Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

We've all been there – awake at night, staring at the ceiling, with our minds racing at a hundred miles an hour. The so-called “racing mind” is very common, and can stop us from both getting to sleep at the start of the night and getting back to sleep after waking.

The content of our thoughts at these times can be highly varied, but most fit into one of a handful of categories. Planning and problem-solving thoughts involve ruminating on past events or worries about things happening in the future. Sleep thoughts are worries about not sleeping and possible negative consequences the next day. Heightened awareness thoughts are a focus on sounds or physical sensations – either external to us (music from a neighbor, lights from the street) or within us (our heart beat). Finally, we can think about thinking itself – get frustrated with the volume of trivial or nonsense thoughts occupying our mind.

In this guide we look at a few evidence-based techniques to help overcome the racing mind and encourage sleep to come.

Next: Challenge your thoughts

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