We've all been there before—trying to fall asleep but our mind just won't shut off and you can't sleep. No matter how hard we try, we can't seem to stop thinking about things whizzing around in our brain. Whether it's an upcoming event, a project at work, or something else entirely, sometimes it feels like our mind just won't let us rest. So, what can we do to calm our minds and get a good night's sleep?
First, it's important to understand that you're not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adults report experiencing occasional insomnia, while 10% report chronic insomnia. And while there are many potential causes of insomnia, one of the most common is stress. When we're stressed about something, our minds tend to race, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Why is my mind racing at night?
Before you can find a solution, it's helpful to understand the problem. In this case, what is causing your mind to race in the first place? Is it anxiety? Stress? Excitement? Once you know the root cause of your racing thoughts, you can better address the problem.
1. You're Stressed Out
One of the most common reasons people have trouble sleeping is because they're stressed out. When you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it's hard to relax and fall asleep. Stress can be caused by a variety of things, including work, family, and personal problems.
2. You're Excited about Something
Sometimes, the reason your mind is racing at night is because you're excited about something that's happening tomorrow. Whether it's a big presentation at work or your child's birthday party, it's normal to feel a little bit nervous before a big event.
3. You Ate Too Much Before Bed
If you eat a big meal right before bed, chances are your stomach will start growling in the middle of the night. Eating too much can also lead to heartburn or indigestion, which can make it difficult to sleep.
4. You're Drinking Caffeine Late at Night
Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it hard to fall asleep. If you're drinking coffee or tea late at night, try cutting back or switching to decaf versions so you can get some rest. Caffeine isn't just found in coffee; it's also in soda, chocolate, and even some medications.
5. You Have Thoughts That Keep Replaying in Your Mind
For some people, intrusive thoughts are what keep them up at night. These are usually negative thoughts about yourself or your life that replay over and over again in your head. If this sounds familiar, there are a few things you can do to help ease your anxiety and get some rest.
What can I do to stop my mind racing at night?
1. Write it down.
Once you know what's causing your mind to race, one helpful solution is to write it down. Get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or into your phone's notepad - although it's better to stay away from technology if you can). This will help you clear your head and relax knowing that you don't have to remember everything—it's all written down already. Plus, once it's written down, you can refer back to it later and address those thoughts when you're well-rested and have a clear head. Some choose to keep a journal next to bed just for this reason and it can be referred to in the morning.
3. Take some deep breaths.
Deep breathing is a tried-and-true method for relaxation. Once you've written down your thoughts, take a few minutes to focus on your breath. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs completely. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times until you feel yourself start to relax. A small meditation before bed is a great nightly bedtime ritual each night. There are meditation aids that can help you unwind before bed or using an app like headspace to guide you.
4. Focus on something else.
If deep breathing doesn't work, try focusing on something else entirely—something that has nothing to do with what's keeping you up at night. This could be a positive memory, a happy place, or even just a silly song that you know all the words to. The goal is to focus on something so intently that you forget all about whatever was keeping you up in the first place. Does counting sheep work?
5. Get out of bed and do something else for a while.
If all else fails and you simply cannot fall asleep, it may be best to just get out of bed and do something else for awhile—read a book, listen to music or take a quick shower without putting all the lights on. The key is not to force yourself to sleep but rather to allow yourself to relax enough that sleep comes naturally. Trying too hard to fall asleep will only make matters worse so just let it happen when it happens!
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night with a racing mind, try some of these helpful tips! Understand why your mind is racing, write down your thoughts, take some deep breaths, focus on something else entirely, or get out of bed and do something else for awhile—just don't force yourself to sleep as that will only make matters worse! With any luck, following these steps will help you get the restful night's sleep that you need!