Ask SleepBetter: Repetitive Tasks Robbing Me Of Sleep

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is about a mind that won’t shut down:

“After doing a repetitive action like something in a video game or a new job like stacking boxes, I will enter a sort of loop when I go to bed and replay something similar over and over again in a sleep like state.”
-Brett (via email)

This is not an unusual question.  In fact, not being able to shut down one’s brain for sleep is probably the most common question we receive.

As with any sleep problem, it’s best to discuss this with your family doctor.  There are a number of medical issues that can cause insomnia and it’s good to rule them out first.

In the absence of a physical problem, we do have a few suggestions for individuals who are tired at bedtime but can’t stop worrying or find that their mind races in bed:

  • Avoid stimulating activities right before bed: TV and video games stimulate your brain and wake it up.  Additionally, screens like flat panel TVs, smartphones, computers, and tablets emit a type of blue light that tells your brain it’s time to be awake.  Expecting to go to sleep after all of that is asking a lot.  If you like playing video games in the evening, try turning them off at least a half hour before it’s time to turn in for the night.
  • Institute a bedtime routine: It’s been shown among the elderly and among younger children that doing the same thing before bed every night improves sleep, and it’s a good practice for the rest of us as well.  Try including a number of calming things in your bedtime routine, like a warm (not hot) bath, listening to cal music, and/or reading a calm book (the paper kind).
  • Purchase a white noise machine: These devices make “white noise” sounds that range from a babbling brook, to croaking frogs, to something that sounds like a vacuum cleaner.  Whichever noise you prefer, the idea is that you focus on listening to the repetitive sounds and the “repetitive loop” in your brain.
  • Learn basic meditation techniques: Learning deep breathing and some basic techniques to focus your mind can be very helpful.  Check out this article for some tips that anyone can put into practice.

If none of that helps, and you get stuck in your repetitive loop again, then try getting out of bed and doing something else for 15 to 20 minutes.  Reading calm book or magazine (the paper kind) is one of the best things you can do to get your mind off of things.

Do you have a question for Ask SleepBetter?
You can send us a note through our contact form,
or simply post it on the SleepBetter Facebook Page.