3 Ways to Stop Thinking and Start Sleeping

At the end of a long day most people are looking forward to crawling in our beds and getting some sleep. For many this is easy. The body relaxes, the brain shuts down, and sleep comes quickly. For some, however, sleep doesn't come easily. The mind races and rolls things over and over again. It's like it just won't turn off. Then when it finally does shut down, sleep can be fleeting when the brain re-boots on its own and the thinking and worrying start all over again. When the usual doesn't work to get some shut-eye, give these 3 tips a try:

Keep a pen and paper by the bed. Stop the thoughts and worries from bouncing around in your brain by jotting them down. It doesn't have to be a cohesive narrative, just enough words or a doodle to remind you what you were thinking. You can write down the things you don't want to forget or keep a list of things to worry about later. Sometimes you don't end up writing anything down, but the presence of the pen and paper act as a sleep aid anyway by giving your brain permission to let go.

Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This type of exercise works by helping your body relax while keeping your mind occupied. During the exercise you tense and relax various muscle groups in your body. This aids in making sure that the tension in your body is released as well as teaching you the difference in the feeling between tensed and relaxed muscles. By focusing on the exercise, your brain doesn't have time mull over the events of the day or what might be coming the next day. When practiced everyday, you also train your body and mind to go into a state of relaxation on demand. There are different scripts available online as well as videos in which the scripts are narrated. Here are some to get started:

Script: https://psychcentral.com/lib/progressive-muscle-relaxation/

Video: https://youtu.be/86HUcX8ZtAk

Set a bedtime routine. Turn off electronics at the same time every night. Bathe at the same time. Do something soothing before bedtime. Don't get in the bed until you are sleepy, and only use the bed for sleeping or sex. Additionally, don't sleep/nap anywhere but your bed. By setting a bedtime routine, you are training your body and brain to begin to relax and turn off at a certain time everyday. Using your bed only for sleeping also trains your brain and body to associate sleep with the bed.

Persistence pays off when implementing these new strategies. Practicing them everyday, even if they don't work at first, leads to good results.