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I'm stressed out and when I try to go to sleep I can't shut off my thoughts. What should I do?

271 Answers
Last Updated: 02/21/2022 at 11:19am
I'm stressed out and when I try to go to sleep I can't shut off my thoughts. What should I do?
★ This question about Sleeping Well was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
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Evelyn Coker, MSW, LCSW

Clinical Social Work/Therapist

I am down to earth and enjoy working with all clients. I have a special passion to support teen girls and women. My work is nonjudgmental and provides a safe space to grow.

Top Rated Answers
October 7th, 2014 6:03am
So i'm hearing that you find it difficult to switch of your thoughts when your trying to sleep. Tell me what your nighttime routine is like? I was also wondering if you have read our guide on sleeping well? There is a lot of information in their that some people may find helpful in regards to sleeping better. Tell me more about the kind of thoughts that enter your head when your trying to sleep.
January 7th, 2015 10:51pm
I'm really familiar to this problem! What's useful for me is: close my eyes, imagine a room. It's a special room, looks like an interrogation room or something like that - there's a window to look in, but from inside it's a mirror. The room is completely soundproofed, so you cannot hear anything from inside. And there's no way to get out - the door opens only from outside. I focus hard on details - how does the room look, which special features does it have to get more secure, and so on. Finally I walk inside with all my thoughts - leave them inside, walk out and close the door. Now I can decide to watch them from outside, or I can just leave them for a while. This imagination really works well for my - I hope it's a bit useful for you! All the best, Emma
October 23rd, 2014 10:48am
A busy mind is a pain. I suggest reading about Sleep hygiene. There is SO MUCH information on this one subject. Good sleep hygiene will work most of the time. If you still have trouble... Id suggest some therapy for a little while to address what is on your mind.
October 27th, 2014 8:06pm
You can try using a mantra. When you lay down to go to sleep, simply practice some deep breathing, and say to yourself over and over, "I am going to sleep well tonight. I am going to feel rested when I wake up in the morning."
November 18th, 2014 9:43am
Try writing out your thoughts and the issues they concern on paper so that you can reread them in the morning.
August 6th, 2015 5:27am
I would suggest seeking help from a certified professional. If anxiety is causing these problems, look to the 7 Cups Of Tea Anxiety page.
October 6th, 2014 5:25pm
Try to avoid caffeine before you sleep, it can keep you awake! Also, staying away from screens of any type will help your brain relax. Try not to be hungry, but not too full when you sleep, and try to keep all distractions away from your bed.
November 7th, 2014 11:54am
Try writing down your thoughts. It may help you get things off your chest and allow you to sleep more easily
September 28th, 2014 7:37pm
Try to do something relaxing, something you enjoy. Like listening to music or reading. Even drawing could help.
October 29th, 2014 12:04pm
Try drinking Chamomile tea or milk before you go to bed. Exercise a few hours previously can be helpful. Try reading a book - that usually gets people sleepy.
July 16th, 2015 3:52pm
I know I've been there. The things the help me are mediation/breathing exercises or falling asleep to white noise or even Netflix or music. It helps me stop thinking and distracts me. Might be worth a try. Hope this helps
July 19th, 2015 7:24pm
I used to struggle with insomnia and getting my thoughts to shut off a lot growing up. I found the trick wasn't turning off your thoughts, but thinking about something that wasn't stressful instead. Immersing yourself in some kind of fantasy or scenario that was peaceful and enveloping. A particular favorite show of mine when I was younger was Avatar: The Last Airbender, so when I couldn't shut off my thoughts, I instead became a character in that show. I imagined myself as a waterbender. I imagined myself soaring through the sky and I imagined myself being somewhere where my normal problems didn't apply. I did this every night for a few and it served me well.
November 6th, 2014 4:38pm
There are a bunch of different things you can try - I'd suggest looking at the anxiety and sleeping well guides - but the biggest thing is to just relax. Listen to a relaxation recording (imagery, or the muscle relaxation ones), try chamomile tea, lavender-scented things, things like that. The muscle relaxation works especially well for me, it makes me focus on small parts of my body and releasing their tension. I usually fall asleep before I've made it through my whole body, even when I'm really stressed. These techniques do take practice though, so don't give up if it doesn't work the first few times. Talking to somebody can also help, so feel free to come on 7cups at any time. Screens can keep you up longer, so download an app or computer program (try flux) that will filter out blue light - which will keep you up - and dim your screen to an appropriate level.
July 23rd, 2015 7:10am
If you are stressed out due to daily activities and can not concentrate , Start writing diary before sleeping, give your worries a way out and express it in words ...close it and sleep peacefully......or you can just quietly and meditate...Do Pranayam(Yoga ) bfr sleeping.
August 15th, 2015 1:43pm
Sleep difficulties was also part of my life, whenever I have a stressful phase or situation. However, I managed to overcome my sleep difficulties with aromatherapy which is referred to as essential oil therapy. I tried the lavender scented essential oil before bedtime and it really helped me to relax my stressed out mind. Besides that, meditation on a soothing therapeutic music just half and hour before bedtime really helps to unwind. Been doing it for months and I can see a vast difference in my sleep troubles.
September 29th, 2014 4:27am
Personally I would try and listen to something calming or focusing on a thought. Often times that has helped me, but you could also try reading yourself to sleep. Hopefully you can find something to help.
July 30th, 2015 11:57am
When this happens to me, I normally put music on in my headphones and it is all I can hear, I put it on a low volume. I even made a playlist for bed of just my favourite songs, it helps me a lot and it shuts of any thoughts. :)
October 17th, 2014 7:07am
Try to relax by letting everything go. Try doing yoga or physical activity to "shake it off". Also try and listen to calm/relaxing music :) Best of luck.
August 5th, 2015 1:47pm
When I feel that way, I usually play some music or read because it narrows my thoughts to one thing.
June 20th, 2015 9:20am
Read a book or do something else for some minutes before sleep which can make you forget about your thoughts. Try to think about something which doesnt stress you or go to sleep and try to make up a story in order not to think about the thoughts that stress you.
July 17th, 2015 9:45am
See movies or something to divert your mind maybe play games or even talk with your friends about it do something to avoid talking to your mind it won't let you sleep that's why it helps! Divert your mind to do something else than thinking! Or write a journal things down that bothers you and how Can you solve it the matter next day after your sleep
July 25th, 2015 2:43am
What I like to do personally is to turn off the lights, get into bed and close my eyes. I take some nice deep breaths (in thought the the nose, out though the mouth). I only focus on my breathing; the sound of inhaling and exhaling, felling the breath travel to my lungs, feeling my chest fill up with air, then deflate. The trick is to only focus on your breathing. Give it a try :)
July 31st, 2015 11:42am
Perhaps write down you're issues or get someone to just listen whilst you vent. Other than that i'd try escapism, watch a movie, read a book before bed, or listen to some ambient soundtracks like rain.
August 1st, 2015 3:46am
Well, sometimes music can help, just to calm you or find positions in which make you more comfortable. I mean, It could be more like an anxiety or insomnia disorder which is different or most people.
August 7th, 2015 8:35pm
I have many ways tried and experimented,try them..whichever works for you: 1.Make a deal with your mind that you will think about whatever thought going on for 10 minutes and then it will give you 10 minutes 2.Count 1 while inhaling and 2 while exhaling with minimum thoughts. 3.Sing yourself a lullaby or any soothing song with repetitive words and rhythm. I hope anyone of them helps you.Take care :)
August 16th, 2015 12:36am
Great way I find to get to sleep is close your eyes and lay in bed. Tense your hole body and slowly bit by bit from you toes up to your head relax each bit. Another great way is a visual exercise. I visualise my dream house. I start from the path to the gate and think of all the flowers and plants in the front garden, the colours and the item and so one and slowly make my way through. It's a great way to get your brain shutting down!
July 25th, 2015 4:47pm
I find meditation and breathing exercises are helpful. I focus on breathing and the feeling of my stress sinking into the soft bed, slowly everything else begins to fade away and I'm asleep before I know it.
July 25th, 2015 10:12pm
Try a meditating class, I used to have trouble sleeping because of stress,but once I started meditating I learned useful breathing techniques that help me relax and calm down.
July 26th, 2015 1:10am
Concentrate on your breathing, on how your stomach rises and falls with each breath, listen to the sounds around you, feel your lying body, be aware of the pillow where your head is supported, how hot they are the covers, gradually let go of your mind the thoughts concentrating on that.
July 26th, 2015 9:42pm
I think that one of the best ways to find some peace before sleeping is to listening to good instrumental music that makes you focus on it and imagine a better world and life. I suggest artists such as Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Yann Tiersen and Ludovico Einaudi. :)