If you spend your evenings ‘in your head’, thinking through the events of the day, this can quickly give way to insomnia.
This is something that I used to do myself during the peak of my own sleep struggles, so I find it easy to recognise in my clients. So today let’s look at some practical ways for you to calm your active mind before you go to bed, allowing you to sleep better and wake up refreshed in the morning.
I was definitely a thinker when I was struggling with insomnia. I’d spend hours going through the events of the day, thinking about mistakes I’d made and revising them in my head.
First, decide if you are an overthinker
If you are a worrier or an overthinker, you first need to acknowledge it.
When you are honest with yourself, you will know if you spend a lot of time either thinking about the day you have just had and replaying scenarios in your mind. Perhaps you think through different ways that you could have handled things.
Or you might be more focused on what tomorrow will bring, anticipating problems and rehearsing them in your mind.
Of course, we all do this sometimes. So decide if you are in the ‘normal’ range, or if you are the personality type who worries a lot. Knowing this will help you to choose the right tools and techniques to settle your mind for sleep.
Getting those thoughts out of your head
For you, this might mean talking to somebody about your thoughts, but it doesn’t have to. Personally, I never felt that I wanted to go over everything I thought about with someone else. But it is important to get those things out of your head.
Of all the things I’ve tested over the years, some successfully and some not so, one of the best techniques I found was journalling.
I like to spend some time writing down what I was have previously thought about just in my head; what could I have done better, what’s coming up that I could prepare for, and so on.
It’s important to say here that the purpose of this is not to judge yourself or over-analyze potential solutions to a problem. This is simply about letting the thoughts out of your head and giving them somewhere else to go.
The physical action of writing can help you to release muscle tension as well as relaxing the mind – there have been studies that confirm this.
The key here is not to do your journaling right before you go to bed, as this would cause you to go to bed still thinking about your list. So I suggest doing this earlier in the evening, to let go of those thoughts, and then relax before going to bed.
Train yourself to stop a thought from spiralling
This is something that takes practice but is so worth working on. I’ve learnt this myself.
Start to pay attention to your thought processes and, simply through practice, train yourself to recognise when you are thinking about something that could easily spiral into overthinking and take your brain down a mental rabbit hole, playing out different scenarios or rehearsing arguments you might have.
Simply through awareness, you can catch yourself and consciously decide to let the thought go before it spirals out of control.
As I said, this one really does take practice, but it is really worth doing.
This last tip might surprise you. But I’m saying this as I’ve heard so many clients tell me that they wish they weren’t an overthinker, and blaming themselves for their inability to get to sleep.
Blaming or judging yourself won’t help.
Instead, look at the emotions that this way of thinking is bringing up for you, and talk to yourself differently. For example, if you find yourself lying awake in bed, feeling angry or frustrated at yourself for overthinking, try telling yourself the following statement.
“It’s good to think things through properly. It’s not a bad thing to be a thinker. But I’m choosing to let these thoughts go right now and go back to sleep.”
I hope you found this helpful, and of course, this is a shortlist that only begins to scratch the surface. If you have struggled with overthinking at night but found a method that helps you to let it go and return to sleep, then please do share it in the comments.