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If you’re reading this post, you can probably relate to this scenario:
It’s been the LONGEST day, and you are completely drained. You’ve finally finished everything you needed to do (or at least you’ve decided that you’re done for the time being). It’s time to go to bed.
You’re nice and tired. Ready for a good night of sleep.
You turn off the light. Hop in the bed. Snuggle up under the covers.
With eyes closed, your cheek touches the cool pillow.
1 second… 2 seconds… 3 seconds…
Your eyes pop open.
Brain: Did you remember to turn off the stove?
…Yeah, false alarm.
Brain: Did you lock the front door?
Brain: Oh shoot, you left your ID at work.
…Okay, I’ll handle it in the morning.
Brain: Speaking of work, you know you have that presentation tomorrow…are you sure you’re prepared? Maybe you should practice one more time. Remember you have to print those slides before the staff meeting…
And it begins. Just as you were about to really GET INTO some sleep, your brain has decided to perk up. There’s NO way you can go to sleep now.
Don’t panic…It’s possible to slow your brain down so that you can get a good night of rest.
How do I know? Because that brain a few lines up is mine. This is me pretty much every night IF I don’t follow these steps I’m about to share with you. If I do follow these steps, I’m much more likely to fall asleep faster.
Pin me to come back to this post later!
Why It’s Hard for Your Brain to Turn Off At Night
We’re always “on.”
In “the old days,” once you went home, there weren’t a whole lot of options for connecting with people outside of your house. The telephone and TV were your only connections to the outside world. But now, we have social media, live videos, Netflix, Hulu, etc on top of all the natural stressors of life.
Because we’re so accessible, we are constantly communicating and consuming, all while trying to keep our lives in order.
We’re juggling hella activities.
Work and annoying bosses.
School and annoying professors.
Family and annoying parents (just kidding!).
Sides hustles. Kids. Vacations. Gym time.
We have lots of things to keep track of, and while our brains our powerful, they can get overwhelmed. After a full day of adulting, it’s easy to see why your brain is wired.
We worry at night.
If you’ve ever been super pregnant, you know that the baby is usually more active at night. Why?
Because during the day, you’re constantly moving, and that movement “distracts” the baby and lulls the baby to sleep. But as soon as you lie down for the night and that constant movement stops, the baby thinks it’s time to party!
Your brain is the same way.
It makes sense that if we spend all day goinggoinggoing, we may not have time to internally process certain situations we encounter.
So at night, when everything is quiet, your brain thinks it’s the perfect time to think, overanalyze, and replay the events of your entire life!
How to Help Turn Off your brain at Night
Most people already know this one, but many people don’t do it. It’s okay.
Sometimes I don’t either, and I pay for it. It’s hard to resist that late-night IG scroll!
But seriously, try this for at least a week: 20-30 minutes before you plan to go to bed, turn off your TV and tablet and avoid looking at your phone.
Unplugging isn’t just helpful for preventing new messages from entering your brain. Most of the electronics we use – computers, laptops, smart phones – emit “blue light.”
Blue light suppresses the body’s levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy and fall asleep at night. By exposing yourself to less blue light at night, you keep more of your body’s hard-earned melatonin.
make a list.
I don’t think a list is a cure-all for everything, but I do think it’s a cure-all for many things, including slowing down your brain at night! Some people would recommend doing this step before you even enter your bedroom, but I actually prefer to do it as soon as I get in the bed.
The idea here is to clear your head of all the tasks that may be running through it. If your brain is thinking about groceries, make a grocery list. If your brain is thinking about what you need to do in the morning before work, make a list of all the things you need to do in the morning before work.
Or maybe a list of all the things you want to accomplish the next day. Whatever it is, write it down.
Any Harry Potter fans? Envision this process like Dumbledore’s pensieve. In order to free up space in your brain, you’re pulling out your running thoughts and putting them on paper. That way, they’re not crashing around in your mind fighting to get out.
I took a modern dance elective in undergrad…obviously, a liberal arts university 🙂 While I can’t say I took too much long-term value away from that class, I did learn one of my favorite resting tools:
It’s a position that helps your body release tension. You may hear it called active rest, too.
If you want to learn about it in detail, you can check out this website, but you basically just assume this position…
…and relax your body and your mind.
Great strategy to add to your nightly routine.
get your mind right.
Seriously, we work ourselves up over so much during the day, and that feeling carries over into the evening. The minutes before bed are a great time to reframe your mindset. Mantras are a great way to do this. It may sound hokey, but it could really help. I’ll share two of my favorites with you.
The first is a famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day. Begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by old nonsense.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
The second is a biblical scripture – one of my favorite scriptures actually. Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
These or any other good mantras you can say to yourself are great ways to reset your mind so that you aren’t stressing or worrying about every little thing.
When all else fails…
chill tf out.
Do you pray or meditate? Before bedtime is a great time to do that. Any activities that help your brain mellow out are perfect.
Calm music can also works wonders. Pandora has relaxing stations like my favorite, the New Age Ambient station. Some people find nature sounds or good old white noise to be calming too.
Plus white noise is great at drowning out an overworked brain. No worries if you don’t have a white noise machine. YouTube has the perfect white noise track.
The key here is figuring out what works best for you, and these are all good places to start. Although your brain has no on/off switch (unfortunately), creating a routine and doing it consistently will help your brain get better at slowing down at bedtime.