Escape Insomnia With This Sleep Strategy

Insomnia is the number one challenge of all the adolescents and adults that I’ve worked with in the last 20 years. Anxiety sufferers often struggle with going to sleep (and staying asleep). Neurodivergent individuals frequently have challenges with sleep as well. 

Getting quality sleep is as important as eating and staying hydrated!  Sleep is your brain’s “power up” mode.

I created a strategy for myself when I struggle with over-thinking at bedtime and have trouble falling asleep. Or if I wake up in the night and my mind goes back to thinking, thinking, thinking, I use this strategy to help me get back to sleep.

How to Beat Insomnia Using “Sleep Think.”

First, it’s important to understand what happens when you think about things that are stressful or overwhelming (and let’s face it…when you start over-thinking at night, it’s usually about something stressful). Your body actually doesn’t know the difference between you thinking (imagining) a stressor and when a stressful situation is actually happening. Your body responds the same – with a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response.

This is why scary movies make you feel scared. Adrenaline and cortisol surge through your body just the same as if there’s a real threat. These hormones are designed to make you breathe more rapidly and your heart beat faster so you can get plenty of oxygen to your brand a blood flow to your major muscles so you can fight or run! That’s NOT helpful at 2 a.m. when you need your body to relax and sink into sleep.

Imagine this:

So, imagine that you are going to bed and you think about hearing a window break in your house. Your body will respond as if you actually did hear a window break. The intensity of your body’s response may be less than if you really heard a window break, but your body will still respond in some way. So, it’s beneficial for you NOT to think about things that will result in your brain preparing you for battle.

Rehearsing and replaying things from your day can also result in a limbic system response from your body – this is the part of your brain that reflexively responds to potential danger by releasing hormones that will help you stay alive.  So, a bedtime review of work, home, and personal challenges can prevent you from getting quality sleep.

How To Use The “Sleep Think” Tool

You can control what happens in your body based on where your mind goes – what you think (you can do this during the day, too!) So, when you want to sleep, you have to intentionally select what you think about. When your thoughts start to stray onto topics that are stressful, change the subject in your mind.

Bedtime is NOT the time to plan how to handle all the various stressors in your life!

Schedule times during the day when you give thought to all of those things. Give yourself a designated time to rehearse and replay stressful scenarios or conversations. 

At bedtime ban thoughts about worries and fears. Ban thoughts about rehearsed responses to some kind of stressor, whether it’s a conversation you need to have or a conversation you had that you want to replay in your mind.

You don’t want to do any kind of planning or strategizing at night at bedtime. You can’t usually just decide not to think, though, so your brain needs something else to think about instead.

Indulge yourself in thoughts that are positive and that feel good.

Use your imagination to think about something that you would really enjoy and love to experience. Get your senses involved in your thoughts. For example, if you’re thinking about staying in a nice beach resort, feel the sand between your toes. Listen to the seagulls. Smell the salt. Feel the heat on your skin. Taste your favorite beach beverage.

Instead of releasing stress hormones, your body is going to release endorphins, which are your body’s natural chill pill. Your heart rate and breathing will slow down and your blood pressure will drop. Instead of laying there all tensed up, you relax. You relax into your pillow and then you don’t even notice the moment that you fall asleep. 

You don’t have to stick to reality with your imagination! 

Imagine a fantasy world that you create exactly how you want it.  Make it really awesome. Avoid scenarios about work. You want this to be about total enjoyment. I had a client once who imagined sitting on the rings of Saturn. It was her special place and she could go there whenever she wanted.

You can also think about favorite moments that have happened to you in the past and just relive those moments. Think about the best of times and take yourself back there in your memory.


If you struggle to control your thoughts, practice during the daytime.  Anxiety increases when our thoughts run wild like a runaway train.  If you haven’t mastered how to be in charge of your thoughts, practice intentional thinking at least once a day – decide what you will think about and do it for a brief period of time. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to set a timer or play a song that aligns with what you want to think. When the song is over, release your mind to think of other things. Whenever you notice your mind wandering back to stressful realities, take control of your thoughts, and intentionally choose where your mind goes.


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