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Sleep Sabotaged by Stress

Sink into SleepSleep undermined by stress in the subject of a recent Globe and Mail article  by sociology professor Dr. Scott Schieman.  He points to  “cognitive intrusion” as being a major sleep disruptor.  In simple terms a cognitive intrusion is anything that disturbs your normal thought processes, in this case a blurring of the line between the work day and “me time”.

Can you clear the decks [for sleep] if you check email before bed, and worse, open an angry one?

Schieman’s suggestions are to stop reading emails 2 – 3 hours before bed and leave all work related paraphernalia (i.e. your smartphone) outside of the bedroom.  My personal experience is that my mind is quite capable of reminding me of appointments I need to make, people I need to contact, birthdays I need to remember and work I need to do whether or not I read emails before bed.

Advice from a Musician

What has really helped me is something my music teacher taught me long ago about stress:  you can trick your body into thinking that everything is fine.  What he had me do is establish a warm up routine that was exactly the same whether I was practicing at home or about to do a high stress audition or concert.  As you start warming up, you get into that familiar groove, letting the muscle memory take over, so you can relax into your performance.

You want your body to feel as though this is just a normal day.

The Sleep Habit

What I learned is that you can warm up (or cool down!) for sleep in the same way.  There is lots of good advice out there about not drinking caffeine or watching TV before bed, but very little of it focuses on your internal experience.  When I started listening to Molly’s recordings, I focused on using them as part of my routine.  Now my body knows what it feels like to relax, so I can just go there when I want to, whether or not I’m listening to a recording.  It’s like the feeling of riding a bicycle.  Your body comes to know what relaxing and going to sleep feels like.  Then it gets much easier to deal with those pesky cognitive intrusions!

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