How to Reduce Racing Thoughts at Night Due to Insomnia

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Many people with insomnia share the same complaint: “I just can’t turn my head off at night.” In the stillness of the night, when you are desperate for sleep, the mind seems to stir and keep some people awake.

What causes racing thoughts at night and how can you relieve them? Well, to get rid of the racing mind, you have to cut out the fuel your mind needs to start spinning in the dark. You can do this by:

  • Stress management
  • Relax before going to bed
  • Use distraction and relaxation techniques

This article explains ways to help calm your mind, reduce compulsive thoughts, and use relaxation techniques to get back to sleep.

Verywell / JR Bee

Causes of racing thoughts and insomnia

With the right circumstances, insomnia can happen to anyone. For example, during periods of stress or anxiety, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

You sleep best when you don’t mind your stressors. These worries activate your brain and make it difficult to sleep.

What is racing thinking?

Racing thoughts can appear in many different ways.

  • Like a movie: Some people describe it as a movie that plays in their mind at night. In this situation, images quickly flash through your imagination while you close your eyes and wake up.
  • Imagination: Sometimes, racing thoughts come in the form of ruminations, or repetitions of the same negative thoughts. To understand rumination, imagine a cow slowly munching on its belly — food gushing out of its stomach to be chewed and swallowed. Similarly, when your worries go unnoticed, they reappear.
  • Handle: You can revisit sources of stress or anxiety. When this happens, you can resharper and handle a repeated event. Perhaps there is no obvious solution. So it will return to the forefront of your thoughts after being temporarily pushed down, especially during quiet times at night.

Why do they happen?

Although some people think that racing thoughts only occur in people with anxiety disorders, this is not necessarily the case. Again, with the right situation, stress can contribute to racing thoughts for anyone, even those who don’t identify as anxious.

You may notice that racing thoughts and insomnia increase when stress levels are high. For example, these symptoms are common after a job loss, divorce, moving house, or death of a loved one. In addition, your thoughts may be related to everyday stressors such as work, financial, relationship, and health concerns.

Regardless of the cause, these thoughts can be very upsetting. As a result, you may need to make some intentional changes to address them.

Anxiety may seem like something out of your control, but in reality, there are several things you can do to manage your worries before bed.

Schedule “Worry Time”

Each day, take a moment to list and work on addressing the causes of your stress. You can do this by taking a moment each afternoon to create or review a list of the things that contribute to stress in your life.

For example, write your worries in a column. Then, in the second column, provide some action items that will enable resolution and reduce stress.

Some call this dedicated time “scheduled anxiety time.”

Address your stressors

Instead of getting overwhelmed, break down your stressors into manageable chunks — and then get to work. For example, if you have a big project to do in two weeks and feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, identify the ingredients that cause your anxiety and make them part of your plan. act. For example:

  • Review files
  • Talk to your colleagues
  • Schedule a meeting
  • Draft proposal
  • Completing the presentation

As you complete the tasks day by day, you will pass them. Finally, you can remove the stress itself from the list.

There may be some items in the list with no apparent resolution. This ambiguity can add to your anxiety and drain your energy throughout the day.

If you find yourself stuck in this loop, tell yourself to let it go and come back to it tomorrow. There are other things you can focus on today. And remember, since you write it down, you don’t have to worry that you’ll forget it.

Benefits of Worry Time

By writing down your stressors and creating an action plan, you’ll be helping yourself in the following ways:

  • First, you name the sources of stress.
  • Second, you release worries from your mind.
  • Third, you find ways to relieve stress.
  • Finally, you enjoy a sense of accomplishment when solving and reviewing your tasks.

If stress-related thoughts come up at night, you can respond by saying to yourself “I don’t need to think about this right now. Instead, I’ll think about it tomorrow during my scheduled worry time. ” These affirmative thoughts can block the flow of thoughts and allow you to fall asleep.


Schedule time each day to write down your stressors. Break them down into manageable tasks and cross them off as you tackle them.

Prepare for sleep

It helps if you set aside time on purpose to relax before bed to make the evening a relaxing time. Good sleep hygiene includes stopping certain activities and establishing a routine that tells the body it’s time to go to bed.


Your circadian rhythm is the internal clock that tells you when it’s time to go to sleep. These internal rhythms can be affected by a number of things, including lack of sunlight and too much blue light from computer screens. So, a few hours before bed, turn off screens, including:

Also, put work aside for a while and stay away from social media. There will always be more to do, but you’ve done enough for today. Now is the time to relax and prepare for sleep.

Spend at least 30 minutes, or possibly an hour or two at the most, relaxing and decompressing before bed.


Once you’ve removed the screens, fill your time with relaxing activities. You may want to try the following:

  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Stretch
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Meditate or pray

You may find that establishing a nighttime ritual that incorporates some of these activities sends your body the signal that it’s time to relax.

During bedtime or if you find yourself awake at night, you may want to incorporate some other relaxation techniques, including:

These activities can distract you from the effort involved in trying to fall asleep. They can also reduce their compulsive thinking. You can find many simple techniques online.


Prepare your body for sleep by establishing a bedtime routine that includes disconnecting from screens and relaxing.


Insomnia has many causes. One of them is that stress and anxiety lead to jumbled thoughts when you’re trying to sleep. By identifying your stress, scheduling time to deal with your worries, and establishing a healthy bedtime routine, you can avoid racing thoughts and sleep better.

A very good word

If you continue to struggle with sleep, talk to your healthcare provider about additional treatment options. For example, you may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI), an anxiety medication, or a sleeping pill for insomnia. Our Doctor Discussion Guide below can help you start that conversation.

Insomnia Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to your next healthcare provider appointment to help you ask the right questions.

frequently asked Questions

  • What causes racing thoughts at night?

    Thoughts of racing at night can be caused by stress, anxiety or insomnia, although not limited to these reasons. When we go to sleep without the distractions of the environment means that we are left alone with our thoughts; With nothing to distract from these thoughts, it may be difficult for some people to turn them off.

  • Why do I get nervous at night?

    Worrying at night can cause sleep disturbances such as insomnia. The reverse is also true: Research shows that sleep-deprived people can develop anxiety disorders. If you are constantly anxious or stressed when trying to sleep, you may associate bedtime with these feelings, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

  • How to relieve anxiety at night?

    Many of the strategies used to manage stress can also be used to ease nighttime anxiety. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed and try relaxing activities such as breathing exercises, reading, listening to quiet and soothing music, light relaxation, and meditation.

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