I used to struggle to switch off at nights. When I should have been closing down my brain I was indulging it with new information. Our brains are always hungry for info and stimulus, and mine doesn’t seem to want to taper off into slumber. One idea for a google search would lead to another, one news story would lead to another, one page of a book would lead to another - the information available to us is limitless. And as for the tyranny of the endless scroll of social media….
Many folk find reading a book, watching the TV or listening to the radio in bed to be relaxing and helps them wind down. I often find the opposite. It gives me more to think about.
So now the bedroom is an info free zone. I keep a pad of paper and my phone (with notifications firmly switched off) next to my bed for jotting down notes and ‘to-dos’ so I can empty my brain and capture thoughts for picking up on some other time.
Our brains use sleep as an opportunity to process, organise and memorise the days information. We can help it do this job by avoiding overloading it with new ‘stuff’ before it gets to work. Instead, the late evening is a good time to reflect on the day, draw some conclusions and put the day's thoughts to bed - a peerie pre-sleep brain tidy.
This took a little time to get into. There seemed to be an info itch knowing there’s news stories waiting to be read, or a subject that had popped into my head that I want to know more about. But now I make a list of questions and ideas for the following day and wake up with a blank canvas.
I still read and listen to the radio at nights, but I don’t do it in bed. When I close the bedroom door I’m symbolically shutting myself away and disconnecting from the outside world.
The results of this simple principle have been remarkable. I get to sleep pretty much instantly, and I wake up more refreshed and with a clearer head, free from the morning fuzz of a late-night info binge.
It’s like punctuating the day with an info full-stop.
Published in Shetland Life magazine in April 2019