How to Stop Overthinking at Night in 2024: #17 Strategic Ways to Fix

May 8, 20249 min
how to overcome overthinking at night a lady is taking a sound sleep with happy face

Why am I always overthinking at night?

It has been a long day…. you return home, relax, eat, and it's finally time to sleep. A naive thought about your future or past enters your mind. And then other….and another and boom….you are in a deep space of overthinking.

Ever happened to you?

Medically, our brain has 60,000 thoughts per day. They enter our minds so quickly that it is difficult to process all of them at once. During the day, our brain functions so quickly that it is practically impossible to address them. The only time you get to think about it is at night when you are relaxed. 

We understand how difficult it must be to stop the constant firing in your brain. The frustration peaks and all you can think about is - “I want to sleep but my brain won’t stop talking to itself.”

Overthinking can result from stress, anxiety, depression, or some suppressed emotion or external factors like excessive caffeine consumption or substance abuse.  Finding ways to declutter your mind can do wonders and prevent you from overthinking at night. If you are one of those who are troubled by thoughts at night.

17 Answers to the Never-Ending Question - What to do to Overcome Overthinking at Night?

1. Create a bedtime routine:

As boring as it sounds, it is an effective way to make yourself comfortable and relaxed. The routine can have anything that helps you - listening to soothing sounds, reading a book, or doing skincare (natural oils can be really helpful). Make sure to reduce the screen time to a minimum.

This is because electronic devices can alter the circadian rhythms of one’s body. It can also impair cognitive functions and affect overall health mainly sleep. It also leads to addiction which eventually leads to anxiety at night. 

2. Develop a habit of practicing mindfulness:

Overthinking at night is often associated with anxiety and stress. When the room is completely dark and you’re tucked under the sheets, the only thing actively working is your brain. It easily wanders off in dreamy space.  Not the one with rainbows and sunshine but with panic and stress. 

Practicing mindfulness can help you to come back to the present state. Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness:

  1. Live in the moment
  2. Focus on your breathing
  3. Pay attention to details

3. Avoid caffeine:

Caffeine blocks the sleep-promoting chemicals in our brain, thus affecting sleep. 

Let's take the example of Rehaan - he has his final exam tomorrow. He knows he might have to pull an all-nighter so he drinks an espresso before getting back to studying. This was good until studying, but now when it’s time to sleep, his thoughts are racing.

He starts having multiple thoughts about what could go wrong in the exam. This affects his sleep and also his confidence to perform well. 

Hence, avoid caffeine and get a good night’s sleep.

Coffee at Night

4. Bring in positive thoughts:

This might be a difficult trick but certainly possible. We understand that finding that one ray of hope is difficult when your mind is flooded with random negative thoughts. But once you learn how to bring in positive thoughts, you can easily pull yourself out of that space. Here are certain practices that can help us to invoke positive thoughts. 

  1. Prepare a gratitude list
  2. Don't say anything to yourself you won’t say to anybody else
  3. Read quotes and affirmations that resonate with you

5. Find a buddy: 

Most of the time, our worries are more than just simple thoughts. It can become too overbearing to handle. At such times, if you can find a person with whom you can share the thoughts that concern you will help you reduce your anxiety manifold. Talking to a friend or a loved one can help you release the pent-up tension in your head and help you navigate your feelings effectively.

6. Meditate:

Meditation can bring you calm and release your anxiety. It is a handy tool for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.  You can start practicing meditation by doing this:

  1. Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. 
  2. Feel your body, and make sure you are comfortable.
  3. Focus your attention on breathing. 
  4. Feel your diaphragm contracting and expanding. 
  5. Your mind might wander off but. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just note where your mind wanders off and then gently bring your focus back to breathing.

7. Find a physical anchor:

This exercise is an instant fix. Overthinking in simple terms can be wandering away in thoughts that harm you. 

For example, Arya suffered through some trauma in her past relationship and often has difficulty sleeping at night. Her therapist advised her to have a physical anchor that stops her thoughts from overpowering her.

Whenever she feels like she is descending into overthinking, she gently taps on her cheeks. This physical action brings her back to reality and stops her from overthinking at night. 

You can choose anything to be your physical anchor. Try wearing a rubber band in your hand. Next time you feel anxious, gently pull the rubber band and let it hit your hand lightly. You can try multiple exercises like this. 

recite-your-healing-mantra-women-is-meditating-to-relax-mind

8. Recite your healing mantra:

Dr. Julie Smith in her book “Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before” explains the power of words. When the question - “How do I stop my mind from overthinking at night” keeps you awake, she asks us to repeat a simple mantra - “My feelings are not facts.” This short sentence can work exceptionally at the time of overthinking. It helps you distinguish between reality and your worrying.

You can devise a mantra of your own. It can be anything that has the power to stop you from overthinking.

9. Turn your “WHY’s” into “HOW’s”:

To relax your mind from overthinking, you can shift your questions from WHY to HOW. 

Let’s take an example - Jyoti was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Since the diagnosis, she has had trouble sleeping at night due to constant overthinking. In this situation, instead of worrying about “Why did this happen to me”, she can shift her thinking to “How do I reduce my sugar levels”. 

Transforming the way you address a situation can supply you with the power to tackle it fearlessly. You also learn to come up with solutions instead of dissolving into worries.

10. Procrastinate on worrying:

Overthinkers tend to procrastinate on many things. Why not procrastinate on worrying? 

For example, you are somebody who suffers from anxiety related to your future. At such times, you can tell yourself - “Let me be today….I will worry later.” Saying this helps you relax in the current situation. The bonus to this technique is that you might get caught up in your work the next day and not remember those intrusive thoughts at all. 

11. Schedule your “Worry time”:

Dr. Jennifer L.Taitz talks about this technique in her book “Stress Resets: How to Soothe Your Body and Mind in Minutes.”

You can consciously schedule a specific time to worry. Give yourself 10 minutes to ruminate about a problem at 7 pm. This makes overthinking less compulsive and since you have addressed the problem, they will seem less threatening. 

12. Try Aromatherapy:

Inhalation and application of various essential oils are the very essence of aromatherapy. Essential oils are obtained from flowers, bark, stems, and leaves of plants. Using them affects our limbic system which is associated with our memory and emotions. 

Lavender, Chamomile, Peppermint, etc are some of the effective essential oils that relax you and promote deep sleep.  

Relaxing the Muscles where a man is taking a massage

13. Muscle relaxation routine:

There are 3 types of relaxation techniques that can help you stop overthinking at night when you are trying to sleep. 

  1. Autogenic relaxation- This type of relaxation comes from within you. It includes visualization and body awareness. 
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation- You tense and relax your muscles one by one. Start from your toes and move up to your neck. 
  3. Visualization- Here, you visualize the best outcomes of the journey you are about to embark on.  

14. Develop a physical routine:

You might have heard a lot of people tiring their babies to get them to sleep. A similar concept is applied over here. You can perform physical activities in the hours leading up to sleep. By doing this, your body simply doesn’t have time to overthink. Pick an activity that you like. It can be running, dancing, swimming, yoga, etc. 

15. Journal:

Writing down your worries helps you gain an understanding of your internal conflicts and gain clarity over the external factors that are causing overthinking. Your fear and concerns will come to a surface and this will aid in finding the root cause of your problems.

Suppose your primary concern is a lack of confidence.  Writing down what you want to achieve materializes your thoughts and motivates you to take steps to accomplish your goals. It also boosts emotional intelligence and encourages self-confidence.

16. Take action:

Mostly, overthinking stems from two emotions - 1. Regrets from the past or 2. Worry about the future. You must take active action to identify the root cause of your overthinking. Initially, taking action might seem overwhelming. 

Let’s say you’ve been thinking about launching your own business for a long time now. But negative thoughts of not having a stable income, failing at securing funding or not being able to scale the business overpowers you. The problem is like a mountain and you have to take a single step to start climbing.

In this situation, you can start by collecting all the information and forming an excellent business pitch. This will be the first step towards building your business. However small the step might be, you’ve still taken action, and that will resolve the path ahead for you. 

how to stop overthinking at night

17. Seek professional help: 

If you feel that you cannot find a way out of this loop, you can seek professional help. Getting therapy can help you calm down and develop practices to bring your circadian rhythm back to normal. Studies have shown that people who go for cognitive behavioral therapy have better sleep at night. Our therapists at Mave Health offer judgment-free psychotherapy for those who struggle to navigate their problems alone. 

4 Main Causes for Overthinking at Night:

  1. STRESS:

When the stress lingers for too long, overthinking occurs. Overthinking at night can be caused by a variety of factors. Feeling mildly anxious in anticipation of the next day, for example - when you have a job interview or an exam tomorrow can also keep you up at night. We also covered how to overcome stress

  1. EXCESSIVE WORRYING OF FUTURE:

For the majority of people, worrying about the future is the primary cause of overthinking. How a person responds to the uncertainty of the future determines the degree of anxiety they experience. The above-mentioned techniques can help you resolve overthinking at night.

  1. HORMONAL IMBALANCE:

Hormonal imbalances experienced by both men and women contribute to high levels of anxiety. This can transcend into overthinking especially during the night. An imbalance in stress hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and oxytocin can lead to a peak in anxiety among men and women. Increases in the cortisol levels in the body have been known to increase stress two to five-fold in humans. 

  1. UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS:

Overthinking is a result of anxiety and it can also be triggered by health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. 

CONCLUSION:

Overthinking at night has the potential to disrupt the routine activities of your life. It has also been known to be associated with chronic anxiety, depression, and manifestation of other health conditions. With the above-mentioned techniques, managing the symptoms of overthinking can be controlled if not eliminated.

 If you feel that you cannot deal with your thoughts alone, remember that you are not alone. Consult a psychologist to course through your worries and deal with the unaddressed emotions. 

You’ve come alone this far…now it’s time to combat overthinking together. 

Reference

  1. Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15(1), 18–22. 
  2. Kaiser, B. N., Haroz, E. E., Kohrt, B. A., Bolton, P. A., Bass, J. K., & Hinton, D. E. (2015). "Thinking too much": A systematic review of a common idiom of distress. Social science & medicine (1982), 147, 170–183. 
  3. Eifert G. H. (1992). Cardiophobia: a paradigmatic behavioural model of heart-focused anxiety and non-anginal chest pain. Behaviour research and therapy, 30(4), 329–345. 
  4. When Science Meets Mindfulness- The Harvard Gazette (2018). 
  5. Brock H, Hany M. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. [Updated 2023 May 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: 
  6. O'Neill, J., & Feusner, J. D. (2015). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: access to treatment, prediction of long-term outcome with neuroimaging. Psychology research and behavior management, 8, 211–223.
Author's Profile picture
Mave
Clinical Psychologist