The foundation for a restful night’s sleep is proper sleep hygiene—managing screen time, lowering lights before bedtime, room temperature, breathing practices and so forth. Good, research-based information is available online.
This article is about cognitive behavior techniques that are especially useful for busy minds and anxious thoughts. I’ve developed these techniques over years of practice with my clients and myself. The practices work best accompanied with good sleep hygiene. Busy minds and anxious people find it difficult to quiet their thoughts and fall asleep. Usually once they fall asleep they sleep well and wake refreshed, ready to meet the day.
Once in bed, tell yourself ‘this is my time to sleep and I will think about other things tomorrow’. I like the mental image of the computer icon for moving files from one folder to another: imagine your thoughts like files, being transferred from your mind into another folder. It is there whenever you want it, but this is the time to sleep. You can imagine a real place to transfer thoughts, such as your desk drawer or an imaginary place. It is there whenever you want it, but this is my time to sleep. It can be a good idea to promise your busy mind something similar to ‘I will spend 15 minutes at 3 pm tomorrow to think about this’.
Scheduling a short amount of time at a particular time is important. ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow’ isn’t very effective. Nor is it effective to schedule more than hour unless there is a particular project to accomplish. The brain needs to know that you will at some time process what you are thinking–it doesn’t work to just tell yourself that you won’t think of issues at all.