When My Body and Brain Are on a Different Page

Oftentimes, when I go to bed my body signals to my brain that I am exhausted and ready to sleep. In response, upon climbing under the covers, my brain decides it is ready to think - and kicks said "thinking" into overdrive.

I have struggled immensely for years with falling asleep, because I just can not seem to turn my brain off. To escape this, I have often turned to scrolling on my phone, hoping that social media will redirect my brain to a sort of neutral when in all honesty, it usually just leads to more thinking.

Sometimes different thinking, a welcomed distraction, but more thinking none the less. And the more thinking I do leads to less sleeping, becoming a vicious circle.

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The battle between my body and brain

I recently saw a meme on Instagram that said, "Body: Okay, sleepy time. Brain: Okay, thinking time," and this resonated deeply within me.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have received the messages of tiredness or exhaustion from my brain in the form of physical symptoms - brain fog, brain winding down, limbs become heavy, lots of yawning, heavy eyelids - and in response, I have stopped whatever I was doing, and started my quick bedtime routine.

Face washing, teeth brushing, medicine taking, and finally, crawling into bed. But once I am there it is usually difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to fall asleep because it feels like my brain is an internet browser with new tabs opening over and over again.

Sometimes I find myself down a huge rabbit hole in my own thoughts, which can often keep my brain going (and me awake) for several hours. I wish there were enough words to express my frustration on this, but somehow I have a feeling this community will understand exactly what I am trying to explain.

Tips to settle my mind at night

While the tips and tricks I have practiced sometimes helped me to unwind, slow down, and even drift to sleep. I want to be honest in that they don't always work, but here are the ones I have had the most success with:

  1. Have a bedtime ritual, no matter how short. It will signify to your brain that its about time to switch into "low-power" mode and get ready to turn off consciousness for the night.
  2. Keep a journal next to your bed. When I can't turn my mind off, rather than scroll social media, I will reach for my notebook and scribble down all of the things that are keeping me awake. Sometimes knowing they are on paper and I won't forget them in the morning can help with the flooding of thoughts. Unfortunately, this does require a bit of light - either by the flashlight on my phone or my bedside lamp - but only when my husband is wearing his sleep mask. Sometimes it requires going to my office or to our living room to turn on a soft light and write until my brain feels calm and emptier.
  3. If you can't sleep after a certain amount of time, try getting out of bed. For me, doing something that requires focus or attention is often an activity that does not require a lot of light or sound, and no screens - like my favorite nighttime activity, or other things I do when I can’t sleep . This can break up the cycle of thoughts my brain is producing, thus helping me to fall asleep when I get back into bed.

Have you tried any of these things when your brain is preventing you from falling asleep? Have you tried something else that has worked well for you?

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