What to Do When You Can't Sleep Because Your Mind Is Racing

Updated 01/31/18
a woman trying to fall asleep
@thevicstyles

There's truly nothing worse than spending those precious six to eight hours exclusively reserved for sleep tossing, turning, and overanalyzing that awkward text you sent six months ago. Not only are you acutely aware of the fact that every passing minute is one that could've been spent in REM sleep, but this reality also frustrates you to the point where falling asleep is even more difficult.

If your brain finds it appropriate to mull over the great mysteries of life between midnight and 4 a.m. like mine does, then you too will find solace in Health's list of ways to quiet racing thoughts in the middle of the night. Topping its list is a strategy I've successfully used myself: Get all of your thoughts down on paper and make a to-do list.

"Worries keep people awake, and they don't have to be negative worries,” said James Findley, Ph.D., clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, to the magazine. "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."

In my experience, taking a moment to physically write down all of my thoughts, concerns, and errands for the next day helps to clear my mind, calm my body, and make way for sleep. This exercise is substantiated by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, which found that writing a to-do list of future tasks helped participants fall asleep roughly nine minutes faster than those who wrote about tasks they'd already accomplished.

"It may seem counterintuitive that focusing on tomorrow's responsibilities would lead to faster sleep, but researchers think the act of getting them down on paper helps clear the mind and stop rumination, at least temporarily," concludes the magazine. Head over to Health for more.

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