Imagine this: you’ve had a long, hard day at work and have just finished all your chores. It’s time to hit the bed, and you’re looking forward to some well-deserved rest.
But, after you tuck yourself in, your mind starts to wander. You start thinking about something someone said to you last week or thinking about where you’ll take your next vacation. You try to calm your mind down and fall asleep, but it doesn’t cooperate. Before you know it, it’s 6 AM, and you have to get up again.
When you’re trying to fall asleep, there’s nothing more frustrating than having your mind go into overdrive. It’s relatively common; very often, it’s only when you settle down for bed that you eliminate all distractions. As a result, your mind needs to find a way to occupy itself, which is why it begins to wander.
So, how do I stop overthinking when I’m trying to go to sleep? You can stop overthinking when you’re trying to go to sleep by using the following techniques:
- Eat right before bed.
- Practice meditation and journaling.
- Have a routine before bed.
- Make a distraction-free environment.
- Visit a sleep scientist.
For more information on how to stop overthinking before sleep with these methods, read on.
Eat Right Before Bed
For one, make sure you’re eating and drinking right before you need to head to bed. Stay away from sweets and sugary drinks, which have simple sugars that give your body and mind a boost of energy.
Instead, three to four hours before bedtime, eat a light meal of complex carbohydrates like yogurt with granola, rice, corn, or rolled oats with nuts. Carbohydrates break down into tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. You should also incorporate magnesium and calcium-rich foods into your dinner as they also help produce melatonin. Leafy greens like spinach and arugula, soybeans, and low-fat dairy products (yogurt or milk) are all excellent sources of magnesium and calcium.
You can also dine on foods that naturally contain melatonin. This reduces the pressure on the body to produce its own melatonin. These foods include:
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and peanuts)
- Vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, and vegetables)
- Fruits (red grapes, bananas, cherries, and pomegranates)
Wine is also rich in melatonin; there’s the perfect excuse to have a glass of red before bed!
An hour before going to bed, you can also sip on chamomile tea, green tea, coconut water or almond milk, all of which will relax your muscles and help you feel sleepy.
If your mind is racing a mile a minute after you settle down to go to sleep, you can also try dining on anxiety easing foods like fatty fish, oysters, flax seeds and chia seeds. These foods have high levels of Omega-3, which has been found to reduce anxiety. Foods that have plenty of zinc like eggs, liver, beef, and cashew nuts can also help reduce anxiety. If your mind is less anxious, your thoughts will be slower and calmer, eventually allowing you to drift off.
Practice Meditation and Journaling
Another way to calm your mind is through meditation. While meditation is a great practice to incorporate through your day, it’s especially helpful when you’re trying to go to sleep. There are several types of meditation you can practice:
- Mindfulness meditation – Mindfulness meditation requires you to concentrate on the current moment without judgment. While mindfully meditating, focus on the feel of the breeze on your body or how your body’s weight feels on your mattress. You may notice particular smells or sounds. If your mind starts to wander, recognize that it’s wandering and bring it back to the present moment, without feeling frustrated or annoyed. Mindfulness meditation is a conscious way to keep your mind from overthinking.
- Body scan meditation – In a body scan meditation, you focus on each area of your body, recognizing where you are holding tension and consciously relaxing that part of your body. By the time you’re done with your body scan, you should feel calmer and more relaxed.
- Concentrated meditation – When you practice concentration meditation, you focus on one thing, like a candle flickering or a mantra – “I am calm and still” or “I am here and now.” These are examples of sleep mantras that ease anxiety and induce calm.
If you’re having a hard time meditating because your mind still insists on jumping from thought to thought, try journalling an hour before bed. Journal according to where your thoughts take you – if you find yourself thinking about the day you’ve had, journal about it to allow your mind time to make sense of all the events and feelings you’ve experienced. Or, if you worry about what tomorrow will bring, make a plan for the next day. That way, you allow your mind time to think about what it needs to; in return, it will reward you by being quieter as you try to sleep.
Have A Routine Before Bed
Our minds are soothed by routines. Most of us can’t just jump out of bed and go straight into work; we need to prepare ourselves both mentally and physically by having a shower, having some tea, or reading the paper. You should have a similar routine while getting ready for bed, so your mind recognizes when to start winding down.
Tailor your routine according to what calms you down. Perhaps every night you’d enjoy a warm bath. Or maybe you’d prefer to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate. Make sure you’re choosing calming activities; engrossing yourself in a brilliant book or watching an action movie will just get your mind revved up again!
Design a Soothing, Distraction-Free Environment
Our minds can be rebellious and seize distractions in any form when it’s time to go to sleep. So, make sure your bedroom is distraction free. For starters, keep your phone and other devices away from your bed. Even the smallest vibration on your phone will perk your mind up as you wonder who’s texting you.
It’s also helpful to keep your computers and televisions out of your bedroom. Even if you switch off the TV before you fall asleep, your brain will keep processing what you see on the television as you try to drift off. Your sleep quality will be poorer, and you may wake up in the middle of the night with an overactive mind.
Once you eliminate the distractions, bring in elements that will make your bedroom more soothing to calm your mind. These include:
- Calming scents: The scents of lavender, jasmine, chamomile, and rose have been found to foster relaxation. Burn a scented candle or use a scented pillow mist to bring these beautiful smells into your bedroom.
- Use high-quality mattresses and linens: You won’t be able to sleep if you’re snuggled up in itchy sheets or an unforgivingly hard mattress. Invest in bed linens made with luxury fabrics like Egyptian cotton or silk and in memory foam or natural mattresses that will adapt themselves to your body shape. The right mattress and sheets will make you more comfortable and more likely to fall asleep.
- Get a white noise machine: White noise machines create sounds that will help soothe you. Soundscapes in white noise machines, which may be of a river flowing or the wind blowing, are specially designed to quiet your mind and lull you to sleep.
To help your mind understand that the bedroom is a place for rest and relaxation, sleep experts also recommend that you use your bedroom for just that – don’t work or eat on your bed. If you only use your bed to sleep, your mind will begin quietening down as soon as you climb in.
Visit A Sleep Specialist
If you’ve tried everything and are still unable to fall asleep, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s causing you so much anxiety. Sleep experts can help you get to the root cause of the problem and find strategies to help you stop overthinking. They may prescribe medication or run tests to find out whether there’s a physiological reason you’re finding it hard to fall asleep.
However, visiting a sleep specialist is only in extreme cases. If you start taking steps to calm your mind before bed, create an optimum sleep environment and eat and drink right, your mind will start cooperating and you’ll enjoy deep, high quality sleep every night!