You get a drink of water, brush your teeth, and finally lay down in your warm, soft bed. But then intrusive thoughts immediately start bugging you as you watch the time click by, knowing you have to wake up at 7 am to get to work. The thoughts will not stop, and you don’t know what to do.
This is a common problem among people who suffer with insomnia. But what can you do about them?
What Causes Racing Thoughts with Insomnia?
Insomnia is common and it can happen to anyone occasionally. But it can also become a nightly problem.
We get the best sleep when we are not preoccupied with anxious thoughts and worries. Racing thoughts can manifest in different forms. For some, it is like branches of a tree all going in different directions where each thought has a path that you mind follows. For others, it can be images flashing by your mind like a motion picture.
A lot of times, people have a thought that persists. When you finally feel like you are thinking about something else, it pops up again. This is known as rumination.
Racing thoughts are common in people who suffer with anxiety, but they can also occur in just about anyone during the right situation. High levels of stress can make it more likely that you will experience intrusive thoughts. This is especially true when undergoing a very stressful situation like a significant change or the loss of a loved one.
No matter what form the racing thoughts take or what caused them, you probably want to know what you can do to eliminate them and finally get the restful sleep you deserve. Here are some strategies that may help you reduce those intrusive thoughts keeping your alert and awake.
Have a Scheduled Worry Time
This technique means that you have a specific time of each day that you are allowed to worry without judgment. This allows you to ignore the thoughts and anxieties at every other time throughout the day, including the time when you want to get to sleep.
You will still feel the worries present themselves to your mind as you are laying down, but you can simply address them by allowing yourself to worry about them the next day during your designated worry time.
Over time you may even find that your mind gets accustomed to the worry time and automatically puts thoughts away until that time. Then, you can worry all you want during that time.
Relax Before Bed
Well, this may sound obvious, but you should try to fully relax prior to bedtime! Put away phones and other screens that can contribute to poor sleep, do not think or worry about work, and avoid other behaviors that may be impacting your sleep patterns.
Different people need different preparation and relaxation time before bed. Find what works for you whether it is 30 minutes or 2 hours. Also, try to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and sugar too close to the time that you plan on going to sleep.
Getting on a regular sleeping schedule can also help your body and mind get into a pattern that can gradually improve the quality of your sleep. You can also consider learning mindfulness mediation or another kind of relaxation techniques.
Repeat a Word
This method is known as articulatory suppression, and it involves mouthing a word quickly. This makes it difficult or impossible for you to begin any other thoughts. Typically, you should try to say the word at least 2 times per second, but more is even better.
The theory is that mouthing the word takes up your mental processes that prevent thinking about other topics. There are some common choices for the word like a meaningless syllable, a proper name, or the word “the.” However, you can choose anything as long as you do not have an emotional connection to the chosen word.
You can also try to think of a specific visualization to go with the word like a shape. This works if your intrusive or racing thoughts coincide with mental images.
While this method may feel uncomfortable at first, it is worth a try, and you may find that it is highly effective.
Instead of following your racing thoughts down their typical pathways, try to distract yourself by engaging your thoughts in an engaging scenario. You could imagine yourself spending time on a relaxing vacation, going scuba diving, building a Go-Kart with your ex-landlord, or cooking a Thanksgiving dinner.
What you choose to imagine is up to you as long as it completely distracts your mind so that your racing thoughts are eliminated or prevented. The scenario should be engaging enough to make it impossible for you to follow any other train of thought.
You should also try to choose something that is not too emotionally arousing because they can be less likely to relax you.
Intrusive thoughts can be annoying and keep you from getting the rest that you need. However, it is best to try different techniques to prevent or eliminate racing thoughts instead of just worrying about them. You may find that one of these methods works for you and allows you to get the best sleep you have had in years!
Name: Marie Miguel
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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