6 Things To Think About Before Bed That Won’t Just Send You Into A Stressful Spiral
Some nights, no matter how relaxed you are physically, your brain doesn't wind down. And it's kind of ~meta~ to think about how you can’t stop thinking, isn’t it? But you can't help it: You go through your bedtime checklist to make sure you've showered, dimmed the lights, set your bedroom to 64 degrees Fahrenheit exactly, and you even managed to meditate a little before crawling under the covers. You've done it all, yet the second your head hits the pillow, your mind's racing, and never about anything positive, either. The right things to think about before bed are almost never the things your subconscious wants to focus on, so it’s up to you to switch from stressful to restful thoughts if you really want to get a good night's sleep.
Trust me, friends, I’ve totally been there. It’s almost as if the moment your physical body is ready for sleep, mentally you’re running a marathon, skipping all the water stations because your brain’s perfectly fine just running on responsibilities that could, theoretically, be dealt with tomorrow. But no, your busy mind has to bother you by worrying about a 1 p.m. meeting, at 10 p.m. the night before.
If you're anything like me, then you've probably tried every solution you can possibly think of: sipping on warm milk, adding adaptogenic powders to your hot cocoa, listening to music for sleep, the whole nine. Unfortunately, our brains are sometimes just plain stubborn. However, your thoughts are pretty powerful, and you do have the power to change them, if you're willing to put in the effort. Here are some expert-approved, restful thoughts to help you drift off to sleep when slumber just won't come on its own.
1. Think About Being Awake
Even if you’ve never heard of reverse psychology, I’m willing to bet big money you’ve fallen for it time and again, or that you've knowingly used it yourself to get what you want from other people. If you're not familiar, though, reverse psychology is essentially a method of persuasion people use sometimes to get someone to do something, by innocently suggesting the person does the opposite. So, in the context of you trying to fall asleep, instead of telling your body over and over again to doze off, try convincing yourself that you’re wide awake.
Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, refers to this way of thinking as “paradoxical intent,” in which you focus on quietly staying awake, instead of worrying about not falling asleep. “Simply say to yourself, ‘I’m going to lay here awake, and I’m fine with that,’” he tells Elite Daily. "This helps relax an overly anxious brain and paradoxically makes it easier to fall asleep."
2. Focus On Your Breathing
Meditation can be a miracle worker when it comes to winding down the body and mind, but it does take a little extra effort to achieve that sense of mental clarity. If channeling your inner zen seems to do anything but relax you, rather than paying too much mind to any negative or worrisome thoughts that might pop up, Christian Blatner of Serta Mattress suggests redirecting your focus to really hone in on your breathing, instead. “Breathe deeply, and concentrate on the sound and sensation of your breath," Blatner tells Elite Daily. "You can even count the breaths you take."
Though it's pretty simple, he explains, this method words because “the practice of meditation includes bringing the mind to a singular focus.” So, in other words, if you’re hyper-aware of your breathing, and are able to tune out any other thoughts that might not be serving you, calm will come, and in turn, so will sleep.
3. Review Tomorrow’s To-Do List
Obviously I’m a writer, so I might be biased on this one, but personally, when my mind is cluttered with all the responsibilities of tomorrow, writing out a physical to-do list helps relieve some of that lingering stress. According to Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, putting thoughts to paper is a great way to literally write off your worries and get to bed on time. “Something about having those tasks sorted on paper helps your brain rest easier,” he tells Elite Daily.
Pick out a special journal to keep at your bedside, invest in a pen that glides across the page, and jot down anything and everything that’s keeping you up at night. Make a list of to-dos, or even take the time to just flush out any thoughts that have been taking up space in your mind. Once it’s all out on paper, review what you’ve written once or twice, and simply let it go for the night.
4. Explore Your Hobbies
Generally speaking, bedtime isn't the best time to work on your painting skills or practice an instrument, and while I wouldn’t exactly recommend you practice your hobbies at 11 p.m., Dr. Nate Watson, SleepScore Labs advisory board member, does suggest you think about the things you're passionate about while getting cozy under the covers.
You know how counting sheep is supposed to lull you to sleep? Well, if that strategy’s not working out for you, why not think about something you’re genuinely interested in, instead? “The key is to find something positive, but not crucial, to your life and well-being, and to focus on that,” Watson tells Elite Daily. For example, if you’re an Ariana Grande fan, reciting the lyrics to “No Tears Left To Cry” might help you drift off to sleep. Or, Watson suggests, if you like to knit, you could “think about new design options or yarns you may want to use on your next creation.” Basically, anything that brings you joy and is low-stress is fair game here.
5. Imagine Your Bedroom As A Retreat
In theory, your bedroom should be a calming oasis you can retreat to after a long day of work life, school assignments, and any other responsibilities life piles on, right? So, on the one hand, you should definitely be picking out decor that makes you feel at ease (think fluffy pillows, cool temperatures, the right mattress, etc.), but according to Brantner, you should also try to actively think of your bedroom as a soothing atmosphere: “For a positive sleep mantra,” he tells Elite Daily, “I recommend something simple like ‘My bedroom is my retreat. I enjoy deep, relaxing sleep in this bed every night.’"
As much as sleep is about the physical decor of your bedroom, it’s also about how you approach the space, as well. If you think about your room as — and truly believe it to be — a relaxing space, those positive, soothing vibes will soon catch on and transform the way you snooze throughout the night.
6. Accept That You Can’t Control What Already Is
Say you’ve written down a cohesive list of every little thing, down to even the most insignificant details, that you need to accomplish tomorrow. You’ve set your journal aside, dabbled in a little meditation, and yet you’re still worried about everything that's to come the next day. These are the moments when you need to dole out a little tough love and tell yourself to live, let live, and let it TF go.
As far as Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, is concerned, the best thing you can do for a busy mind is write down your concerns in a journal and, literally and figuratively, close the book: “If your brain continues to think about these things, you need to simply tell yourself in your own mind that there’s nothing you can do about it right now,” she tells Elite Daily. “You’ve already written a priority list for tomorrow.”
In other words, do yourself a favor, girl: let it go, and go to sleep.