Slowing those Racing Thoughts Before Bed

All too often when it’s finally time to go to bed, our heads hit the pillow and all we can think about is what we have to do; either what we didn’t have time to finish today, or what we have yet to encounter tomorrow. The restlessness that comes with these racing thoughts ultimately impedes our productivity the following day. While often times we feel helpless when we can’t ease our minds before bed, the implementation of a simple bedtime routine can really do the trick.

There have been a handful of times looking over the years that I think that I may have, in my adolescent naivety, stumbled across a very practical way of doing certain things. The most notable of these youthful discoveries was a rather odd sleeping routine that I created for myself back in high school. I would wake up at 5:30 AM every morning before school, and trudge to the shower dreading the 7 hours of classes that was awaiting me. After my shower I would walk downstairs still half-asleep and fix myself something for breakfast – those were the two things I absolutely needed to do before school: take a shower, and have breakfast. Once I had completed these two actions it would be around 6:00 AM. I would then set a timer on the oven, sink into the recliner in the living room, and take a nap for about an hour. Upon hearing the alarm ring on the oven (a sound that still jolts me awake to this day) I would bounce up out of the chair, grab my backpack, and head out the door feeling refreshed, fully awake, and ready to meet my day with a positive attitude.

This routine was so effective for me that it would be an incredibly rare occurrence for me to feel drowsy at school. Why did this odd routine work so well for me? I believe that the key was in the completion of those two basic tasks, which in my mind HAD to be done before I could go to school. Before I began this routine, I would plan on waking up at 6:30 to shower and eat before I left, but I would end up waking up earlier to restlessly lay there thinking: “I have yet to complete these two tasks.” By freeing myself mentally of the importance of completing those two tasks I was able to achieve calm, productive sleep almost instantly.

So how can this concept be applied to the life of a healthy adult? You have to be proactive. Create a bedtime routine that allows you to dispel the stress of things that you need to finish. If there is one thing on your to-do list that will take less than 10-minutes, it may be a good idea to do it right away – you’ll be surprised the sense of relief this will bring you. Or if you have a large list of things to do the following day, make sure to plan out when you’re going to be working on each individual item. The peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you are ready to tackle tomorrow may very well be enough to allow you to fall asleep in no time at all.