5 ways to quiet your racing mind
If you’re like many of my clients, you wake up in the night and your mind is racing like the Road Runner sprinting from Wile E. Coyote. Some of you may also have this problem at bedtime which means you’re stressed to the max. It IS possible to quiet your mind so you don’t wake up in a panic about your to-do list the next day.
I suggest trying some of these techniques to calm your overactive brain.
1. Take breaks throughout the day
First of all, managing your stress during the day will go a long way toward quieting your mind at night. You can’t go-go-go all day, crash into bed and expect to sleep peacefully all night.
Productivity experts always recommend blocking your time so you’re completing tasks in 1 hour increments. I suggest working for 55 minutes and then taking at least a 5 minute break. During that break, step away from your computer and phone, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, stand outside or take some deep breaths.
Taking these breaks will allow you to lower your cortisol levels throughout the day and give your brain a rest so that you can sleep better at night. These breaks will make you more productive, too!
Another piece of advice I always read about (and I need to start following!), is to take 5 minutes at the end of your work day to reflect on your day and plan the next day. Instead of working until the last second and shutting your computer down because you have to run out the door, spend a few minutes preparing for the next day. This closure to your day will help you relax and know that you’re prepared for tomorrow so you don't’ have to wake up in the night worrying about it.
2. Wind down
A relaxing bedtime routine is essential to a good night’s sleep. Taking the time for your brain to wind down will minimize those racing thoughts in the night.
Ideally you’re staying away from screens because they emit blue light that tells your body that it’s daytime. If you must watch TV before bed (I binge-watch Netflix shows, too!), at least wear blue-light blocking glasses so your body will produce melatonin and prepare for sleep. I’ve been wearing Swannies glasses when I watch TV and it’s made a huge difference for my sleep.
If you watch TV, give yourself at least 30 minutes afterward before you go to bed to continue winding down. You can read, listen to an audiobook, take a bath, do a crossword puzzle, stretch, meditate or journal to relax fully before bed.
Meditation is a wonderful way to prepare for sleep because the physiological changes that happen when you meditate are the same as when you go to sleep: your stress hormones lower, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease and your body temperature drops. All of these changes prepare your body for rest and relaxation.
Many people think they’re failing at meditation because they can’t stop their thoughts. Instead of trying to stop thinking, I meditate until my thoughts slow down and fade away. It takes me about 10-15 minutes of meditation at night for that to happen.
Writing down what you’re thinking before bed is another great way to decompress. That way you don’t wake up with those thoughts whizzing through your brain at warp speed at 3am. There’s something about getting your thoughts onto paper that helps your brain release them. I suggest free writing for 5 minutes every night to start. Writing down what you’re grateful for also puts you in a relaxed and positive mindset so you're less likely to wake up worried in the night.
5. Get out of bed
If you do wake up with racing thoughts and you can’t fall back asleep, I suggest getting out of bed. Instead of lying in bed unable to control your thoughts, get up and do something relaxing (my go-to is reading) until you feel sleepy again. Continuing to lie in bed is only going to make you more anxious which makes it harder to fall back asleep. I know how hard it is to get out of bed in the middle of the night. But you’ll actually fall back asleep faster and have less anxiety if you get up and then go back to bed when you’re sleepy.
(If you want to find out more about why you should get out of bed, grab my free ebook “The 5 Mistakes Busy Professionals Make When They Can’t Sleep (and what to do instead)”)
Now the truth is there could be other reasons why you’re waking up at night. Something in your body is causing cortisol to be released which is making you wired in the night. It could be low blood sugar, inflammation or a gut infection that is keeping you awake.
If you want to find out what’s causing your sleeplessness, book a call with me. We’ll talk about why you can't sleep and what you can do to fix it so you wake up rested, full of energy and motivated to achieve your dreams.