Fight or Flight
First of all, are you finding your brain just won’t power down? Apparently, that’s your fight or flight response, which is the common psychological urge to either run away or stand your ground when you’re in a particularly stressful situation.
“When you’re stressed, there’s an outpouring of neurochemicals including cortisol (a steroid), and adrenalin, and these hormones wake you up,” Dr Chris says.
“They’re the same chemicals that would occur if you were walking through the jungle and a tiger jumped out in front of you, so you can run fast.
“Basically, stress causes these chemicals to keep you alert and therefore unable to sleep properly.”
Get some zzz’s
Now that you know your alert brain and body are just responding to a stressy chemical cocktail, Dr Chris says there are a couple of things that can help.
While things like meditation or active mindfulness might help you, another option is a solid pre-bedtime routine.
While this won’t solve it instantly, repeating this method over three to four weeks can get the brain to sleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, according to Dr Chris. He recommends these routines.
One hour before bed
Think about what exactly is stressing you out at least an hour before you go to bed, to ‘get it out of the way’. Write it down, observe and think, then put it out of your mind.
45 minutes before bed
This is when relaxing activities should begin to get you sleepy. This can include meditation to take your mind off negative feelings (there are heaps of apps that take only a few minutes), yoga, stretching, reading, drinking a nice decaffeinated tea, or listening to some chilled music. Pick three things and stick to them each and every night.
Ah that dreaded bit of advice! While it’s easy to lay in bed scrolling TikTok before you try to grab some shut-eye, the stimulation is not what your sleepy brain needs. The brightness of electronic screens actually suppresses the sleep hormone (melatonin). If keeping off your phone seems too hard, you can use the Screen Time settings on your iPhone to lock you out of your apps, or download an app like Forest, which is designed to keep you focused on the task at hand (sleeping).
If, after trying out all these tips, you find you’re still struggling to sleep at night, it might be time to chat to a doctor.