September 14, 2022
You’re lying in your bed, exhausted. It’s pitch-black out, and you know it’s late, but no matter how hard you try to drift off to sleep, your mind keeps racing. You may be thinking about your to-do list, overanalyzing a conversation from earlier in the day, or just anxious about the state of the world.
Racing thoughts can make it nearly impossible to unwind and get a quality night’s rest. If you often find yourself in this situation, here are some ways to calm your mind when you're trying to fall asleep:
The best place to start is by focusing on your breathing. Take deep, calming breaths and focus intently on each one. This will relax your body physically while also giving your mind something to focus on other than the thoughts keeping you awake.
Alongside breathing, mantras can help turn your mind away from what’s racing through it. This involves repeating a calming phrase over and over again (“Everything will be fine”) to prevent the thoughts keeping you awake.
A good sleeping environment can help you calm your mind down. Try using a white noise machine and turning down the temperature in your room. Even something small like hiding the clock or eliminating any residual light can help your mind settle down enough to dose off.
If all else fails, try distracting yourself by reading a book or counting backwards. The more you shift your attention away from what’s causing it to race, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
The first four tips on this list are great for when you’re already in bed. But if you’re prone to having a racing mind in the middle of the night, think about how to calm your mind before bedtime.
Unwinding before bed can help turn your mind off. On busy days we may delay bedtime to try and catch up on things we didn’t have time for earlier; this is called sleep procrastination. Scrolling through social media, checking your email, and reading the news can activate the mind and stop you from getting tired. Instead, take a warm bath or read a book to help slow your mind down before it starts racing in the first place.
Just like your pre-bed routine, daily exercise is a great way to reduce stress and calm your mind. The benefits of exercise are much more than physical; a daily workout routine provides time to sort through the thoughts that may be keeping you up at night.
If you consistently wake up in the middle of the night, cutting back on caffeine during the day can help. It’s a stimulant, so consuming it — even in the afternoon — can make it hard for your brain to turn off when it’s time to rest.
A racing mind is the enemy of a good night’s sleep. But knowing what to do when you’re faced with one can go a long way in helping you relax so you can get the quality sleep you deserve.