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Just as we need to be physically active to sleep well, we also need to be mentally active.
Mental exercise, like physical exercise, has been shown to result in better sleep. To put it differently, boredom or a lack of mental activity can reduce the need to sleep and contribute to insomnia, just as a lack of physical exercise can.
Strong mental activity encourages improved sleep because it is a positive stressor on the mind, and the brain will recuperate from this activity and process it by sleeping more deeply.
My own experience and history with insomnia supports this. For years, I've kept detailed sleep logs in which I record what I did on a particular day and how I slept that night. On days when I actively use my mind, such as when I learn a new and difficult task, I tend to sleep better on those nights. For example, see my puzzle story here. On days when I'm a couch potato mentally and have my mind in neutral (TV watching, Internet surfing), I tend to not sleep as well on those nights. (As a result, I have eliminated "mentally neutral" days as much as possible.)
Just as with physical exercise, you should not be highly mentally active right before bedtime. Unlike physical exercise, however, you usually don't need several hours to calm down from mental exercise. Probably about an hour is enough transition time from mental exercise to going to bed.
While you should not be highly mentally active before bedtime, this does not mean that you should be bored before bedtime. Boredom creates anxiety and stress, and this can interfere with falling asleep easily and staying asleep. Just before bedtime, TV watching, reading, talking are acceptable as long as they don't cause boredom or, on the flip side, excitement.
Anything that you do differently in your day will stimulate your brain by causing it to work more to process the new information. This will let you sleep better at night because your brain will require more deep sleep to properly recuperate.
Here are some very simple ideas to get you started. With a little effort you will surely be able to come up with many.
things differently than you normally do, you knock the dust
off much of your brain and force it to work hard, instead
of just going through the motions with ease. And a brain that
gets worked hard is a brain that sleeps well.
Not to mention that doing things differently will add some spice & variety to your life.
Go ahead and do something differently today, no matter how small just to get you started. And then do more different things with each day. You don't really have anything to lose except for sleepless nights.
People with insomnia often are preoccupied with it and worry about it during the day. I personally used to just sit around thinking and worrying about my sleep problems. This is the temptation that must be resisted at all costs because obsessing over insomnia will only feed it and make it worse.
By focusing on other things, such as doing things differently
or on the activities below, you at least partially move your
thoughts elsewhere in addition to increasing pressure on your
mind to sleep well. In other words, by focusing on healthy
mental (or physical) activities, you starve the thoughts and
worries that likely contribute to your poor sleep.
IN THE NEWS: Sleep Like The Dead's research findings have appeared in such news publications as Barron's • Toronto Star • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Edmonton Journal • Woman's World • The Consumerist • The Gazette • Ottawa Citizen
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