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Lulling My Racing Thoughts To Sleep

I’ve written several articles about living with anxiety and how it impacts my insomnia. Recently, I’ve noticed that there’s been 1 thing really getting in the way of my sleep, specifically my falling asleep – racing thoughts. What are some tips to calm racing thoughts for insomnia?

Unending racing thoughts

This year has been really hard for me. Personally, I’ve experienced some trauma, and I’ve been navigating intensive talk therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to process all that I’ve endured. The physical manifestations of these things for me have come in the form of heart-racing, chest-tightening panic attacks, and unending racing thoughts.

During the day, I find that distraction is the best medicine for these things. Working, playing with my daughter, reading, cooking, and getting really into TV shows or movies – all help me to balance these feelings, and to not run away from the constant barrage of thoughts.

My racing thoughts

I bet you know what I'm going to say next.

It's hard to distract at night when you're trying to wind down and fall asleep. 

It's hard to re-focus my attention, to calm my mind and my body, and to really relax as I drift off into sleep without having a visual or auditory distraction with me until I'm fast asleep. Honestly, I spent night after night, week after week trying desperately to overcome these things while laying in my bed in the dark before realizing that I needed to work with them.

This was something that certain medications could curb – the ones that are intended to make me drowsy help with shortening the time my cognition is in overdrive before shutting down. But – I didn't want prescription medication to be the long-term answer. I felt compelled to find a way, or a series of coping mechanisms, that helped me to gently get more sleep.

After a lot of trial and error, I'd like to share what I've found works best for me, in case any or all of these suggestions can help you too.

How I lull my racing thoughts to sleep:

  1. I created a playlist of non-lyrical, instrumental-only music, mostly that I've never heard before. There's no emotional attachment or sentiment to any of the songs, so they don't further trigger any additional thought patterns. However, they do give my mind something to focus on. I start playing this when I get into bed at night. Before I turn off the lights, I set a sleep timer for it to shut off about an hour after I fall asleep.
  2.  I keep a journal, notepad or post-it notes, and a pen on my nightstand. It's imperative for me to write anything on my mind down before I turn out the light and try to sleep. First, this gives me a sense of control that I won't forget the thing I'm thinking about if I let my mind shut down. Second, it usually prevents any of these thoughts from taking on a life of their own with spiraling thoughts.
  3. Now, having the playlist running isn't always enough for me. Sometimes I need guided meditation. I've identified 2 or 3 meditations and a few sleep stories from the Calm app which enable me to engage mentally, practice deep breathing or mindfulness, and usually drift off to sleep.
  4. I also find that putting on a comfortable, slightly weighted sleep mask and snuggling with a stuffed animal or weighted blanket is extra helpful in relaxing my body and my mind. Also, they increase the chances of falling asleep unscathed.

If you've tried any or all of these, I'd love to hear how they worked for you below!

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