Why you can’t sleep: Overthinking before bed spikes cortisol and blood pressure, making it hard to relax

In a recent article, sleep researcher Rebecca Robbins, PhD, shares strategies to quiet the mind and promote sleep when overthinking at bedtime. She explains that ruminating on negative experiences can spike cortisol and blood pressure, making it difficult to relax. To address this, she suggests three techniques:

  1. Write down your worries: If you’re anxious about tasks for the next day, putting them on paper can decrease anxiety and help you fall asleep faster.
  2. Practice gratitude: Noting down things you’re grateful for can interrupt stressful thoughts with calming ones, helping you relax and increase sleep quality.
  3. Try “cognitive shuffling” or other mindfulness exercises: These simple and repetitive techniques aim to shift attention away from stressful thoughts, helping achieve a state of calm and promote relaxation.

The bottom line: These techniques get you out of past/future thoughts so you can achieve calm before bed. They shift your focus away from stress without overstimulating your brain, allowing you to drift off relaxed instead of dwelling on the day’s problems.