Podcast episode 16 How to quiet your mind to fall to asleep more quickly
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m a writer and teacher specialising in overthinking and overworrying. Here I share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hi there, before we get started with today’s episode I wanted to share something with you first. At the start of June I was at The Mindful Living Show in London giving a session on how powerful appreciating your life can be. I talk about the research backing up the benefits of a regular gratitude practice, how to do it and how to make it a part of your daily life. It was wonderful to have so many people come along to the workshop and if you were one of them, thank you so much. For everyone who couldn’t join in I’m pleased to tell you that the session is now available as a recording so you can listen and join in the exercises wherever you are. I’ll pop a link in the show notes to the page where you can find the recording or you can find it at gabrielletreanor.com/courses.
Now, on with episode 16 and today we’re looking at how to calm your mind so that you can go to sleep.
We’ve all had those nights where you know you’re tired, you’ve got a busy day tomorrow and you really want to get a good night’s sleep but it’s just not happening. Your mind won’t switch off, there’s a constant stream of thoughts running around your brain and you just want it to stop! You might already be feeling stressed from the day you’ve had and the one you’re expecting tomorrow, so the thought that you’re never going to get to sleep just makes everything feel even worse.
So, what can you do?
Well, the good news is, there are quite a few things you can do. But first I want to make something clear – a good night’s sleep is not a nice to have, it’s essential. More and more research is showing that a few nights of poor or not enough sleep is enough to negatively impact pretty much every area of our lives – it makes us more anxious, we make poorer decisions, our productivity and reactions slow, our moods take a nosedive and we make less healthy choices. If we fail to get enough good quality sleep for several years it can have more detrimental effects on our health.
Now, I’m not saying this to give you something else to worry about! I just want you to know the value of sleep and that it is absolutely worth prioritising in your life. When you’ve had a good night’s sleep you’re in a better position to cope with life’s challenges and curveballs, think creatively, get more done, feel optimistic, connect with those around and it even improves your memory.
A bedtime routine is something that you might usually associate with children – bath, PJs on, perhaps a milky drink, read a story and then lights out, time for sleep. It doesn’t always work but as the children’s body clocks, along with the children themselves, learn what the regular routine means there’s a greater chance that sleep will kick in sooner than if there was no routine at all.
As adults we drift away from the idea of a regular bedtime routine as we do last minute prep for work or the school uniform washing or get hooked by the latest boxset or endless social media scrolling. Within a few minutes we go from thinking about work, rushing to make packed lunches or staring at a screen to lying in bed expecting our minds to switch off. And we wonder why we can’t get to sleep.
Creating a bedtime routine doesn’t need to take loads of time and it gives your mind and body clock the signal that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. So, I have six suggestions for how you can calm your mind ready for sleep. This is not a prescription but a menu of ideas for you to choose from to try and find what works for you.
Number 1 Step away from the screen at least 30 minutes before bed.
I know, you’ve heard this before and there’s a reason why! The blue light from the TV or digital device interferes with your body producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which disrupts your body clock. Biologically you don’t know it’s time to sleep because your melatonin levels are nearer to daytime levels than night-time. Creating some space between watching TV or checking your phone and shutting your eyes to sleep gives your body the chance to produce melatonin and get ready for rest. It’s not actually that hard to do when you create the rest of your bedtime routine and your calmer mind (and nerves) will thank you for it.
Number 2 Empty your head onto a piece of paper.
If you find yourself thinking about all the things you have to do tomorrow or rehearsing a conversation you’re going to have, take it out of your head by writing it all down. As long as you’re trying to remember lots of things your mind isn’t going to switch off enough for you to sleep. Your brain doesn’t actually go into rest mode when you sleep. It sorts, files and makes sense of everything you experienced in the day, but you do need to sleep for it to do this vital work. By writing down everything that’s on your mind you know you’ve made a note of it all so you don’t have to try to remember any more.
Number 3 Take a hot bath or shower last thing at night.
Going from a warm shower to a cooler bedroom will cause a slight decrease in body temperature which is just enough to trigger a relaxed, sleepy feeling. Keeping your bedroom a little cooler than other rooms in your home helps your body to relax further as your body temperature drops when you sleep and can help you snooze more deeply.
Okay, number 4 Do a winding down activity to focus your attention on something calming and to relax your body.
You could do a few gentle yoga stretches, a meditation or read a book, an actual book, mind, not a screen. I like to read but I have to be careful to not take a work book to bed with me as they spark too many ideas and get my brain all fired up and excited. So bedtime is when I read a fiction book.
Number 5 Do something that feels like you’re taking care of yourself.
This could overlap with one of the other ideas, such as a bath or yoga, or it can be another stage in your bedtime routine. It might be taking your time and using quality products in your skincare routine, rubbing in foot or hand cream and giving yourself a massage while you do it. Whatever feels like a nourishing act of self-care for you. I used to hurry through washing my face, slapping on some moisturiser while thinking about other things. Now I take my time and really pay attention to how the products feel on my face. I like knowing that I’m taking care of my skin, not for appearances’ sake, but because I’m valuing and caring for myself. It’s a little ritual that’s become a valuable part of my self-care and wind-down routine.
And finally number 6 Use calming scents to relax your mind and body such as lavender or chamomile.
You can make your own pillow spray by mixing a couple of drops of your favourite soothing essential oil with three parts water and one part vodka in a spray bottle, and then spritz it on your pillow. Or you could use essential oils with a diffuser to spread the scent into the air. You can get ones that automatically switch off when it runs out of water or has a timer. Only use a couple of drops of an essential oil at a time, too much lavender can have the opposite effect and be more stimulating that relaxing. There are also blends you can buy with a rollerball applicator to rub the scented oil onto your pulse points to help you sleep.
Once extra point I’ll add is that it is much easier to get an undisturbed night’s sleep if you can make your bedroom as dark as possible. That could mean blackout lining on your blinds or curtains. We have shutters on our bedroom windows which look lovely but don’t block out the light very well so we use eye masks. Get one that’s really soft and not too tight so it’s comfy to sleep in.
So, there are a few ideas for calming your mind to go to sleep. The only way you’re going to find out what helps you is to try them out over several nights. Your body needs time to learn a new bedtime routine so don’t expect to have a perfect night’s sleep the first time you try a new idea.
I’d love to know how you experiment with your bedtime routine and what you find most helpful in calming your overthinking brain. In the next episode we’re going to continue with our sleep theme with ideas on what to do when your overthinking mind wakes you up in the middle of the night.
Thank you for joining me for Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers. You can find the show notes and other episodes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast along with information on how to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. If you enjoyed Pressing Pause it would mean a huge amount to me if you could leave a review on iTunes because it helps other people find the podcast too.
You can also find lots more to empower you to overthink and worry less and enjoy your life more, including the Nook of Inspiration free resource library and the range of online courses, at gabrielletreanor.com.
And if you’re on Instagram come say hi to me, I’m @gabrielletreanor.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.