Do you have intrusive thoughts or racing thoughts at night when you're trying to sleep? You're not alone. The good news is that there are things you can do to clear your mind which we will cover in this article. It takes a little time and patience, but it's worth it.
Disclaimer: This article uses home remedies; it does not constitute medical advice. If you continue to struggle with insomnia, see a medical professional.
1. How to clear your mind from night time anxiety, worries, and negative thoughts
The first step is attacking worries, concerns and things of that nature. Most likely, these are what are keeping you up more than, say, mentally replaying a movie that you recently watched. So if your thoughts involve things you're stressing out about, here are two options for how to deal with them.
The tactic here is to tell yourself you'll deal with concerns and worries in the morning and that the morning is the time for those things, not now. You're not pushing it off indefinitely - but night time is not the time to deal with it.
This lets you know that the worry or concerns is something you'll be looking at, just not right at this moment. This is a much easier tactic to do than to push the worries away, otherwise they will just come back. So every time you think of a concern, just mentally remind yourself that you'll be examining it in the morning (and then do that). In the meantime, just focus on a boring thought to lull yourself to sleep.
If this doesn't work well for you, then try either or both of the approaches below to provide a more concrete way of pushing off your worries at night time.
Use mental imagery
Imagine wrapping up the worry or concern as if it were a gift, and just handing it off, away from you. Each time a concern pops into your head, wrap it up and hand it off. Keep repeating.
Remember to focus on a boring-but-pleasant thought (e.g. a hill of flowers in the breeze) once you've handed it off.
Write down your concerns
For this, make sure either:
- your phone is charging within reach of your bed, or
- that you have a pen and notebook within reach of your bed.
Each time you start worrying about something, dictate it as a memo into your phone or write it down in the notebook. Remind yourself to come back to it in the morning. Yes, it's an interruption each time you do that, but this will over time discourage your brain from thinking intrusive thoughts at night.
2. Retrain your brain for sleep
Right now your brain won't shut off at night because nothing is stopping it. You don't want this to be the case, but it's still happening. So at night your brain is producing anxiety, which is keeping you awake, and the more awake you are, the more time your brain has to produce anxious thoughts. As you can see, this goes around and around in a vicious cycle.
Good news: you can break that cycle by retraining your brain. This is much easier to do than you think it is - no equipment or supplies needed! And it's completely free. That's a topic in itself which has been covered in our separate article on 5 natural ways to get to sleep by retraining your brain. If you can't sleep because you can't stop thinking, this will help a lot.
3. Things you can do physically to get to sleep better
The first two approaches covered mental techniques only. But there are also physical aspects for how to stop racing thoughts and get to sleep easier. This is everything from your sleep environment to sleep hygiene techniques to exercise. The more of these things you can get under control, the better.
We cover these physical steps for how to fall asleep in our separate article on how to sleep for 7 hours.
Yes it is possible to beat intrusive thoughts at night! Use the 3 techniques shown above. It can be daunting making big changes like this, so one way to make it easier is to take it day by day for 10 days - do all these techniques every day in a row. After 10 days is up, you'll most likely find a big improvement in your ability to get to sleep. And of course, everything feels better when you're not sleep deprived! This improvement will give you the further motivation you need to continue with these techniques.
Eventually they will become habit and you'll find yourself doing them automatically. But for now while your mind is racing at night, you need to make a point of putting all of these free, natural sleep techniques into action every day for 10 days. Of course, if you're still struggling, see a medical professional.