5 Tips to Quiet Your Racing Mind and Sleep Better

It’s been a long day and I’m tired. I get into bed ready for eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. As soon as my head hits the pillow my mind seems to come alive. And not just alive, but racing like I just had a triple shot of espresso. I begin rehashing the day, the year, my life. I go over the day’s interactions, reworking what I should have said or what I should have done. I worry about the stuff I have to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and… wait! I’m trying to get some sleep—remember?

A Mind That Doesn’t Quiet

If this happens to you too, you have a bad case of Monkey Mind. It’s when your mind jumps from thought to thought, and as much as you want it to stop, it just won’t settle. It seems to be worse at night, getting between you and a good night’s sleep. It’s frustrating because the harder you try to make it stop, the worse it seems.

A mind that doesn’t quiet comes from over-activating the fight or flight response in your body from stress, anxiety and endless worry. And when you try to slow down at the end of the day, your body is still in overdrive—it just won’t turn off.

5 Tips to Calm Your Mind

If your mind is jumping around like a monkey from tree to tree, what can you do to calm it down? First, realize that resisting the racing mind only makes it worse. The more you let it frustrate you, the more it will race. So, start by letting go and accepting what is. The awareness that you’re distracted or stressed is a good starting place in calming yourself. Beyond self-awareness, here are five things that might help:

  1. Anchor yourself to something physical. For example, concentrate on how your head feels on the pillow, or focus on how the covers feel against your toes. Try to focus on the physical sensations for as long and as deeply as you can.
  1. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing. This is also moving from the cerebral to the physical, but the pattern of your breathing is both hypnotic and relaxing.
  1. Meditate. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal. You can just choose a word such as “calm” or “relax” and slowly repeat it in your mind.
  1. Empty your mind. This one works really well for me. Think to yourself, “What’s my next thought?” Given the pressure to stop for a second and come up with an important and coherent thought, your mind will empty like a wastebasket on trash day. Try it and see how long you can keep your mind empty.
  1. Get some help. A few sessions with an acupuncturist, an hour on the massage table, a yoga class, or a brisk walk with a sympathetic friend all are effective ways to relive stress and calm your jumpy mind.

How do you calm your mind after a busy day?

Please share your tips and tricks in the comment section below.

Lynn Jaffee is a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine at <a href=”http://acupunctureinthepark.com/”>Acupuncture in the Park</a> near Minneapolis, MN. Lynn is also the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health. For more articles on staying well, check out her blog at <a href=”http://acupuncturetwincities.com/”>Acupuncture Health Insights.</a>

  • Angela

    Jacqueline, I hope you can get some good sleep soon. Let us know what tips work best for you!

    -Angela at CaringBridge

  • CB

    I totally agree with Desiree, praying is an excellent way to relieve the stress of the day and drop off to sleep at night. I find praying the rosary is the most relaxing thing I can do at the end of the day to be able to get to sleep at night. Knowing that Mary is there to intercede for me and help get my prayers answered is extremely helpful.

  • Jacqueline Mahone

    Thank you I so needed to read that because I suffer with that bad. I have end stage liver disease and they just want to give me pills. I want to live I just found my passion and purpose in life. I have not had a good night sleep in 20+ years. I will be trying this..

  • Cyn

    Thank you Desiree! Thank you for reminding me that hope and faith are truly the best sleep aide!

  • Betty

    I have learned that when my mind is doing this the best thing I can do is get up and write everything down. It gets it out of my racing mind and allows me to sleep because I don’t have to remember everything. In the morning I visit my writings and what I worried about at night seems to be so small compared to what it was last night. I can also take care of those things I kept forgetting during the day.

  • Sue

    Once I get to sleep I wake up after about 2 or 3 hours of deep sleep only to continue to wake up again after another hour of sleep and so for the rest of the night.

  • Desiree

    I pray, asking God to take all my worries, trusting that God will find the best drs, hospitals, & treatments at all the right times. I then imagine myself handing Him a big box & that God can & will do much more than my racing thoughts. I tell myself I will not think or worry for the night, that I deserve 6-8 hrs of sleep, & that in the am I can resume praying & reminding myself that having faith means trusting in Gods miracles, & I recall all the many times God heals people that Drs gave the worst prognosis! I’ve been a NICU/ picu rn for most of my 25 yr career, & it really helped me to see miracles happen when drs said there was no hope, God showed the drs that HE is God, & He can do what needs to be done when drs run out of ideas-it helped me in my own hardships when I was told to d/c life support & refused to give up, & weeks later my child, grandbaby w/leukemia & young husband who had 3 massive strokes & was in a coma for 6 weeks. Refusing to d/c life support, against all odds, my husband not only woke up, after intense therapies, he enjoys life, laughs, & our love has grown immensely! He has a few lasting things that no one would ever guess was from massive strokes or even notice but us. But knowing that God already had the solution before we know there’s a problem calmed me. Allowing myself a nights sleep free from worry until the next day helped my endurance & strength! My grandbaby fought cancer for 4 years & now is on maintenance meds-he is considered cancer free! God will do the same for your loved ones, don’t let drs steal your hope!

  • Celereb

    I picture a chalkboard in my head. I picture a eraser. I erase the writing on the chalkboard, it doesn’t say anything particular, just a bunch of letters, words etc….
    If the eraser doesn’t work, and the words and letters keep coming back…then I picture a wet sponge…..and clean the board. By then I’m relaxed and ready to sleep. Try it! Sleep tight.

  • Janie Mc

    I make sure everyone in the house is asleep. I turn off all TV.
    Then when everything is totally quiet, I get a good book and read until my mine is totally relaxed and I am at peace.