Need Sleep? Here’s How to Shut Off Your Brain

Hands up: Who has a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep because your brain won’t shut the hell up? Yup, just about every young professional (YP) out there at one time or another. We are tired and all we want is some decent rest after a hard day’s work or a busy social weekend. Yet so often it seems that once our head hits the pillow, our minds have very different plans. If your brain likes to blabber at you and keep you awake, it may be a sign that you are not giving yourself enough time to deal with your thoughts during your waking hours. Here are some insights and tips to help you gain some control over that inner chatter.  

Hey, remember me, your mind?  
As busy young professionals, we spend so much of our time consumed with work, engaged with screens, and interacting with other people. One of the main reasons that our worries, thoughts, and ideas seem to flood our minds the minute we lay down to go to sleep is because it is often the only moment of the day that we are not paying attention to something else. The minute we are free from all the distractions of the world, our brain finally gets the chance to raise its hand and say, “Hey, over here!” So it’s really not all that possible to tell your brain to “shut it” – at least not in a sustainable way. What is really required in order to get some peace is to say, “Hey, I hear ya,” and acknowledge those neglected thoughts and give them the attention they deserve… just maybe at a more convenient time of the day.

Make time for the mind 
Sure, it may seem like an obvious solution; if you want to get a good night’s sleep, rid your life of those things that cause you to worry before bed. What’s more obvious, though, is how unrealistic that is. We are young professionals, and along with the fun and excitement that goes with that title, our lives are also wrought with uncertainties and anxieties. So what is a more plausible solution for the worrisome YP insomniac? Take control over the timing of your brain’s need to talk. 

Just as we make an effort to set time out every day to work out our physical bodies (OK, maybe not every day), so too do we need to make time to work out our mental muscles. It can be a simple as going for a stroll, writing in a journal, getting a massage, or just sitting alone in a peaceful place; whatever you can do quietly and alone (screen-free) to allow your mind time to express and resolve. By designating some specific worry time during your waking hours, you can help alleviate that busy mind from the stressors that keeps so many of us up at night.

Another handy tip: keep a note pad near your bed for those lingering late-night lists, ideas, and concerns. By quickly jotting them down you are able to release your brain from the burden of constantly replaying them over and over due to the worry of forgetting. And while you may be inclined to grab that smartphone to make those notes, opt for the traditional pen and paper method instead, as that blast of artificial light can just feed your brain’s unwelcomed alertness. 

If you are one of the many YPs who gets their best ideas or biggest worries right when you are trying to shut it down, it’s likely an indication that you’re lacking some you time. For more on the importance of taking time out to work on you, see here.