Dr Michael Breus is an American clinical psychologist, a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. If anyone knows a thing or two about sleep, it's him! That's why he's known as 'The Sleep Doctor'. During a 2018 interview, he said that
83% of Australians don’t make time aside to unwind properly at the end of the day. And 65% of Australians struggle to get a good night’s sleep, even on holidays! What's going on?
Part of the problem is the fact that we're so busy connecting with our screens - even in bed - and also because our methods of unwinding are not really conducive to sleep. In days gone by, 'unwinding' meant relaxing on the veranda with a cup of tea and a chat, playing board games or sitting and listening to music in the cool, dim light of the living room.
The problem with devices is not just the blue light they emit, but the fact that they keep our brains 'on' way beyond when we turn the devices off.
Dr Breus says that sleep doesn't have a convenient 'on/off' switch. There's a process that has to occur for our bodies and brains to recognise it's time to shut down, and if we don't allow that to happen, then sleep will be elusive.
He suggests 'caffeine fading', starting the day with the highest caffeine content, gradually reducing it and having no caffeine after 2pm. He also recommends a hot bath before bed, because as the body cools down, it recognises the signal to sleep.
And finally, he suggests counting backwards from 300, in threes: 300, 297, 294, 291 and so on. Not only is it boring but it takes some concentration and can keep the brain from being distracted by unproductive thoughts.