How to turn your brain off and sleep

How to Quiet Your Mind to Get Better Sleep

Can’t put that racing mind to bed? Whether it’s stopping you from quickly falling asleep or staying asleep, there’s no question an unsettled mind can be a major obstacle to slumber.

“It’s one of the most common problems we hear in our sleep clinic, especially among people struggling with insomnia,” says Lawrence Chan, DO, a professor of sleep medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

The problem is more than just annoying. Racing thoughts at bedtime — even if they aren’t anxious or worried thoughts — might contribute to sleep problems in people who have insomnia, according to a study published in November 2021 in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry. The researchers noted that this is different from rumination, which is defined as obsessive, repetitive thinking that tends to focus on negative content.

There’s a reason many people can’t stop thinking about things before going to bed. Whether you’re exploring a new city or simply plugging away at your routine to-do list, your brain is collecting new information all day long, explains Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan Beach, California, who specializes in sleep disorders. He is also the author of The Power of When, a book on understanding your body clock and circadian rhythms.

“Not until you climb into bed do you have any quiet time, and all of that information, including your worries, comes flying through the door,” he says.

Anxious thoughts and rumination can also keep you awake, of course. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night and a racing mind won’t let you get back to sleep, it may mean that something is bothering you more than you’d care to otherwise admit or address, Dr. Breus says. “It’s generally a sign that something stressful is going on in life.”

Whether you’re stressed, excited, or simply replaying your day, use these tips to help quiet your racing mind — before thinking too much at bedtime becomes a habit that’s too intense to stop on your own.

What to Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep

1. Ditch the Devices

Sleep doctors have been telling you for years to stop using smartphones, laptops, and tablets right before bed for good reason. Not only does the light from electronic screens mess up your melatonin production, which makes sleep physiologically harder to achieve, but smart devices can also heighten anxiety and worry if you’re reading stressful news on it. This habit makes the cycle of ruminating about bothersome or unpleasant news that much worse, Dr. Chan says.

Plus, the apps, websites, and news you’re consuming on such devices are meant (in large part) to keep you and your brain engaged, he adds. “The internet is designed to capture attention so that you spend more eye time on screens, which can be a detriment to sleep,” says Chan.

To protect your shut-eye, switch off your devices one to two hours before bed, ideally, or at least 30 minutes if you can’t swing that.

2. Schedule Some “Worry Time”

Just as you schedule time to see friends or get a massage, do the same with your worries. Schedule 15 to 30 minutes a day, at least one to two hours before bed, to write down those worries. In addition, create at least one action item you can do to help deal with the issue. Thinking through those potential stressors earlier in the day should help ease how much you worry about them when your head hits the pillow, Chan says. “Ideal sleep depends on creating routines and schedules, and this is no different,” he says.

3. Create a Routine to Power Down Your Brain

Most people assume that sleep is like breathing: Your body will just do it. Not true. Modern-day living has created so much stimulation during the day that brains now operate at warp speed, and if you don’t give yours time to rest, it’ll continue going at that speed at bedtime, says David Brodner, MD, founder of and principal physician at the Center for Sinus, Allergy, and Sleep Wellness in Boynton Beach, Florida.

At least 30 minutes before you go to bed, start your preparations and then do something relaxing like listening to music or reading. Keep it consistent, and you’ll train your body to expect sleep after that relaxation period.

4. Keep a Gratitude List

Now that you’ve dumped your worries, replace the void where those negative thoughts once lived with positive ones by starting a gratitude journal, Breus suggests. The impact of those positive thoughts is greater when you write them down. So try spending a few minutes each night listing three to five things you’re grateful for.

5. Practice 4-7-8 Breathing

You’ve heard how deep breathing can help combat stress, but it can also help you fall asleep. In order to sleep, your heart rate needs to slow down, Breus says, and breathing techniques are one of the most effective ways to achieve this goal.

One of Breus’s favorites is 4-7-8 breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for seven, and then blow out for eight. Do this at least five to seven times to slow your heart rate.

6. Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation

As you lie in bed, tense and relax all of your muscles one by one, starting at your toes and ending at your head. Not only is this incredibly relaxing, as the name implies, but it also forces you to think about the physical parts of your body, directing your attention away from whatever thoughts or stressors you’re fixating on, Breus says.

7. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day is one of the pillars of sleep hygiene — those guidelines sleep docs recommend for ensuring a good night’s sleep. It helps the mind, too. “If you try to go to bed early, when your brain’s not ready to sleep, it will focus on other things,” Breus says, which keeps the brain excited and awake.

What to Do if You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night

1. Get Out of Bed

As counterintuitive as it may seem, climbing out of bed after about 20 minutes of worrying is the tried-and-true advice sleep doctors tell everyone they help and one of the hallmark steps of therapy for insomnia. If you spend time in bed worrying, your brain will begin to associate the two and not be able to sleep, Chan says. You’ll create a vicious cycle for yourself, whereby your bed increasingly becomes a space where it is difficult for you to sleep.

Instead, get out of bed and do something calming, such as reading a book, doing light chores, or journaling. As soon as you start getting sleepy, head to bed. “The goal is to increase your sleep efficiency, meaning that when you’re in bed, you’re sleeping,” Chan says.

2. Slow That Heart Rate

You may have used the 4-7-8 breathing technique or deep muscle relaxation before bed. Now try them again, as your goal is to not only lower that heart rate but also take your mind away from your thoughts, Breus says.

3. Write Down Your Worries

Keep a notepad and pen by your bed to scribble down worries that are at the front of your mind, Dr. Brodner says. This isn’t the same as pre-bed structured worry time, since you’re not creating solutions; you’re just getting your worries out of your head so your mind can rest.

4. Turn on the TV (and Half-Close Your Eyes)

This tip may be controversial, but a much-loved movie or TV show can take your mind off whatever is bothering you and potentially help you relax, says Breus.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Yes, TVs emit blue light, which can mess with your melatonin production and make it harder to nod off. But unlike smartphones and tablets, which you hold close to your face, TVs are usually positioned “so far away that you’re not getting as much blue light as you think,” says Breus. Plus, most people aren’t actually watching TV as much as listening to it with their eyes closed, and blue light can’t penetrate closed eyelids.

Note, though, that most sleep guidelines recommend against TV in bed, including some experts from Sleep, so if listening to the TV isn’t helping you sleep, don’t do it.

It’s also worth stating that everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time. But if restless nights become the norm, rather than an occasional occurrence, tell your doctor. If you’re experiencing symptoms of insomnia, there are ways your doctor or a sleep specialist can help.

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How to Clear Your Mind So You Can Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 22, 2022

While it’s a good idea to go to bed at the same time each night, there will be some nights when your brain is buzzing and not ready for sleep. If so, don’t lie down just yet. Your racing thoughts could lead to insomnia. Instead, do something to relax until you feel tired. Take a warm bath, for instance, or sit in a comfy chair and listen to soft, calming music. You’ll spend less time in bed but more time asleep.

Stressful subjects, like work or your finances, can make your thoughts churn. Take care of the bills and emails tomorrow. Also, turn off scary or action-filled movies and TV -- even the news. Log out of social media, too. Whether you engage in, or just watch or read a heated back-and-forth, your mind revs up and makes it harder to relax.

Work projects to finish, calls to make, kids to wrangle. It’s hard to drift off when you’re trying to remember every last thing you need to do when you wake up. Let go of this mental load by putting it down on paper. Take 5 minutes before bed to jot down every task you need to take care of in the a.m. You’ll get it off your mind and be able to fall asleep faster.

Release tension from your body, and you’ll find it easier to let go of stressful thoughts. Lie on a flat surface and allow your body to go limp. Take a breath and deeply exhale. Then, squeeze and release one section of your body at a time. Start with your toes. Your heels can come next, followed by your knees, thighs, belly, and so forth. Let your forehead be last. Notice how relaxed your body feels -- and enjoy it!

With your breath, you have a ready-made tool to relax your body and slow down the thoughts that keep you awake. Try this: Place a hand on your heart and feel its rhythm. Breathe in deep for 4 seconds, then take a long, slow breath out. Repeat this pattern until you can feel your heartbeat slow down. Your thoughts should soon ease up as well.

Your phone, tablet, and other screens can mess with your sleep. The reason? They give off blue light, which signals your body to stop making melatonin, the hormone that controls when you feel sleepy. Instead, this light tells your brain to stay alert. Not to mention the late-night dings and buzzes that can jolt you out of peaceful slumber. The best bet for better sleep is to keep computers, TVs, and, yes, your phone out of your bedroom.

Learn to calm your mind on demand, and you’ll find it easier to drift off at night. If you’re new to meditation practice, it helps to find a point of focus. It could be the sound of your breath or a simple phrase that you repeat in your head, like “I am at peace.” At first, you may struggle to tune out your thoughts. It’s OK to stop after a minute or two -- but try again the next night. Over time, you’ll be able to meditate longer.

If they’re stuck inside your mind, worries and “What ifs?” can grow unchecked. Say them out loud, and they might just vanish. You can test this tactic first: Start to recite the letters of the alphabet in your head. When you get a few letters in, say something out loud. Notice that your ABCs came to a halt? That’s what can happen when you give voice to your worries.

Many people say yoga helps them sleep better. Try “child’s pose” at bedtime. Kneel on the floor with your big toes together. Separate your knees the width of your hips, and sink your chest to your thighs. Let your forehead touch the ground. Have hip or knee issues? Try “corpse pose” instead. Lie on your back, legs apart and arms relaxed at your sides. Exhale and feel yourself sink into the ground. Stay in either pose for 3-5 minutes.

Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less -- and sleep better.


1) Lacheev / Thinkstock

2) Ingram Publishing / Thinkstock

3) evgenyatamanenko / Thinkstock

4) jacoblund / Thinkstock

5) WebMD

6) AndreyPopov / Thinkstock

7) YakobchukOlena / Thinkstock

8) George Doyle / Thinkstock

9) fizkes / Thinkstock

10) pixelheadphoto / Thinkstock


SOURCES: “How to cope with sleep problems.”

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust: “Jacobson’s progressive relaxation technique.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Sleep Disorders.”

National Sleep Foundation: “How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?” “Scary Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep,” “How to Meditate Before Bed.”

Journal of Experimental Psychology: “The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists.

The Sleep Council: “Seven Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Yoga for Better Sleep.”

Behavior Modification: “A Preliminary Investigation of Stimulus Control Training for Worry: Effects on Anxiety and Insomnia.”

Sleep Health Foundation Australia: “Anxiety and Sleep.”

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90,000 “I can’t fall asleep”: 5 ways to lull the restless brain - try

48 791

Antistresses and Beauties of the How To


Eternal Bodge

How did you sleep? This is a very important question. Answering it, we evaluate our general condition: “How do I feel? Am I here or not? Everything is natural. Sometimes the day is so hectic that in the evening we barely crawl to bed, dreaming of falling down and falling asleep, but as soon as we lie down under the covers, annoying thoughts begin to rush in our heads. nine0003

What is most paradoxical is that the more we exhaust ourselves in a day, the more difficult it is to lull the brain

If this is familiar to you, know that you are not alone. Insomnia attacks regularly occur in 30% of adults, and their number is increasing every year. Even if you are one of those lucky ones who usually falls asleep easily and quickly, you have probably had nights when you tossed and turned from side to side, trying in vain to turn off your annoying brain. But he kept mumbling about business, worries, debts, ideas and plans, scrolling through awkward moments, humming obsessive songs and not wanting to stop, even if you beat your head against the wall. nine0003

The fact that the brain refuses to obey is quite natural. He works like a bee. His destiny is to buzz tirelessly so that we remember, compare, calculate, plan, decide, in a word, act like people. No matter how much we want to calm the brain, it is useless to accuse it of violent activity - it cannot do otherwise. In addition, our brain is very persistent. He has an extremely responsible job of helping us stay mindful and productive.

So if he thinks something is very important, you can't just say to him, “Listen, stop fussing. Tomorrow we will deal with all urgent matters and urgent decisions. No matter how! But we can stop fighting the stubborn brain, confident that it is working for our good, and try to lull it to sleep. Here are five tips to help you calm your racing thoughts and fall asleep peacefully. nine0003

What is Chronic Insomnia

Before proceeding, a small but extremely important digression needs to be made for the 10% of people who suffer from chronic insomnia. Namely:

  • cannot sleep or often wakes up almost every night;

  • this has been going on for more than a month;

  • this interferes with a normal life and leads to nervous breakdowns.

If all of this sounds like you, try the following techniques, but be warned: they won't help with severe sleep problems. Most likely, you have already unsuccessfully tried to overcome insomnia more than once: followed the rules of sleep hygiene, meditated, used lavender oil, and so on. Just in case, do not particularly hope that these tips will become a panacea. nine0003

It is better to ask your doctor to refer you to a specialized specialist who treats insomnia with proven methods. Everyone else — that is, those who have problems with sleep only occasionally — can safely apply these techniques today.


How to cope with sleep anxiety?

1. Give yourself an "anxious break"

Sounds like pretty stupid advice. Who wants to worry about a schedule? But be patient. Set aside 15-30 minutes a day for anxiety — just not before bed! Don't try to do other things at the same time. It is important to focus on everything that you have no control over. nine0003

If at the end of the break it turns out that the brain is trying to cling to problems that you can’t do anything about, and starts to drive the same thoughts around the second circle, just tell yourself: “That’s it, the alarm limit has been exhausted for today.” Or: “Thank you, brain! Let's put those worries aside until tomorrow's anxious break."

The idea is to limit the space for alarms: to settle them in a specially designated corner so that they don’t run around like crazy all day long

You probably know how difficult it is to turn off disturbing thoughts. Try telling yourself not to think about the pink elephant. Now tell me, what did you just think? So, instead of telling yourself not to worry, give your brain the opportunity to take worries out of the general system and place them in a specific time frame. Soon you will learn to put off any problems until the next “anxious break”.

2. Transfer painful thoughts from your head to paper

What if the "anxious break" did not help? Or has the day been so stressful that you can't relax and fall asleep? A round dance of thoughts is spinning in your head without stopping, so that, God forbid, you don’t stop worrying about something important. In this case, they need to be "unloaded". This technique is best used before going to bed, trying to catch everything that is stuck in the head. nine0003

For ideas that deserve special attention, it's good to keep a diary, but you can do without it, do not write everything down, do not complete sentences

It is not necessary to write thoughtfully, loftily and competently. Even fragmentary thoughts scrawled on a napkin will work. The main thing is to transfer them to paper so that the brain is convinced that you have not forgotten anything. You can tell him, “Don't worry! Everything is written down, we will deal with it tomorrow, when the time is right. ” nine0003

3. Play the scenes

Have you ever noticed how fast your thoughts run? The fact is that the brain is a talking device, trained to instantly select words and compose stories. In fact, all our thoughts are short stories through which we make sense of the world. It is worth losing vigilance, as the brain begins to chatter at breakneck speed, jumping from topic to topic.

Fortunately, we can switch to another type of thinking, not as hasty as the default one, and it is called imagination

It is much easier to adjust the speed by playing the scene in your mind. Imagine walking through the rooms of a large house or walking from tree to tree along a winding forest path. Try to fully immerse yourself in the plot, use all five senses. What does the forest look like? Is it warm and dry or does it have a fresh breeze? What does it smell like here? Look at the leaf - what color is it? Run your fingers over it - how do you feel?

When you do this, the images take up space that the brain would normally rush to fill with messy reasoning. From time to time it will distract you from contemplating the pictures. This is fine! Don't resist the thoughts and don't try to get them out of your head, it's like fighting the proverbial pink elephant. Caught some thought - thank the brain and again direct your attention to the sheet that you were looking at. nine0003

4. Travel through the body

This technique is very similar to the previous one. The only difference is that you will not wander through an imaginary forest, but through your own body. Focus on your breath first. No need to change the rhythm and try to breathe evenly. Use natural breathing as a link to the body. As soon as intrusive thoughts begin to distract you, calmly redirect them to breathing.

As soon as annoying thoughts begin to distract you, calmly redirect them to breathing, with which you can “scan” the whole body

Always start with your toes. Again, there is no need to change or think about anything. Just listen to the sensations. Are your fingers warm? Coldly? Closely? Free? Move them, feel them. Do not hurry. When you're done with your toes, move on to your feet. Slow down a bit and move to the ankles, calves, shins, knees, and so on. Slowly move your attention higher and higher, lingering on each part of the body for as long as you want.

5. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts

Sometimes we get so exhausted that body scans and visual fantasies just don't have the energy. It's OK! Since the brain insists on the conversational genre, give it such pleasure and take another interesting story to distract from obsessive thoughts.

Audiobooks and podcasts are great sleeping pills. Choose something quieter, without intricate sound effects, harsh voices and fast music. You can set a timer to turn off after about 30 minutes. Don't get too carried away with the "perfect choice" though. You can listen to anything, for example, a detective novel. The main thing is that the recording should not be boring and monotonous. You should be interested, because the point is that the brain is carried away by the content of the audio clip and stops worrying. nine0003

If all else fails…

It may happen that none of the above techniques will help calm the overexcited brain and it flatly refuses to fall asleep. Dont be upset. Everyone has nights like this. This does not mean that from now on you are doomed to chronic insomnia, and tomorrow will be deleted from your life. The best way out in this case is to simply stop trying to sleep.

Get up and do something useful. Watch your favorite series, read a book, write a letter. Hooray! This night you have found time for yourself. Soon bodily fatigue will make itself felt, the eyelids will become heavy and sleep will overcome the active brain. It's time to go back to bed and sleep sweetly. nine0003

About the author: Jade Wu is a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep disorders.

Sean Stevenson "Healthy Sleep"

Sean Stevenson experienced first hand the serious consequences of lack of sleep. From his book, you will find out whether it is possible to sleep off on weekends if you constantly lack sleep on weekdays; What time of the day do you need to exercise to sleep better? how to equip a room for sleeping; is it permissible to use gadgets in the evenings and much more. nine0003


Text: Elena Anisimova Photo source: Unsplash

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12 ways to turn off your brain before going to bed

Editorial office of the newspaper "Svetly Put"4 266 Good to know For many of us, as soon as it's time for sleep, the brain starts to burst with thoughts. It's like a test of strength, every evening to drive thoughts, as if you were driving a car at high speed along the Formula 1 track. Such a pastime every evening can disturb your general condition for the next and subsequent days. nine0003

Here are 12 ways to turn off your brain before bed:


For many of us, sleep is the last thing on our minds when it comes to living a healthy life. We sacrifice sleep first of all when there is not enough time.

Lack of sleep causes a number of problems, including anxiety. In addition, sleep deprivation increases the risk of health problems such as hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. Once you realize that sleep is vital to you, you will begin to sleep well. nine0003


Falling asleep and waking up at the same time is the key to good sleep. It would be optimal if our sleep coincided with our internal clock and circadian rhythms.


How you spend your time before bed is important to get your sleep on track. But it is very difficult to turn off the brain when you are tormented by anxiety before leaving for the realm of Morpheus.

Creating rituals before falling asleep establishes a clear connection between certain activities and sleep. For example, if you read before going to bed, then the body knows that reading is a signal for sleep. If you take a bath in the evening, your body recognizes that it's time to stop and relax. Some authors suggest listening to soothing music, doing relaxation exercises. If you watch TV, make sure the program is relaxing and not news. nine0003


For about 10-15 minutes a day, until 4-5 pm, write down your worries and unresolved problems and what you do with them. If worrying thoughts about problems come right before bed, you can mentally look into your notes and say to yourself, "I've dealt with this before. " As a rule, this gives a "feeling of relief." Do not write down a list of problems before bed to clear your mind and relax.


Create a clear relationship between your bed and sleep. Even if you're having trouble sleeping and need to read to fall asleep, do it outside of bed.

Working at the computer, watching TV, typing messages on the phone is best done outside of bed, as these activities stimulate your brain.


Creating the right sleeping environment includes no lights, silence, moderate temperature - this also helps to relax. nine0003


Opportunities to take your mind off your worries may be enough to get you to sleep. Mental exercise will help the brain switch. For example, tasks such as "think about fruits and vegetables that begin with a certain letter." You can focus on the details of the object, such as color, shape, size. You can read lyrics from your favorite songs.


When you lie in bed thinking about problems, try moving to more positive thoughts. Focus on good memories and happy events. nine0003


Relaxation exercises are helpful in reducing anxiety and racing thoughts. Exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing will help here.


Regular exercise helps with sleep. Try to spend it in the morning, as it can also stimulate.


Do your habits interfere with the process of falling asleep or increase inner restlessness? Serious ones are caffeine and alcohol, which increase anxiety. The effect of caffeine can last up to 7 hours. Tea and chocolate also contain caffeine. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but the sleep itself will be interrupted and shallow, and therefore less restful.


Learn more