How to Stop Overthinking at Night So You Can (Finally) Get Some Sleep

Over the past few days, I've been finding myself with a lot of worries about the future. Suddenly, I feel all this pressure to make decisions that feel like will dictate my future. And that's scary to think about.

Last Saturday night, I found myself thinking about those decisions, pondering all the possible routes that I could take. All these thoughts were swimming in my head. However, I knew that I needed to get some sleep. Unfortunately, the thoughts were restless and I couldn't stop thinking about everything. And when I finally fell asleep (who knows how), I woke up again at 4am, with the same thoughts bubbling to the surface and keeping me awake.

It seems like during the day, we're always tired. However, the second that we get into bed, ready to go to sleep, all kinds of thoughts emerge. Whether it's just you replaying one moment from your day over and over and analyzing it, coming up with countless other ways the moment could have gone or it's you worrying about a future event, these kinds of thoughts will quite literally keep you up at night.

During my restless nights, I found that there was one thing that almost always helped me mute those thoughts, calm down, and finally get some sleep: meditation. 

I have tried meditation before and I felt that it was not very helpful to me personally and might not have been a perfect fit for me, however, I've changed my perspective and found that using meditation in the context of calming your thoughts and mind in a time of high stress can be SO effective. 

Read more: I Tried Meditation for a Week and This is What Happened

In my previous experiences with meditation, it was more of a routine kind of thing in order to prevent that stress. Instead of meditating in high stress moments, I meditated in daily moments in which I was already quite calm.

In high stress moments, meditation can help you to redirect your mind away from those stress-inducing ideas and also help you increase your breathing, which will in turn calm you. Moreover, in this case, it will also help you fall asleep by shutting off those thoughts in your mind and help you get to a calm enough point that you can properly relax.

While this process of meditation to turn off my thoughts and finally fall asleep is incredibly effective for me, I must give a little disclaimer in the sense that I am no way an expert on meditation and/or sleep strategies, this is just what I do and how it works for me. :)

Here's how the process of meditation works in the context of falling asleep:

  • Step one: I get into bed. 
  • Step two: Rumination occurs and I note it. 
  • Step three: I begin to meditate. 
  • Step four: Sleep! :)

Why does it work?

  • It gives you something (besides your thoughts) to focus on and redirect where your thoughts are going
  • Breathing has a direct connection to the brain.
    A study led by a Stanford University biochemistry professor found that breathing has a direct connection to brain activity, specifically in the arousal center. In the arousal center, the nerves there can create a sense of calm when breathing is slower.
    [Read more: The Fastest Way to Calm Down - Time]

How I meditate:

If you have never tried meditation before, you likely will want to try guided meditation first. When applying meditation to help fall asleep, it's best if you don't need any electronics or additional materials (why bother getting out of bed?) and you already know what to focus your mind towards.

After listening to some guided meditation audio clips, it's almost like I replay the audio clip in my head to myself, like instructions. I am essentially self-guiding my brain on how to meditate. Here are some of the things I do while meditating:
  • Close my eyes
  • Full body scan
    In my mind, I like to call it a full body scan, thinking about the way that the space around me is in contact with my body. For example, I make myself aware of the softness of the blankets surrounding me and the weight of my body on my bed. 
  • Focus on the lungs and the effect of breath on the body
    Think about the contraction and expansion of the lungs and the rising and falling of the chest and shoulders. 
  • Count each of my breaths, up to ten, and then start again. 
  • If random thoughts arrive, acknowledge them, and then turn attention back to breathing, allowing them to drift away. 
  • Give yourself a couple seconds to just let the mind drift, wherever it wants to go, and then redirect your attention back to the breath.
How to Stop Overthinking at Night So You Can (Finally) Get Some Sleep

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