Many people struggle with sleep. A common reason for this is that they can’t seem to shut their mind down. Instead of sleeping, they spend the evening reviewing the day they’ve just finished while anticipating the day to come. Some people worry about the problems of today while others allow their thoughts to go back to the past which stirs up painful, traumatic, or unresolved memories. Instead of sleeping, they become filled with stress, anxiety, and worry. It is hard to sleep when your mind is trying to solve a lifetime of problems.
Lack of sleep is associated with a number of health problems, from mental illness to heart disease. As a result, it is important to learn to quiet the mind so that your body can prepare for sleep. Listed below are some steps that you can take to calm your mind and get back on the path toward better sleep.
Use Scheduled “Worry Time”
Rather than letting the worries of the day consume you, schedule a set amount of time to think about the problems that you are facing. During this “worry time” let yourself worry and feel all that you need to. When the time is up, set the worries aside and engage in other activities. If the worries re-emerge, remind yourself that you will have more worry time tomorrow to think about the problems and so you don’t have to give it more time today. This is often a useful way of compartmentalizing the worries so that they don’t disrupt your efforts to sleep.
Do a Data Dump
When you are ready to start unwinding, do a Data Dump of the day. Use a journal to write down your thoughts, feelings, worries, and accomplishments of the day. Instead of processing the day as you prepare for sleep, write your thoughts of the day down at the beginning of your winddown routine. This is also a great time to make your to-do list of tasks you want to address for the next day. It is amazing how much easier it is to quit thinking about the tasks of tomorrow when you write them down. As the saying goes, “On paper, off the mind.”
Try Relaxing Activities
Before bedtime spend at least 30 minutes relaxing and decompressing. You might like to read, watch TV, stretch, listen to music, take a shower or a bath, meditate, or pray. Ease yourself into the night by relaxing before you try to sleep.
Use Breathing Exercises
A significant way to silence your thoughts is through a simple breathing exercise. Learn to take slow deep breaths that slow down your heart rate. Focus on pushing out with the stomach muscles when you breathe in and push in when you breathe out. With practice, you can learn to calm the body with deep breathing which will help quiet your mind.
Use Guided Imagery
Guided imagery can help redirect your thoughts away from the worries of the day. There are numerous apps that you can download which can take you through various guided imagery exercises. Find the ones that you enjoy and use them when your brain has trouble turning off.
Power Down Your Brain on Time
Start your bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Relax by listening to music or reading. Create a consistent winddown routine. It will make sleeping easier.
Make a Consistent Sleeping Schedule
Having a consistent sleep schedule is a powerful tool for better sleep. It allows your body to get into a rhythm which makes it easier to quiet the mind.
Get Out of Your Bed
If you can’t seem to quiet your mind while you are trying to sleep, get out of bed. Read a magazine or article for a few minutes and then get back in bed and try to go to sleep. Stay away from reading material that is anxiety-producing or that is overly engaging. Instead, find something to read that simply breaks the thought patterns that you are in. Alternatively, you can draw, write, or do a mindless activity for a few minutes. The key is to focus on breaking the thought pattern without becoming overly engaged in a new activity.
Distractions, such as a favorite hobby, mainly a calming one, can silence the mind and help a person focus on something other than racing thoughts. Based on the preferences of a person, the possibilities for reducing stress and finding distraction may include gardening, cooking, reading, painting, singing, going for walks or other outdoor activities, watching movies, or listening to songs.
Regular exercise enhances mental well-being and can help you clear your mind. Exercise can also help you manage your stress, decrease your anxiety, and improve your mood.
Manage Quantity of Caffeine
Monitor your caffeine intake. Try eliminating caffeine completely or limit your consumption to the morning hours. Remember that coffee, sodas, non-herbal teas, chocolate, and certain other products are sources of caffeine.
Don’t Focus on the Future or the Past
Racing thoughts for certain people derive from something that has not existed and never will happen. Others dwell on problems that have arisen in the past but cannot be altered today. Focus on the moment, not the regrets of the past or the worries of the future.
Tips for Getting to Sleep Faster
Following are some tips to prevent insomnia and sleep better.
- Avoid afternoon caffeine. Coffee and tea can mess with your sleep even if you take them hours before bed.
- Take a hot bath. The rapid cooldown of your body temperature after you get out will help you fall asleep.
- Bring the lights down. An hour before bed, dim the lights and turn off the screens to signal your body that it’s time to wind down.
- Most people fall asleep faster and sleep better in a cool room.
- Use a fan to create some “white noise.”White noise can help drown out the other noises in the room and can give your mind something to focus on.
- Take long, slow, deep breaths. It will help your body begin to relax.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.