Do you often doze off whilst watching TV and then get into bed and can’t seem to fall asleep again? As a Sleep Coach, I often hear people say they have this experience.
Watching television can put our minds into a trance-like state, allowing us to begin to switch off. With the distraction of the show’s storyline, combined with the speed of the changing pictures, we are gradually coaxed into a hypnotic alpha brainwave state. For those of us with a busy monkey mind, it can work better than meditation, because of the distraction of the storyline. So, if we are not skilled at slowing our minds, or calming our nervous system, then when we make our way to bed, without our favourite distraction, we can find it hard to get into this relaxed state again. Our minds can switch back on, and suddenly we feel wired awake again.
The TV has not helped to remove our racing thoughts, it has simply pushed them aside temporarily, only for them to resurface once there is no distraction in bed. The motor of the busy mind can turn back on very easily if it is without distraction. For many people, when they stop to go to bed, it may be one of the few times they are not busy or distracted from their thoughts. Now, it is just the monkey mind, and them, in the dark.
For some, they may not realise this is what is actually happening, and how much their minds, and the nature of their thoughts are affecting their ability to sleep.
Thoughts returning to our minds, once there is no distraction, can be a sign of an unresolved struggle, or simply an untamed mind. It may on the surface appear ‘easier’ to distract ourselves from these thoughts but unless we work with the mind on a deeper level, the chances are our thoughts will continue to raise their heads in those quiet moments – away from the distractions of TV, work or socialising.
It is very common that many people don’t even notice that their busy minds have switched back on, and that that is what is preventing them from falling asleep when they climb into bed. When something is normal for us we tend not to notice it. So if we normally have racing thoughts, we may not even be aware that this is happening. This busy mind is often producing stress hormones that can be keeping us awake.
If this is happening, there may be some deeper exploration to be done into why we are holding onto these thoughts. Changing our thought patterns during the day can be a very effective way of calming our busy mind at night. Once we learn to tame our mind during the day, it will automatically be more still in the evening. But in order to do this, we need to understand how our minds operate. Only by doing this can we rewrite our mental software – and transform it into a more peaceful version of software. You may wish to ask yourself, what is it that the TV is distracting you from, and how can you begin to change it so that you are free of it both at night, and during the day.
Many experts will say not to watch tv before bed. And sure, ideally whilst dozing off, we would be free from external distractions. If we have a well-balanced nervous system, we are able to nod off without having to do anything at all. But for those of you reading this, that may not be an option at present. Ideally, yes it is better to reach this hypnotic type state through relaxation, deep breathing or meditation rather than via the tv. Otherwise, we don’t train our nervous system how to relax, and that means that we are probably in a hyper vigilant state too much of the time. However, in my opinion, falling asleep with the tv is better than not falling asleep at all. I know plenty of people who find watching tv helpful in dozing off, at least in the short term, as they are retraining their nervous systems and learning how to quieten the monkey mind.
Here are a couple of golden rules for watching to before bed time:
If you decide to doze off with your tv, make sure you have downloaded an app or changed your settings to block out the blue light. Blue light acts like the sun, and suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Chose a tv show that is pleasant and relaxing – not one that is exciting or scary – both of which will produce various types of stress hormones. In other words, chose a nice romance or drama over a horror film or murder mystery.