain still tends to process the events of the day, while we lie idle in bed at night, in hopes of maintaining our survival…

Interpersonal relationships = your social acceptance vs. being ostracized. Work performance = your future success vs. lost livelihood. Health/Lifestyle decisions = your reaching full potential vs. physical pain. Well-being = happiness vs. mental anguish

Try Counting Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

Whether you call them “blessings”, or otherwise, science has found it effective to counteract our tendency towards negative (survival) thoughts by putting a positive slant on things at bedtime.

Pondering on how our brain waves function is probably not on most people’s radar. At the same time, it’s a good idea to ponder how your time before bed, and in bed, isn’t the time to fix your problems. You can help your brain to weather the storms of life by moving its attention away from negative thoughts at night so you can sleep better.

woman laying in bed peacefully with a smile on her face

  • Instead of focusing on mistakes you’ve made, try thinking about how well you are capable of change and how you want to build on that.
  • Instead of thinking of your mundane activities that you think are insignificant, try thinking about how many people you have helped that depend on you.
  • Instead of being sad about your losses, think about how you are freed up to be available for other opportunities and friends.
  • Instead of chalking up a blessing as a “coincidence” in your life, think harder about how you contributed to it happening.
  • Instead of just worrying about your sleep, find out ways to improve your sleep. Check out our best mattress guide for helpful tips and information on choosing a mattress for your unique sleep needs.

Is Your Mattress Helping You Shut Off Your Brainstorm…until the Morning?

Even though psychology gives us really useful information about sleep today, it still can’t make up for what a truly good mattress will do for your sleep and brainwave needs!

couple testing out a mattress together

At Mattress Express we have the most effective sleep surfaces for sinking your brain’s worries into a smoothe current of slumber. And in the morning, when you’re well-rested, you can then be in a more relaxed state for making a to-do list.

Check out our Posh+Lavish mattress collection that has particularly nice mattresses fitted to your needs!