How to stop thinking too much at night and fall asleep: top tips from an expert
Most of us are familiar with the situation: you go to bed, turn off the light, comfortably cover yourself with a blanket to fall asleep, and then unpleasant thoughts start swarming in your head, preventing you from falling asleep. This causes incredible stress and by the morning, in addition to feeling sleep deprived, you also get serious nervous exhaustion. In the worst cases, this can last for years and even seriously undermine your health. But scientists know how to turn off negative thoughts before bedtime.
The Science Alert publication described effective ways. Alexander Svetman, a researcher at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University (Australia), helped him with this. To choose the right one, you first need to understand the nature of insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Scientists estimate that up to six out of ten people are experiencing some form of insomnia right now. One in ten has experienced these symptoms for several months or years.
Insomnia includes problems falling asleep at the beginning of the night, waking up at night, feeling tired during the day, difficulty concentrating, lethargy or a bad mood. At the same time, a person suffering from this problem begins to feel some kind of vigour when they go to bed. But why does this happen?
According to sleep researchers, the more time we spend in bed doing things other than sleeping, the more our brain and body begin to understand that bed is a place for activities that are not related to sleep.
And it's not just about feeling restless. Using your mobile phone, watching TV, eating, working, arguing, smoking or playing with pets in your bed also has an impact. And soon you may notice that getting into bed triggers not relaxation but increased alertness and concentration. This is called "conditioned insomnia". There are at least five ways to solve this problem.
Relearn how to associate bed with sleep
To re-establish the psychological connection between bed and sleep, you will need what is known as stimulus control therapy. And you are perfectly capable of doing it on your own if you follow these steps.
- Use the bed only for sleep and sex. All other activities should take place anywhere else. Preferably even in another room.
- Go to bed only if you feel sleepy. Signs of drowsiness include heavy eyes and a desire to lie down and fall asleep. If you don't feel this way, do something else. For example, relax in another room - take a bath, read a book, listen to slow music, etc.
- If you still can't fall asleep after 15 minutes, get up and do something to help you relax. Or even do some housework or do some light yoga exercises - it doesn't have to be intense. Avoid anything that is too stimulating, such as work or computer games.
- Repeat the previous two steps until you are able to fall asleep for about 15 minutes. There may be several cycles, but over time, your body's natural need for sleep will increase, and you will eventually be able to fall asleep as soon as you get to bed.
- Get up at the same time every day, regardless of how much sleep you've had before, the day of the week, or other circumstances.
- Avoid long daytime naps, which can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.Experts say that even a few days of such therapy will help restore the connection between bed and sleep. And also to break it between bed and feelings of restlessness.
Distract yourself with pleasant thoughts
Negative thoughts in bed or worrying about the consequences of insomnia can make us feel more tense and prevent us from falling asleep on their own. So try an exercise called "cognitive refocusing". Immerse yourself in pleasant memories or dreams, replay your favourite episode of a film or TV show in your head.
Ideally, it should be a memory that you can recall very clearly and that evokes neutral or slightly positive feelings. Memories that are overly positive or negative can cause increased mental activity, so they should also be avoided.
Relax and drift off to sleep
Relaxation therapy for insomnia is aimed at reducing concentration and improving sleep. One good way is to gradually tense and relax muscle groups throughout the body. This is called guided progressive muscle relaxation. It helps you to focus not on your thoughts but on the sensations in your body and achieve the right level of relaxation.
You can also try breathing exercises, soothing music, visual imagery, or other appropriate relaxation activities. Avoiding working late or using screens before bed is also part of this process. Set aside time without your phone or computer to relax before going to bed.
Move all your worries to the morning
Set aside time for strong emotions at the beginning of the day so that you can process these thoughts and not face them at night. It can be helpful to write down everything that is bothering you. If you feel anxious at night, just remind yourself that all your worries have already been recorded on paper and are waiting for you to work through them at a scheduled time, but the next day.
Know that it is normal to wake up at night
Short-term waking up at night can make you feel anxious. If you encounter them, remind yourself that this is a variant of the norm, not a sign of unhealthiness. Sleep consists of different cycles that repeat throughout the night. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and contains different stages of surface sleep, deep sleep, and dreaming. The majority of our deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night, and surface sleep in the second half. And in fact, everyone has short wakefulness all the time, but most people don't remember it the next morning. So let it go.
What if these tips don't work?
If none of these techniques proved effective for you, this is an important reason to see a specialist. For example, a psychotherapist who can help you understand the causes of emotional stress and help you get back to sleep even without medication. Find an online sleep management programme or classes with a psychologist. Consult your family doctor to diagnose health conditions that may be related to insomnia. Try to solve the problem in another way before resorting to sleeping pills.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL talked about devices that can help you fall asleep.