Watching the news lately can be traumatic and scary. We feel agitated, frustrated and sometimes just helpless.

Our eyes are bombarded with disturbing images that replay in our mind. We don’t know how what we see will impact us or our families, or how to get involved.

Viewing traumatic news can hamper our ability to process the information effectively and can even affect how we sleep.

First, we have to recognize that what we view on TV, hear on the radio or see on our digital devices is a choice, meaning – we can turn it on or off, or walk away. We should be aware of our world around us, and while we may not know exactly what to do, we can take action if it affects us or our families – or even learn how we can make a difference in our community. However, we also need to rest and get sleep. We have the power to choose what we want to let into our mind — and that is something we can immediately control.

Let’s also remember that little ones are watching – not just TV, but our reaction to what we see. They are unable to digest content that they do not have the emotional maturity or mental capacity to process. Not only should we gauge what we see, we should also be aware of what our kids view, which could negatively impact how well they sleep.

Children read body language and stress more than we give them credit. They “absorb their parent’s experiences, including the stress and anxiety.”   They watch you intently, and if you have a negative reaction to something you see they most likely will too, without really understanding why you’re upset. They are upset because you are.

Some psychologists find we may actually be attracted to negative news for many reasons, including self preservation. It may be hard to shut it off, but a good night’s sleep tonight is more important.

Sleep therapists estimate 85% of Americans have trouble sleeping at night and that some of the reasons why are not only because of the content, but the device itself.

“The big problem with light exposure that we get from electronics is that it is delaying what our brain interprests as sunset,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, a sleep doctor at Harvard Medical School. He explained the blue light from our screens sends a signal to our brains that it’s still daylight, triggering a surge of energy and blocking the melatonin that makes us sleepy.” (Sleepless in America:  How Digital Devices Keep Us Up All Night)

Engaging with any technology before bed has been known to raise stress levels, let alone if you are watching traumatic content. Plan when you will turn off all screens at night and make it at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Ways to Cope:

Limit your Exposure:

As mentioned, sometimes we get sucked into negative activity on the news and tv in general.   We sit with eyes peeled at the next possible update from television, our display devices, even random strangers.

  • Turn it off and tune it out. Again, you have the power to shut it down in favor of more positive and productive influences for you and your family.
  • Get in the habit of turning off all devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Most of our behavior is habitual, so be intentional about making good habits and being consistent with your sleep schedule.

Stick to the Routine (or if you don’t have one, make one).

  • Turn off all devices at least 30 minutes before bed time (an hour for children).
  • Make a conscious effort to slow down your heart rate and relax with:
  • Meditation
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Yoga
  • …and – a Sound Machine: The sound itself is a treat. Whether you prefer white noise or waterfall, turn on your sound machine, inhale and exhale out slowly. Think of the good in your life. If you need to write it down, write out a brief outline for how you can get involved (see below)..

Safe Space / Safe Place: Hug them tightly

  • Reassure your little ones that you are there and they are safe. Encourage them to tell you if they are upset and remind them of what keeps them safe: You, emergency workers in their community and have them tell you who the trustworthy people are around them. “Young children may not be able to fully understand, but they can understand the difference between good and bad.”(How To Help Your Child Sleep After A National Tragedy).

Learn How To Get Involved

If what we are viewing affects our community, it is hard for some of us to sleep until we learn more about how we can make a difference.

  • Learn more about outreach programs in your community
  • Figure out how much time you can give
  • What skill sets can you contribute? Are you willing to go through a training program?
  • Where and how do you want to serve (check out local community boards or dedicate time to an online search to learn more).

Finally, understand that sleep is a natural way for our body and minds to relax and de-stress. It helps us process and even rid our minds of toxins and toxic information, and is critical to our health and how we respond to crisis. Being intentional about our and our families sleep health is crucial to how we manage our waking hours and if need be, how we can be more active in our community.

For more information about ways to power down and prepare for sleep visit http://soundofsleep.com/sleep-central/.

Sources:

Huffington Post: What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health;

How to Help Your Child Sleep After A National Tragedy; Why Terrible News Really Might Keep You Up At Night

NBC News: Sleepless in America; How Digital Devices Keep Us Up All Night

LiveScience: Technology Used Before Bed Linked With Increased Stress

Southwest Public Power District: Power Down 30 Minutes Before Bedtime.

Ted.com: 4 Scientific Studies On How Meditation Can Affect Your Heart, Brain And Creativity

Greatist.com: 6 Breathing Exercises To Relax in 10 Minutes Or Less

Sleep.Org: Best Yoga Poses For Sleep

Corporation For National And Community Service: How To Get Involved