When it comes to falling asleep, are you Team Over-Think or Team Doze-Off-As-Soon-As-Your-Head-Hits-The-Pillow? If it’s the latter, we’re really jealous of you.
Bedtime should be the time to switch off, get cozy and step into the land of kinks. But for many of us, it’s actually when our minds run wild until we chase away any chance of getting that wonderful sleep we crave.
Not only do we start thinking about the stress of the day, we often think about the most random things ever — like how many movies Reese Witherspoon has starred in, or the name of that comedian whose show you’ve ever seen, or exactly what you wore on your birthday last year. Only me?
Why does this overthinking happen and how can we control it? For the most part, says Carley Symes of the Counseling Directory, it’s just our thoughts that catch up with us at the end of another day.
“Our days are filled with things to do and process and think about from the start. The only time we really start turning those things off is when we’re in bed, getting ready to go to sleep,” she says. “So it makes sense that all those things that we didn’t have room for all day would hold up.”
But why the random thought generator? According to Symes, this is because our subconscious and conscious are beginning to overlap.
“When we get tired at night, our mind wants to open up to process all our ‘stuff’ while we are dreaming. When we start to fall asleep, these barriers fall away,” she says.
“We have a lot of free space right now and our brain is trying to fill it by processing what is needed and what is not needed from the day (and from our history).
“It tries to learn from mistakes, keep us safe by connecting dots with feelings we’ve felt before to see if there’s a pattern, and archive what needs to be archived.”
During this sieving process, our brains fixate on certain things and then our reactions to those things feed further fixation. “It’s a real overlap of our subconscious and conscious that can make things feel out of our control,” she says.
According to Eve Menezes Cunningham, a member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, the key to combating this brain overload at night could be more mindfulness during the day.
“Allowing ourselves breaks every day – maybe mini-mindfulness meditations, maybe just taking a break with a hot drink or going for a walk – will make the rumination before bedtime less intense,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Could it be that you are insomniac for a reason, she asks. If so, try to get those disturbing thoughts out before you try to sleep — in a journal, write them on a piece of paper, or even tap them on your phone.
Symes agrees with this advice. “Good sleep hygiene and creating more space in your day to process your thoughts can be very helpful,” she says, whether that’s by journaling or seeing a therapist.
She also recommends creating a calmer environment before bed with “anchors” within easy reach of where you sleep.
“Anchors are sensory triggers that allow you to tap into a sense of the present and calm your nervous system,” she explains. “When we envision something with the year it is in, we are away from the past and towards where we are now.
“A soft toy that we can touch that smells like lavender stimulates our senses in the present and helps us get out of our heads. Their mere presence around our bed can help ground us or reach out when we need them.”
Driving your brain from 100 miles per hour to a state of perfect rest is unrealistic, Cunningham says, but taking care of your mind and body during the day can make for a more restorative night’s sleep.
“A tired (in a good way) body helps relax the mind,” she says. “Find ways to incorporate more exercise into your daily life, whether that’s kickboxing or yoga, swimming, cycling or running, or something completely different.”
This focus on movement, connecting with your breath, noticing your body getting stronger, fitter and more flexible will help you feel stronger when it comes to having the courage to face potentially scary or disturbing thoughts. And you burn off excess stress hormones. at.
“Anything we can do to help our nervous system enter rest and digestion mode before bed will help, from calming deeper breaths with longer exhalations to a relaxing bedtime routine like you would offer a toddler,” says Cunningham.
“You could support this with essential oils that help you feel relaxed, maybe some fun music — experiment with what works for you.”
And if all else fails, you can always try this two-minute TikTok sleep hack.