We’ve all had sleepless nights in bed, random thoughts are running in our mind which do not allow to sleep.
There are many reasons why sleep may be evading you, maybe you had caffeine too late in the afternoon, for example, or you have expended your time in front of your laptop screen for hours and didn’t give a rest to your eyes for a second.
“It’s very common for people to report being physically tired, but not being able to shut their mind off, especially if they’re very excited or worried about something,” says James Findley, Ph.D., clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
These are things to keep in mind for improving your sleep at nights.
Make a to-do list
“Worries keep people awake, and they don’t have to be negative worries,” says Findley. “It could also be something positive you’re planning, like a trip or a big event with a lot of things you have to remember.” Spending time during the day or earlier in the evening to sit and address those concerns may help, he says, but if it’s too late for that, grab a notebook and try physically writing them down in a list for the next day.
A recent study found that maintain a to-do list of future tasks helped people fall asleep nine minutes faster than people who think about it at nights in bed.
Get out of bed
Staying in bed and trying to sleep is a bad idea, says Cormac O’Donovan, MD, associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, because it may prepare your brain to associate your bed and your bedroom with insomnia and worries.
“If you’re trying to sleep and your brain’s not letting you, it could just be that you’re going to bed too early,” says Dr. O’Donovan. Conventional wisdom may tell you that you need eight hours of sleep, “but everyone is different, and some people’s bodies only demand six or seven,” he says. Staying up until you’re truly tired can help you find a sleep pattern that works best for you, as long as you can still wake up in the morning without a problem.
Read a book, but nothing too exciting
“You can’t stop your brain from thinking, but you can distract it by focusing on something neutral,” says Findley. Since digital screens can further disrupt sleep, he recommends analog distractions whenever possible, like reading a physical book.
“It can help to read something that will get your mind off of whatever you’re worried about, but it should be something that’s not too stimulating and won’t get you worked up about something else,” he says. If getting to sleep isn’t usually a big problem for you, reading in bed for 20 to 30 minutes is fine, he adds.
Focus on your breathing
Another way to avoid random thoughts can be through simple breathing exercises. “Your mind is surely going to wander back to other things, but the important thing is to keep bringing it back to your breathing, in and out,” says Dr. O’Donovan. Deep, slow breathing can also slow your heart rate, which can be helpful if you’re anxious or worked up about something specific.
Try a guided meditation
Meditation and guided imagery are also helpful for some people in their sleeping problems. “The idea again is to focus your thoughts on something other than the things you’re worried about,” says Findley. You might zero in on your breathing, for example, or imagine yourself walking on the beach or floating on a cloud.
If you practice meditation and guided imagery, you will find good effects from it, says Findley. “You can use apps or YouTube videos to get started, but I would suggest first practicing them during the day,” he says. “If it becomes something you only do when you can’t sleep, it can be counterproductive.”