How to Stop Overthinking at Night: 7 Ways to Quell Nighttime Mental Chatter

Amber Murphy

Our brains love to kick themselves into overdrive at the most inopportune of moments. For you, it may be when you crawl into your toasty bed, exhausted from a long and hard day. But, try as you might, you simply can’t shut your brain off. All manner of thoughts are darting around it, and you simply can’t shake them. The end result is sleeping far later than you wanted to, and this means you wake up feeling tired and groggy. Thankfully, learning how to stop overthinking at night isn’t that difficult. I am going to share with you a few tried and tested techniques which will help you to shut your brain off at night. Put these into action, and you will be sleeping well before you know it.

Why do we overthink at night?

Before we talk about how we can tackle all that overthinking, I think it is worth taking a little bit of time to talk about why it is happening in the first place. I think this will help you to realize that overthinking is actually fairly normal. It is something that everybody will deal with at some point or another.

The brain is an information processing machine. Each and every day, a load of information is being thrown at you. Information that your brain needs to process at some point. The problem is that our lifestyles are busier than ever before. There is very little downtime, which means that your brain never really gets a rest from that constant barrage of information. The only time it can ‘take a break’ is when you are laying in bed of an evening. So, when you are overthinking, you will find that your brain is (mostly) processing information. Storing it. Making decisions etc.

Honestly, you will find that having a little bit of quiet time to yourself each day will do wonders when it comes to overthinking. Give yourself a rest every few hours, and the amount that you overthink of an evening will shoot all the way down. Which leads us neatly onto our first method for how to stop overthinking at night.

7 ways to stop overthinking at night

1. Meditate before bed

Perhaps the best way to decompress is to try a bit of meditation. If you have never meditated before, don’t worry, it is actually pretty easy. All you need is a quiet room and a soft chair to sit on. You may want to light a candle or two for some atmosphere. Then just follow these steps:

  1. Close your eyes and relax them. Take a few deep breaths to get started.
  2. If you have never meditated before, it can be difficult to breathe deeply. You will start warming up to it, though. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on making your breaths as deep as you can. You will get the hang of it after a while.
  3. The key to meditation is to focus on your breathing. Focus on nothing else. Just focus on the air going in and then coming back out. This will eliminate any thoughts lingering in your mind.

That really is it. If you meditate for just five minutes, you will feel so much more relaxed. However, the feeling is so fantastic, that I reckon you will be doing it for at least 10-20 minutes, even at the start. Try our guided meditation for overthinking if you’re looking for a place to start.

If you are struggling to relax, you may want to listen to some music designed specifically for meditation. It will help to get you in the mood.

Free meditation appDeclutter The Mind is an app that will teach you how to meditate, help you form the habit of a regular practice, and expand your mind to the teachings of mindfulness.

2. Have a wind down routine

Relaxing at night with a good book to stop overthinking

About an hour before you head to bed, give yourself time to ‘decompress’. Don’t watch television, it is going to stimulate your brain further. Disconnect from your phone and tablets, avoid blue light that keeps you up, and give yourself a few hours before bed to prepare for sleep. You can probably read a book, but make sure that the subject matter isn’t too heavy. The last thing you want is to be thinking about that awesome plot line when you are trying to drift into the land of dreams.

To stop overthinking at night, we need to avoid stimulating ourselves around bedtime. Sleep experts agree that about an hour or two before you plan to fall asleep, is best. A good night’s sleep is all about preparing your body and mind for it. Often our racing mind and staying awake from thoughts comes from trying to fall asleep right after doing something stimulating such as watching tv or reading an intense book.

This will also help encourage you to go to bed early. Often, we find ourselves getting into something late at night, and it disrupts our sleep schedule and we go to bed later than usual. This pattern only serves to disrupt restful sleep and keep us awake.

3. Invoke more positive thoughts and thinking

Another good thing to consider and help quiet the overthinking mind at night is to move yourself to more positive thoughts and thinking. One suggestion is to have a gratitude list. This is a list of things you’re grateful for that you go through before bed to start moving towards more positing thinking and focus on the more positive things in life instead of unwanted thoughts.

Now, when you go to bed thinking, you won’t be filled with thinking about the busy day tomorrow or spend all night in your own personal worry time. Now, you’ll move from racing thoughts to a happier, more relaxed mind at night.

4. Talk about your feelings

Express your feelings with someone

If you have a lot of anxiety or burning thoughts on your mind, then talk about them to a friend or loved one. Talk about your day, and any issues that you had with it. Make them feel as if they can talk to you if you want. In most cases, an open and honest discussion like this is more than enough to ensure that you get a good night of rest.

Sometimes laying in bed at night or the only time our mind has a chance to “vent” or process the day because it’s the only time you find some peace and quiet. So instead, give yourself room during the day to talk about your worries, and find a friend or loved one interested in listening.

If you don’t have anybody to talk about your feelings too, then you may want to buy a notebook and jot a few of your inner thoughts down into it.

5. Distract your brain

Distract your brain to stop overthinking at night

There will be some evenings where you won’t be able to shake your thoughts at all. If you want to stop overthinking at night and you follow the techniques mentioned before, these evenings will be minimal, but they will still happen. Sometimes, the best you can hope for is to distract your brain with something a bit more positive.

When I get anxiety-laden thoughts of an evening, there is one method that works really well for me. This is making up a story. When you feel those negative thoughts start to creep into your brain, come up with a story, When I was a kid, I used to love making up stories about my ‘dreams’. For example; I wanted to be a professional football player, so I would imagine myself doing that. Although, you may want to do something different. Just think about something ‘fun’.

If you can’t do that, then some people find that making lists up in their mind about what needs to be accomplished the next day is a good distraction. Although, you may find that doing this will cause you to overthink more, so proceed with caution! If you don’t want to make a ‘to do’ list, then try and make a random ‘fun’ list up. For example; make a list of your favorite movies or songs. Just something to focus your mind elsewhere. You could also use the ‘tried and tested’ method of counting sheep. You will be asleep before you know it.

6. Be more physically active

Doing something physically active helps stop overthinking at night

The final technique will require you to have a few hours free throughout your day, particularly in the run up to sleeping. If you exercise and tire yourself out, your body simply will not have the energy to ‘overthink’. You are going to be drifting into that slumber before you know it. That being said, this is a technique which is probably best used in combination with one of the others on this page. While it is a tremendous method for how to stop overthinking at night, there are some thoughts that will be so powerful and so overwhelming that being dead tired is not enough. Your brain will still somehow manage to muster up the energy to think about your problems.

7. Seek professional medical advice

When it seems like nothing else is working, it may be time to seek professional medical advice in case you’re suffering from something more serious such as insomnia. Treatment will vary from sleep medicine, to improving sleep hygiene, to sleeping pills.

The treatment isn’t always a pill either. Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy can go a long way into treating sleep problems and getting you to a place where you’re falling asleep quickly on most nights.

Sleep Easier Tonight

If you follow these techniques, you will lower the amount of overthinking you do, if not eliminating it completely. You will be surprised at how many daily issues a spot of meditation in the evening can help you to deal with. However, do remember that if you have a ton of anxious thoughts at night that you can’t shake no matter what you try, you may want to talk to your doctor or psychologist. They will be able to provide you with further advice.

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