Off the grid

Photo by Bich  Tran from Pexels

At some point, I heard something about the impact of looking at phones, iPads, and computers before going to bed.  The essence of the story was that this kind of mental stimulation did something to disturb sleep.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. to hammer the point home.

Screen time at night keeps adults from falling asleep and sleeping well due to cognitive stimulation and sleep deprivation. Your brain’s electrical activity increases, neurons race and divert you from calming down into a peaceful state of mind for sleep.

In addition the physical act of responding to an email, text, or video increases the tension in your body which results in stress. Your body then produces the stress hormone cortisol released by the adrenal gland aversive to sleep.

Fuethermore, the brain naturally creates the hormone, melatonin, that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Too much light from video screens at bedtime affect the melatonin production giving the body the impression you aren’t ready for sleep. In addition the screen emits light that suggests to the brain that it is still daytime which contributes to insomnia and sleep deprivation. Holding a device such as a smartphone close to one’s face increases this effect giving the brain the wrong signal as if it’s not time to go to sleep. The best advice is to stop watching TV or using smartphones and other screen devices an hour or two before bedtime to give your brain a rest and the correct signal that it is time for sleep.

For as long as I can remember, and for this specific reason, I put away all electronics as soon as we're done our nightly television show.  They don't get looked at again until I wake up the following morning.

In that sense, for about 9 hours a day, I go old school.  If I can't sleep, I get up and read a book. 

As I've gotten older, and especially since we went on our trip to Southeast Asia, I find it next to impossible to sleep through the night.  Typically, I sleep deeply for a few hours, then get up to use the washroom.  All too often, my body is too restless and slipping back into dreamland is too difficult. I acquiesce, get up and read quietly at the dining room table.  All I need is 20 to 30 minutes and I'm ready to go back to bed.  The act of reading does something akin to lulling me back into ready-to-sleep mode.

There are two elements of this practice of shutting off from the outside world that are important to me.  First of all, I give myself daily permission to leap off the grid and into bed, a sacred space where nothing from the outside is allowed to disturb.  Second, communications on social media or an email that have the capacity to get my brain whirling sit dormant until I'm mentally ready to deal with them in the early morning.

If I was to jump onto the computer, even if only for mere minutes, I would see a note from a client wondering about the status of a particular commission or a comment on Facebook that would cause my brain to go into hyperdrive.  I know myself well enough to know that I don't have the ability to slow my brain down once it starts going from a slow crawl to a sprint.

All of this to say that if you send me a note of any kind after 9:30 pm, you will likely not receive a reply until the next morning.  Doing a daily jump off the grid is a rule in my life, not an exception. 

If your brain runs roughshod over your sleeping time, you might consider leaping off the grid, too.  The daily escape from the outside world could be exactly what the doctor ordered.


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