Can't sleep, thinking too much.

  1. Wondering if anyone could enlighten me as to why I can lay in bed in hours, trying unsuccessfully to sleep, while my brain is going on a roller coaster of thoughts.

    It doesn't happen every night, but it is frustrating since I never remember what I was thinking about in the morning.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. lisab

    Staff: Mentor

    I finally came to the realization that coffee affects me for many, many hours after drinking it. If I have coffee (or any caffeine after 10:00 am) I will have trouble sleeping.

    Beyond that, exercise is a huge help, too. Just not too soon before bedtime.
     
  4. It could be a symptom of anxiety, not that you're staying up thinking about things you are anxious about, but I believe the brain chemistry of the condition "anxiety" often leads to being more talkative at night, a night person, thinking heavily at night preventing sleep, etc.

    I'm not saying you have anxiety (just an awareness of how little things one does can often be actual symptoms for slight mental conditions can be enlightening for a society that only knowingly experiences fever, cough, etc. - more tangible symptoms), and if this was the main symptom you would be FAR from needing treatment, but I can suggest a technique that works for me when I go through fairly severe bouts of this.

    Think about nothing.

    It's actually pretty hard to do, but is very enlightening. It also takes talent and skill, a real feat of intelligence thinking about nothing is! heh, but really, do try it, not that I'm saying it isn't boring... Of course, sleep often is.

    Edit* Oh, I thought this was the social section and not the medical section.. I wouldn't have been so ad hominem about things if I noticed that, nonetheless I'm leaving this post here because it could help. I could have easily referenced insomnia as being an obvious symptom of anxiety, but as far as being "more talkative" at night, I couldn't reference it so easily other than the fact that I distinctly remember being asked that in a psychiatrist's office during an anxiety diagnosis session.
     
  5. Happens to me too when I'm not really tired but go to bed anyway. I've wondered it myself too. It seems that "active thought" makes you unable to sleep. Once you lose control over your dream you fall asleep. I notice this if I wake up right before falling asleep too, I wasn't in control of my own surroundings anymore, things were just happening.
     
  6. Borg

    Borg 1,186
    Gold Member

    Do you have a regular sleep schedule? I go to sleep at the same time each day and get up at the same time. I also read for about 15 minutes until I start to get sleepy. It usually takes me no more that a few minutes to fall asleep - even if I drink coffee an hour before.
     
  7. Well it does seem to happen more often when I'm stressed e.g. deadlines approaching. In fact I have exams next week!

    I am lacking in a schedule at the moment because I'm on holiday. But even when I have regular weekly lectures etc. I don't always sleep at the same time each night. Often I sleep quite late, so 12.30am is typically an early night, with a large amount of time in the evening spent in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately using a computer is kind of essential for everything I do at the moment...
     
  8. Borg

    Borg 1,186
    Gold Member

    It doesn't sound like you have a sleep schedule whether you're on holiday or not. I use a computer for everything that I do also. Try setting a specific time to go to sleep and get up - don't sleep in just because you can that day. It takes a few days to acclimate but it's well worth it. For what it's worth, I got to sleep at 8:30 - 9pm and get up at 3:30 - 4am. I don't set my alarm on the weekend but still get up about the same time.
     
  9. Borg

    Borg 1,186
    Gold Member

    Here's a link to How to Fall Asleep. My sleep and exercise routines match the article pretty closely.
     
  10. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Two things have helped me greatly over the years. I too have some nights when I keep thinking about some problems or issues, and that keeps me awake. So I use two tricks to get me out of that state...

    First, when I realize that I'm keeping myself awake by thinking about things, I say to myself, "No talking". That usually stops the talking/thinking for a bit, and if it starts again, I just say "No talking" again to remind myself that it will take silence for me to be able to go to sleep.

    Another trick that I found lately is to use visuals to distract myself and provide some entertainment as I fall asleep. If I look around a bit (with eyes closed obviously), I can often see patterns. They vary all the way from just texture like you would see on a textured plaster wall, to geometric patterns, faces, landscapes, and so on. The patterns are transitory, usually fading within a few seconds, but then some other pattern starts to form. Sometimes I fall asleep and the patterns turn into lucid dreams, which makes for a very fun night! :smile:

    So maybe give those two tricks a try. They have been a very big help to me.
     
  11. Monique

    Monique 4,699
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Or say "later, not now", that also works :biggrin:
     
  12. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    :smile:
     
  13. ^ This works wonders for me. A nice paperback will help calm me down (you typically are only thinking about the book itself, and not any of your petty everyday issues that might keep you up at night), but just make sure that the book isn't too good. I have had nights where I start reading at 10pm, and finally set the book down at 12pm, simply because it was too good of a book to stop reading.

    As a side note, I think I benefit from positive thinking before I go to bed. My wandering mind never settles on negative aspects of my day, but I'm usually imagining some odd scenario where I'm giving a speech, or writing a paper on who knows what (I usually forget shortly after), or am simply having a conversation with a nameless persona.

    One particularly memorable instance of monomania was when I was thinking about conducting an interview as the President of the United States of America, and was answering random questions about our country, or my views on any given subject.

    Boy, was I crafty :biggrin:
     
  14. turbo

    turbo 7,366
    Gold Member

    I have a similar problem, but on the opposite end of the sleep-cycle. I conk out practically as soon as my head hits the pillow, but in the morning when I wake up too early I can lie there trying to process my dreams, etc, and have trouble falling back asleep.
     
  15. cobalt124

    cobalt124 157
    Gold Member

    I find meditation and breathing exercises help this. Giving my attention to doing this instead of thinking about whatever was going on at the time helped to relax me and then I would fall asleep. In fact I would listen to meditation exercises on earphones and I was always asleep before they ended so never once got to hear them all the way through. As for the reason why, sometimes I just think too much, obsessively, and often to no good end and its a waste of time. I needed to learn how to relax. As has been mentioned, stress and diet can also contribute.
     
  16. This sort of sleep disorder is fairly common, and there isn't one source or cause that has been identified, so a course of action for solving the problem is difficult to postulate. I would suggest that you make an effort to play as hard as you work in an attempt to counterbalance the negative neurological affects in your life with a commensurate quantity of positive affects. If you find yourself stressed out about a test, go out and have some fun. And I don't mean go out drinking or indulge in any other form of artificial joy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2013
  17. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

    I deal with this just about every night. For some reason I tend to use the time when I get right in to bed to review the entire past day, prepare for the next day and contemplate deep philosophical questions lol. Sometimes it takes me an hour to get to sleep. I've long recognized I do this and try to make an effort to "shut up" my brain and relax. Most things can wait for the morning. At most I allow myself to think about a few good things that happened that day and that puts me in a good relaxed mood.
     
  18. jim hardy

    jim hardy 5,013
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    I dont want to get off on a personal theory here, 'cause i'm no expert and it's against site policy.

    But i will share my experience.

    1. For me, sleep before midnight does a lot more good than sleep after midnight. Late nights make me feel hyperactive, thinking impaired(loggy) and anxious. Don't know why, probably some biological rhythm of my own. But it can become a habit to stay up too late.

    2. Our brain is divided into sections, simply put "old" and "new".
    They interact not like one would think. And a lot during sleep.
    Here's an article so you won't think i'm nuts:
    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-scientists-discover-that-239347.aspx

    My sister , who has psychological training, taught me to pay attention to my dreams.
    That famous shrink Carl Jung believed it is through dreams that the "old" and "new" brains communicate, as my sister says " working out their differences at night."

    From what you describe, you have a lot of mental activity just before retiring for sleep.

    My advice would be:
    1. Try earlier nights, get up at 4 or 5 am. Make that your high activity period.
    If your biorythms are like mine you'll feel better soon. And the quality of your work will go up.

    2. Get yourself a copy of "Man and his Symbols" by Carl Jung and pay attention to his observations on patients who discuss their dreams. See if your personality includes any of his "Archetypes" just for curiosity's sake... .
    Then start yourself a dream log, a little notebook aside your alarm clock, where you jot down what was in your mind the instant you awake as well as any dreams you remember. Most dreams slip away after only a couple minutes so it's important to capture them immediately on waking.

    As my sister says - "Every dream is a telegram from your subconcious." She taught me to open them.


    mentors - if this post is inapprppriate, just delete .
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  19. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Not to be "Debbie Downer" on Jung, but...

    http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20123679,00.html

    Noll is a professor of the history of science at Harvard.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  20. Lol, that could likely give a person that nasty... "false sense of well being"

    Lol... or a "false sense of well being", as in euphoria.

    What's so bad about a little euphoria?... :cool:

    Seems a lot better than it's counter part.




    OCR... :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2013
  21. berkeman

    Staff: Mentor

    Temp closed for Moderation

    Re-opened.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
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