If you have difficulty getting to sleep at night, one of the problems may be that your mind takes a bit too long to shut off. Long after your body has slowed down, your mind is spinning at its usual clip, oblivious to the fact that it needs to power down for the night. Often this is because our minds are busy processing thoughts about important problems that need to be solved. Unfortunately, bedtime is not the time to solve problems. If you have made a habit out of planning, rehashing, preparing, or figuring things out when your head hits the pillow, these thoughts likely keep you up much longer than you would like, robbing you of much needed sleep. This thinking is ultimately ineffective, and is what is called unconstructive worry.
So is there a cure you ask? Why yes, there is. It is the opposite of unconstructive worry, and it is aptly named constructive worry. Constructive worry involves doing all of the planning prior to, rather than during bedtime. Here’s how it goes:
1. Set aside time in the early evening (a few hours before bed) to do the planning/worrying you would normally put off until bedtime. Write down whatever problem or problems you are facing.
2. Write down the next step to get you closer to solving the problem. The next step need not be the ultimate solution to the problem, as many problems require a series of steps to come to a real resolution.
- If you know how to fix the problem, write out the fix.
- If you don’t know the fix and need to consult with someone or do some research, write that out.
- If you realize it’s not really an important problem, and you’ll handle it when it arises, write that out.
- If it is an important problem with no good solution, meaning you’ll just have to accept it or cope with it, that is the next step. Write that out.
3. Put this list on your nightstand before bed. When you begin to worry at bedtime, remind yourself you’ve already dealt with your problem as best as you can. You can even tell yourself you will work on the problem again tomorrow evening if you need to, but that trying to solve problems while half asleep will probably not yield any kind of solution.
4. Turn your mind back toward sleep.
There is research that shows this technique can help to cure insomnia, and may even reduce your worry during the following day.
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