Practically everyone knows what it feels like to be kept up at night by their own thoughts. Whether you’re analyzing the events of the past day or worrying about what’s to come tomorrow, the inability to calm and control your racing mind so that you can actually get some shuteye can be enough to feel nearly torturous.
Ensuring a good night’s sleep, even when your daily life is busy and frantic, starts well before you turn in for the night. A few critical things to keep in mind include:
- Staying regular with your sleep time (and wake-up time).
- Cutting out all caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.
- Limiting exposure to light-emitting screens an hour before you go to bed.
- Creating an optimal sleep environment that’s dark, quiet and cool at night.
- Doing something relaxing right before you hit the hay (like reading a book, stretching, taking a bath or listening to some calming music).
1. Grab a notebook and a pen to write out what you’re feeling.
Instead of trying to suppress your thoughts, try releasing them through journaling. Use a pen and piece of paper to write out whatever’s currently flowing through your mind. Don’t try to type out your thoughts on a laptop or anything else with a screen since the blue light will only keep you awake longer.
2. Turn on some ambient music that’s specifically designed to help you fall asleep.
If you find it difficult to be left alone with your thoughts while it’s so quiet, you may be able to use music to distract you, drown out your negative internal voice, and calm you down. The perfect type of music to listen to when you’re trying to sleep is instrumental ambient music, ideally with a 4/4 beat at 90 beats per minute, set at low to medium volume.
3. Follow a guided meditation geared toward stress and anxiety relief.
Meditation relaxes both the mind and body while quieting the mind and bringing you back to the present moment. To find a guided meditation that targets your problems of stress, anxiety and insomnia, get up and grab your phone or laptop (making sure to turn the brightness way down on the screen to avoid excess light exposure) and search for free apps or YouTube videos that offer them.
4. Turn your worrying thoughts into thoughts of gratitude.
This certainly isn’t easy to do, but it’s very powerful if you can do it—especially during those tough times. Force your mind to shift toward thinking about everything you’re truly grateful for in your life, and if you want, you can use your negative thoughts as a starting point. For example, if you’re stressed about a project at work, try thinking about what it is you love about your work, the great people you get to work with or the accomplishments you’ve made.
5. Try a mental exercise to take your mind off of what’s keeping you up.
Maybe all you need is some distraction. Simple mental exercises take your focus off your worries and are easy enough to do. For example, with your eyes closed, you could try thinking of all the fruits and vegetables there are that start with the letter “C.” Or you could try to recall each and every dog you’ve petted over the past five years. These are some good ways to exhaust your mind and eventually help you drift off to sleep.
If falling asleep and staying asleep is a regular problem for you, then you should talk to your doctor about it. Depending on what’s causing it, you may need some other forms of treatment (in addition to good sleep habits). Regardless of what’s keeping you awake at night, the above tips are still powerful enough to help just about anyone.
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