Clearing the Deck Before Sleep
It is helpful to clear the mind at the end of the day so that we’re not processing everything as we are trying to go to sleep. There can be stages of junk dreams and junk sleep that we have to travel through as we fall into deeper sleep and dreams, there are different brain waves states that we go through like beta, alpha, theta, delta.
These are brain wave patterns that we experience as we fall deeper into sleep. Beta waves are high-frequency, low-amplitude brain waves that are commonly observed in an awaken state. They are involved in conscious thought and logical thinking, and tend to have a stimulating effect. Alpha brain states can be like a waking dream state. This is a state where you may have your eyes closed, but you’re still awake and alert. Your brain isn’t totally at rest, but it’s not attempting to tackle anything big that requires concentration.
Next is a theta state. This is the creative aspect of sleep. The great inventor, Thomas Edison used to take 15 minute power naps if he was stuck on something. After his 15 minute power nap, he would wake up with a solution to the problem he was dealing with. Finally, there is the delta level, the deep and dreamless state. That is the level that is refreshing and recharging to the body.
If we have a lot on our mind, it’s common that we will have to process it before we can go into a deep sleep. The mental activity on our mind can come from interactions we had during the day, tasks we completed or (gulp) didn’t complete, things we read, television we watched, and stimulation from our phones. Depending on how much processing we have to do, we may not even get to sleep or into that deep level of sleep. It’s common to stay awake, thinking about all the things that didn’t find completion at the end of the day.
Therefore, clearing your head can be a powerful habit end of the day. Some methods for clearing excessive mental activity can be light reading, journaling, or a particular method of journaling called a brain dump or mental dump. This method, for example, can occur when we are ready to go to sleep and we’re still thinking about a project we’ve been working on.
We can write down everything on our mind about that project (or interaction, or fear, goal, hope, dream, problem), so that the information is on the paper and it’s not running in the brain anymore. This way, we can sleep knowing the information has been captured, at least for the day. I recommend the mental dump method, gratitude journaling, success journaling, and daily review before leaving the office so we don’t take that information home with us.
The Six Healing Sounds is my favorite breathing exercise to use for falling asleep.