Thoughts buzzing around in your head is the leading cause of not getting to sleep on time.
And the more you think about the fact you are not getting to sleep on time, the wider awake you will likely become. In fact, some studies have shown the new devices meant to track your sleep tend to induce anxiety in their users and therefore create worse sleep patterns. So how do you stop thinking?
Trick Question! You don’t. You probably never should, something called your autonomic nervous system is on constant repeat telling you to do things like breathe and for your heart to beat. But then there is also the chatter in your head.
The droning about your to-do list, your car payment, your work day, and your mother-in-law that tend to go on repeat when your head hits the pillow. You do need those thoughts. You just also need to know when to shut them off.
So how do you shut them down? Imagine you are in a control room like in a sci-fi movie. You have literally created the little universe that you live in. Sure some of your circumstances are like the comets and asteroids whizzing past you, but the majority of it you thought up, you decided on, and it’s there because you put it there. Think about it; the partner you chose, the children you do or don’t have or are thinking of having, the job you have, etc. You put it all there. You also put your thoughts there. They did not come from nowhere.
Now, in the driver’s seat of that control room, you can see a thought, “my mother in law is not going to like what I have planned for dinner on Friday night, “ but you are in control. You can stop the thought and say, just the way you did with your love of large bangs in the 80s, this just isn’t something I want to spend my time on anymore, and choose another thought, a more enjoyable thought to focus on.
In the beginning this may be hard, so you may have to use some different techniques; you can challenge your thought by asking what’s the worst case scenario if she doesn’t like it? Will she swear at me and leave the house? Probably not, Will she make a face? Is that so bad? And move on to something else deciding that you are okay with the worst case, or you can find a nice distraction like a guided meditation or audiobook with a particularly soothing narrator to pull your attention away from the thought.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your own mind, so you can steer yourself into some more restful nights.