Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Election season can be emotionally and intellectually draining, no matter what side you’re on. I’m a sleep and insomnia specialist who’s here to offer 5 tips that will help you sleep well, despite the stress this time can bring.
Pre-Plan Your Bedtime: For those located on the East Coast, the debates and election coverage by the media often occurs late into the evening, typically encroaching into the all sacred “bed time” for many. If you do watch the debates or coverage, do so with a plan to decide on your non-negotiable bedtime ahead of time- if you say 11pm for example, stick to it no matter what. Anything newsworthy will be likely replayed by the media the following morning or be available online.
Notice and Regulate Your Central Nervous System: Watch the debates or media coverage on as low a volume as you can tolerate, while paying attention to your body and breathing throughout. Notice things like holding your breath, tension accumulating in the body, or other physiological markers of stress, and try to bring awareness to them and reverse the stress response (e.g., breath in and exhale deeply, actively relax muscles in jaw/face, shoulders, thighs, hands, feet etc.).
Send Signals to Your Brain That it’s Bedtime: Get ready for bed during self-made “commercial” breaks: brush your teeth, clean up dinner, get into your pj’s during these moments. In the second half of the coverage, make sure that you’re cozy, with your head resting back or on the side if possible, and that lights are dimmed- about an hour before your bedtime.
Create Protected Time to Wind-Down: Turn off the TV 20–30 minutes prior to your chosen bedtime, and set aside at least 20 minutes to wind-down after the debates, no matter what time they end. Winding down includes checking-in with your body to identify areas of tension, doing some deep breathing to return the Central Nervous System to homeostasis, and commit to doing something soothing- in a dark/cool/comfortable environment (e.g., meditation, visualization, reading, watching/listening to something soothing/mundane).
Implement Boundaries to Reduce Activation: Make a commitment to yourself to avoid post-debate commentary in the media, social media, and also avoid engaging in activating discussions with others after turning off the TV. This is especially important during the 20–30 minutes prior to bedtime. You can participate in them the following day, but it will not serve you to engage in this type of activation prior to bed. If needed, set up boundaries with others in your family, household, and networks around this prior to the debates/media coverage.
Written by Courtney Bancroft, PsyD- published on Medium.com 9/29/2020