Overthinking about current events, tomorrow’s big work deadline, a conversation earlier that day that didn’t go exactly how you wanted it to, that email you forgot to reply to, bills that need paying, an embarrassing high-school memory… Some nights, you just can’t seem to switch your brain off and soon it’s 2am and you have to be up in 5 hours.
It’s hard to know how to stop racing thoughts turning into sleepless nights, so here’s a list of a few tried and tested methods to help you out, from one over-thinker to another.
Preparation v. overthinking
We live in an era of hyper-connectivity, full of information, communication, notifications, stimulation… And so, it kind of makes sense that you can’t just decide when you want to turn your brain off and go to sleep. The brain needs time to digest and process the day’s information, kind of like the ‘Wait an hour to go swimming after eating’ rule but for thoughts!
Establishing a bedtime routine is a good way to start to wind down before bed. Try spending half an hour or so getting things ready for the next day (picking out an outfit, packing a bag, meal prep, making a to-do list) and then half an hour relaxing (fresh PJs, a herbal tea and a good book). As long as you respect a few obvious ideas (no screens, no caffeine…), pretty much anything that helps you unwind and relax goes
Journalling v. overthinking
The pen is mightier than the overthinking! Taking a pen to paper (again no screens) and spending 15 minutes writing out your worries, stresses, frustrations or observations in a notebook. According to a study published in the Harvard Medical School Special Report, writing about your emotions can relieve stress and anxiety.
If your racing thoughts lean more towards worrying about the next day, you can try taking 5 minutes to write out a to-do list.
Meditation v. overthinking
An essential tool in your quest against overthinking, meditation is simple, effective and easier than you may think. Its effects on stress and anxiety levels are proven and scientific research is often unearthing new benefits. Slipping 10 minutes of meditation into your bedtime routine is a great way to slow down your mind and prepare yourself for sleep.
To get you started on your meditation journey, here’s an easy-to-learn, effective technique you can try tonight:
- Take a deep breath in expanding your belly (this is known as diaphragmatic breathing). Slowly count to 4.
- After 4 counts, when your lungs feel full at the ’top’ of your inhalation, take a moment to feel full.
- Then slowly exhale for 4 counts.
- Take a moment here to feel empty, before repeating the process.
Cognition v. overthinking
Another option is to give the brain a cognitive exercise to complete, diverting attention away from negative thoughts and stress. This is known as super-somnolent mentation. Think of it as an exercise that forces your imagination to go into shuffle mode. Take Dreem’s Cognition technique as an example: A series of random words are transmitted via the headband, all you have to do is imagine them. Pretty soon, you’ll be more concentrated on the words and images than your own racing thoughts, until you’ve cleared the way for sleep.
If you’re interested in meditation and cognition, check our other relaxation techniques designed to help you counteract an overthinking brain and prepare your mind and body to fall asleep.
One last thing
So there you have it, a few tools and techniques to help you turn off your racing thoughts and fall asleep more easily. Sometimes persistent overthinking maybe symptomatic of chronic insomnia, and a little extra work is required- Dreem has you covered for that too with the Dreem Coach’s Restructuring Sleep program inspired by CBT-I.
Sometimes this kind of overthinking can be part of a larger problem like anxiety or depression. If you feel that after trying the advice above, you’re still having trouble with rumination, it might be worth contacting a professional for some extra help. Remember- you are not alone.