What should I do when worry keeps me awake?

Asked by Anonymous

Thank you for your question, reader. Losing sleep over your worries can certainly be disruptive and add to your overall worry. Hopefully, practicing the tips discussed here will help you feel like you have some tools at hand the next time you find yourself unable to sleep because your mind won’t turn off. One common mistake that people make when they can’t sleep is to keep laying in bed, willing your mind to turn off so that you can rest. In fact, one of the best things we can do for worry is to help your mind disrupt that process of worrying. It is recommended that you leave your bed, and even better, the room that you sleep in, and do something else for about 10-15 minutes. However, don’t distract yourself with screens, like on the phone, unless you have blue-light blockers. Light can be stimulating for your brain, making it harder to prepare for rest. You could try drinking some herbal tea or warm milk, reading a good book, listening to calm music, or completing a small chore. After that period of time, try laying back down to see if you are feeling any more tired. If you cannot fall asleep within 15 minutes or so, you should get back up again.

Another tool that can be beneficial is to give yourself a set time to journal about what is on your mind, again about 10 to 15 minutes. At the end of that time, tell yourself to stop thinking about it until the morning. Tell yourself there is nothing productive that you can do about any of this worry until the daytime. Sometimes, the brain goes over and over things in an attempt to store them in memory; allowing yourself to make a record of the worry to keep until the morning can help. Another practice to help disrupt the worry process is to do a short mindfulness practice that helps to refocus your attention onto sleep or rest. There are many scripted exercises available on the Internet that you can close your eyes and listen to. I recommend searching for keywords like “mindfulness with deep breathing” or “mindfulness practice for sleep.”

If you often find yourself suffering from insomnia, it could help you speak with a mental health professional about the uncontrollable worry you are having.