How to stop overthinking and sleep

As overthinkers it can be hard for us to both get to bed and get to bed in the right mindset for sleep. Sometimes we may be able to fall asleep right away but wake up in the middle of the night, our mind filled with thoughts or worries. Other times we may toss and turn when we first get into bed but eventually fall into an uneventful sleep.

It can be difficult for us to turn our brain off and let it get the rest it needs. It is not always as simple as telling our mind to let things go and not dwell on thoughts we have no control over at this time.

This post provides a lot of ideas and information and could easily feel overwhelming. Do not feel that you need to try everything mentioned here. As you read, think about what aspects you can easily fit into your life now and start from there. Keep things simple and tailor them to your life.

The important thing is that you start somewhere. Too often as an overthinker we delay starting something because we don’t know where to start or how to start. Choose a small change that is easy to incorporate into your sleep habits and start there, small changes and habits can make big differences.

Before Bed

It can take some time to find out what specifically works for you, but getting your mind ready for bed before you physically get into bed can help give your mind the time it needs to slow down.

Make a Plan

If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep because your brain will not stop thinking, make a plan of what you can do. The plan you have tonight might not be the plan you have tomorrow night, figure out what works for you and what does not.

Your plan can be as simple as “If I can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes I will get up and read”. That way you don’t feel that you are simply stuck in bed deciding if you should keep trying to fall asleep or get up.

Making a plan can help you start thinking about the things you have control over. It can be easy to feel helpless and at the whim of the universe when you try to sleep, but there are things you can control.


Doing yoga or stretching before bed can be a way to help you slow down at the end of the day to better ease into bedtime.

Allow your body to unwind in an environment with low lights, soft music, candles, or anything else that helps you relax. Don’t feel that you need to devote a lot of time to this before bed. Take five minutes before you get into bed for deep breaths and easy movements.

This allows you to get on the road to relaxation before getting into bed.

Start thinking of your bed not as the place you to go relax but the place you go once you are relaxed.

Yoga With AdrieneYoga for Bedtime

HealthlineBedtime Yoga: How to Relax for a Good Night’s Sleep

Prepare Your Space

Make your space calm and inviting. Maybe it is having minimal items in your bedroom so it does not feel cluttered, maybe it’s filled with plants and paintings, or maybe it incorporates warm colors and warm blankets.

Find ways to make your bedroom feel relaxing as soon as you step inside to bring out feelings of calm and contentment

A few things you can think about doing:

  • Use a lightbulb that allows you to dim your light and find a brightness that works for you.
  • If you are not sensitive to scents, use a room or pillow spray.
  • Play soft music or white noise.
  • Use a satin pillowcase.
  • Have a few throw pillows in soft fabric.
  • Have blackout curtains that don’t let outside light into your room.
  • Have items you might want within easy reach such as lip balm, lotion, a book, or tissues.
  • If you have electronics in your bedroom with lights on them, you can tape over them with painters tape to make the room darker.

John Hopkins MedicinePreparing Your Bedroom for a Great Night’s Sleep

Sleep FoundationHow Smell Affects Yours Sleep

When You Get Into Bed

As much as you can, find small ways to relax before you even get into bed. Make your bedroom and your bed the place you go after you have started to relax.

Get Your Thoughts Out Of Your Head

At the end of the day when there is less going on to stimulate our brain it can be easy for our thoughts to turn to worry, planning, or just going over the events of the day.

Take a few minutes to first write down your stresses, questions, or thoughts that just won’t go away. Then write a few positive thoughts to get your brain in a better headspace.

Getting stressful thoughts out of our head and bringing happier thoughts in can help put you in a positive mindset for sleep.

Health GradesJournaling Before Bed Can Help Ward Off Sleeplessness

Reframe Your Mindset

If you get into bed and your brain starts asking “what if?” give your brain an answer to stop the spiral of thinking.

What if I can’t get to sleep? 
If I can’t get to sleep in 30 minutes I will get up and read.

What if I wake up in the middle of the night?
If I wake up in the middle of the night I will restart the podcast I was listening to that helped me get to sleep the first time.

What if I can’t stop thinking about things while I’m laying in bed?
If my brain won’t stop then I will pick up the notepad and pen next to my bed and write them down to get them out of my head.

Giving yourself an answer can help you feel more in control. If something happens, you have a plan for it. You may have a few plans if sleeping gets difficult and your plans may change from night to night. It can be easy to feel helpless and at the whim of the universe, but there are things you can control.

Listen to a Podcast, Music, or ASMR

Giving your mind something relaxing to listen to can give your busy brain something else to focus on besides worries and to-do lists. 

There are numerous podcasts out there with the sole purpose of helping you relax and get to sleep. There are a variety of headband headphones you can wear while you sleep which allow you to be more immersed in what you are listening to and not be distracted by other noises. Put your phone or tablet on a timer and let the audio play as you drift off to sleep.


Sleep With Me –

Sleep Whispers –

Nothing Much Happens –

If you would rather have music, consider looking for classical or meditation music. Something without lyrics with a slow beat will provide a sense of calm.

YouTube Music

Yellow Brick Cinema –

Soothing Relaxation –

Nova Relaxing Music –

ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response can provide a similar sense of calm. Slow repetitive noises can bring sleepiness.

YouTube ASMR

Gibi ASMR –

Tingting ASMR –

Caroline ASMR –

Get Comfortable

Being physically comfortable can be just as important to help you fall asleep as having a calm mind.

Think about the items that you use at night and how to make them best suit you to be as comfortable as possible in bed.

Sheets – Find a fabric that is soft and feels good when you get into bed. Depending on your climate, considering having a thicker pair for winter months and a lighter pair for summer months.

Socks – If you wear socks to bed, get a few pairs of fuzzy socks to keep your feet warm throughout the night,

Eye mask – This can help block out light and any movements which could wake you in the night.

Pajamas – Have a lighter pair for warmer nights and a warmer pair for colder nights.

Hair – If you have longer hair, put it up or in a braid, any way to keep it out of your face during the night.

Lip balm -Hydrate your lips before bed so they don’t get dry or uncomfortable during the night.

Hand and/or foot lotion – It can be uncomfortable to have dry skin when you are trying to sleep, make a habit of lotioning up when you get into bed.

If You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night

Maybe you don’t have as much trouble falling asleep, but you end up waking up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. Your brain might be full of thoughts, ideas, worries, or any number of other things that make it hard to relax.

Reimmerse Yourself in Audio

If you were listening to music or a podcast and it helped you get to sleep, before your thoughts get you too worried or anxious, bring up what you had been listening to and put another timer on.

Sometimes we just need a cue to remind our brain that it is still time for sleep.

Play a Word Game

Giving your brain a mundane and boring task to focus on, instead of all the other thoughts, can lull you back into sleep.

Pick a category such as colors, countries, vegetables, types of transportation, of household items. Then go through the alphabet and come up with 1 or 2 items for each letter. It may be counterintuitive to make your brain concentrate on something when you are trying to sleep, but giving your brain a boring task that requires some but not much concentration can be all the brain needs to get back to sleep.

Write Down Your Worries

If there are specific things you are worried about: a job interview, a presentation, a trip, or anything else that might be causing some stress, write it down. Keeping a small notebook and pen next to your bed gives you a way to write things down so you are not tempted to use your phone.

Just writing down your thoughts gets them out of your head. Write down what you are worried about, what questions you need answers to, things you want to remember. Write down anything that comes into your head.

Just getting thoughts on paper and out of your head can help make your brain a bit less busy.

Know When to Get Up and Out of Bed

If you wake up in the middle of the night, have tried multiple things to get back to sleep and it just isn’t happening, don’t force it and get out of bed. Bed should be a relaxing and calming place, not a place that makes you think about how little sleep you will get.

Get out of bed and do something that will help you relax, preferably without screens. Maybe it is reading a book, writing, drawing, or playing solitaire with actual playing cards.

Sunday Nights

For many, anxiety and overthinking can peak on Sunday nights. Maybe we had a relaxing weekend, maybe it was busy trying to get everything done.

When Sunday night rolls around we know there is a specific time we want to be in bed and a specific time we need to be up and ready to start work. We know there are responsibilities waiting for us and potentially a busy day.

Sunday nights can be a hard night to get the sleep we need, even though we know a good night’s sleep is what will help the week ahead go smoother. There are a number of reasons it can be hard to sleep on a Sunday night including:

You know you have a busy week.

You didn’t get as much done this weekend as you wanted to.

You had a really good weekend and don’t want it to end.

You have a big meeting/presentation or other work obligation coming up.

You don’t enjoy your job and it stresses you out in general.

Know that you are not alone.

Things you can do to combat Sunday scaries

Make time for things you enjoy on Sunday.
However big or small, plan something for yourself on Sunday. Maybe it’s making a meal you love, watching a show you enjoy, or making time for a craft project that makes you content.

Get everything ready to make your morning go as smooth as possible. 
Lay out your clothes, make your breakfast or lunch, pack your bag, fill your water bottle and put in in the fridge, make a to do list. Anything you can prepare the night before means one less thing your have to worry about doing the next morning.

Get chores and errands done during the week.
By getting all those necessary but not terribly fun items crossed off your list during the week (laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning) you have more time to enjoy yourself on the weekend. It means you can plan things you actually want to do and won’t feel guilty that you aren’t getting chores done as you did them during the week.

Plan something to look forward to.
By giving yourself something to look forward to, it can make Monday feel a bit better. It could be a new podcast that you’re going to check our on your break, buying coffee instead of bringing it to work, wearing your favorite shade of lipstick, or cooking your favorite food for dinner.

Take a break
If Sunday nights continue to be stressful for you, it could be a sign that this is a good time to take a break. Take a whole day or even an afternoon off. You don’t have to have big plans, just a day to yourself to decompress and destress can go a long way.

Leave a Comment