Thinking a lot is undoubtedly a good thing, and if you’re someone who is often ‘inside their own head’ then this isn’t something you should seek to stop – indeed more people should be like you. But while it’s great to be one of life’s thinkers, it does still have its downsides – and one of the biggest of these is that it’s sometimes hard to switch off: particularly when you’re trying to drift off to sleep. If that sounds familiar, and if you’re losing out on sleep because of it, then read on to learn how you can switch off the chatter for a while and get some peace.
Step 1: Don’t Worry
The first thing to remember is not to worry about getting to sleep. The unfortunate catch-22 for most people struggle to get to sleep is that they end up panicking that they aren’t getting any rest and that it’s late. As a result they start tossing and turning and getting stressed out as it gets later and later.
The most important thing then is to stop worrying so much about sleep and instead take the attitude of ‘what will be, will be’. Close your eyes, lie back, and appreciate the fact that you’re resting and that you don’t have to be anywhere: that alone can be enough to help your body recover and to start the next day feeling rested. More to the point though, as soon as you enjoy just lying there, you’ll find that it’s much easier to drift off.
Step 2: Externalise
The next thing you need to learn to do is to focus externally rather than internally. One way to do this is simply to focus on the sound of your own breathing. By actively listening out for each rhythmical breathe, you’ll find that you can stop the thoughts running around your head and start to calm yourself down. If that doesn’t work, try playing relaxing music or relaxation CDs and focussing on the melodies or the sound effects instead.
Step 3: Keep a Notepad
I actually used to suffer from this exact problem, and at the time I was going through some stuff that meant I had a counsellor. Her suggestion was to keep a notepad by the side of my bed and then to write anything that I couldn’t stop thinking about in there. This would allow me to ‘relax’ and stop worrying about that problem until morning – I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. You can also try using the old technique where you imagine locking the thought in a box and hiding the key until morning.
Step 4: Use Relaxation Techniques
There are a number of relaxation techniques that can help you to switch off and that will help you to calm your mind as well as your body. One is to focus on an imaginary point in space – imagine there’s a red dot in the centre of your mind’s eye and just concentrate on that intensely until you start to fall asleep. Of course counting sheep also works well.
Another is to actively relax each of your muscles. Do this by first tensing them firmly, and then relaxing to let the tension flush out of them and to imagine your body sinking deeply into the mattress as you do.
Now just enjoy being cosy and forget all your worries. See you in the morning…