Stop Negative Thoughts At Night; the key to peaceful sleep

Do you ever have nights where you can’t get to sleep or are woken in the night and then unwanted, negative thoughts creep into your head?

Regrets of things you’ve done… or didn’t do.

Mistakes you’ve made keep playing again and again on a reel inside your head. Shaming you and making you feel terrible.

Mistakes others have made play over and over in your head making the hurt cut deeper and deeper.

Worrying over finances, your kids, your job.

I definitely have.

And I’ve found a way to get rid of these negative, tormenting thoughts. A way that quickly and decisively removes them from my mind so I can drift off to a peaceful sleep.

The Negative Thoughts Are Often Lies

The other night one of my kids woke me up in the night. When I went back to bed I could feel discouraging thoughts entering my head: I’m failing my kids, we won’t have enough money.

I could feel myself entering a downward spiral of negativity and depression.

Have you ever noticed that these kind of thoughts always seem so much worse during the night? They seem all consuming.

These thoughts have fragments of truth, but are distorted.

I believe we have a stealthy, silent enemy that looks for a weak spot in our minds; maybe money is short and we’re worried about it. Then he adds lies to that worry; you’ll probably run out of money, you’ll never be able to turn things around.

When we believe these lies, they start to play over and over in our heads and they stress the body and make it near impossible to sleep.

In the past I remember staying awake for a long time at night when these sorts of thoughts entered my head, thoughts that I’m not good enough, regrets over things I’ve done in the past I relived again and again when I was alone in the dark.

I felt weakest at night and the thoughts overcame me.

Overcome The Lies With Truth

The other night when I was struggling with discouraging thoughts about money and my parenting I realized that I could do something about these thoughts.

This may seem a little crazy, but to set the scene just know that recently I’ve been reading ‘The Knights of Arrethtrae” books with my eldest daughter, stories of sword fights and battles (but really referring to using truth as a sword to overcome lies).

In my mind I saw a tiny me in front of my brain wielding a sword. I said (in my head) “I’m made in the image of God” and then I slashed the sword in a diagonal cut. I swung the sword again and said “My God is an abundant provider”.

Immediately I felt a sense of calm come over me! The tormenting thoughts left as soon as I’d said the words in my head and I could relax and easily fall asleep.

Using truth to fight lies has a long history – see here for the original source.

Here are some common lies we hear in our minds and the truth (God’s word) you can use to overcome them:

You’re not good enough.I am made in the image of God.
You’ll run out of money.My God is an abundant provider.
You messed this up so bad.
It’s unforgiveable.
My God is rich in mercy.
He is quick to forgive.
No one loves you.God loves me enough to die for me.
He knows every hair on my head.
That person hurt you so bad, remember?
It’s unforgiveable!
I will forgive as God forgives me.
God will judge everyone in time.
You are totally right to hate that person.Each person is made in the image of God
with a unique plan.
You’ll never amount to much.God has a good plan for my life.
You’ll never be able to do that.I can do all things through Christ
who give me strength.

Be Grateful

I’ve never had the negative thoughts stop so instantly as when I used the truth/sword method above, but in the past I’ve also used other ways that can help replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.

Choosing to change your negative thoughts by replacing them with good thoughts can work well. One way to do this is to deliberately think of things that you’re thankful for. Start with simple things like the comfortable bed you’re lying on, a warm doona or quilt, a full tummy.

This usually gets me thinking of all sorts of things that are good in my life. Things that I usually take for granted.

I find it really helpful to be able to direct my gratitude toward someone, and that someone for me is God, who created everything and gave me all the good things in my life.

Sing A Slow, Melodic, Repetitive Song In Your Head

Another thing that really helped me one night when I was struggling to fall asleep because my mind was racing was to sing a song in my head. A slow, melodic, repetitive song. This helped lull me to sleep.

In the past I’ve tried to sing songs that had too many different words to remember, but that just kept my brain awake. I’ve also tried singing songs that were too up-tempo, but that didn’t help relax me.

The slow, melodic song that I sung in my head was a song I learned as a child. “Jesus Loves Me”. I slowed it way down and just kept repeating the main chorus over and over in my head, in a slow, mesmerising way.

“Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The bible tells me so.”

This song did a few things; it replaced lies with truth, it changed the negative thoughts in my head to positive thoughts, and it sung me to sleep with a warm, satisfied feeling.

Feeling loved by God and knowing that he’s got this and I don’t have to have everything under control helps me relax and get the sleep I need at night.

Top Tip for getting to Sleep when Your Mind is Racing with Busy Thoughts

Sometimes my mind just goes off on a tangent at night when I should be sleeping. Thinking just random unrelated thoughts. At times like these I’ve found it really helps me to relax if I think I can hear my alarm going off and it’s morning and time to get up! It sounds wierd but it actually works!

Think about when you’ve heard your alarm going off in the morning – what’s your first reaction?

My first reaction is normally “Noooo – not yet!”

Then my body relaxes deeply into the bed trying to get just a bit more sleep.

My body does exactly the same thing at night if I think it’s already time to get up – it relaxes deeply into the bed.

Try it next time your mind is racing in bed.

A Relaxing Sleep Starts with your Bedtime Routine

I’ve found that what I do in the hours before bed makes a big difference in how well I sleep.

Top Ways to Relax Your Body Ready for Bed

These 2 things really help me to relax and get a solid nights sleep:

Read a book for 10-20 minutes

Reading in bed just before going to sleep is a great way to relax your mind and make you sleepy.

Just make sure it’s not a thriller or a book that is going to give you loads of exciting ideas – that might get your mind racing with possibilities (like it did for me a couple nights ago).

At first it might seem hard to know what to read. But once you start this habit you will find you will probably really look forward to getting to bed so you can read more. The more you read, the more books will present themselves to be read.

I have so many books that I can’t wait to read, but just don’t have enough time to read them all (thank you audio books!)

If you’re not sure where to start, think of a topic you’re interested in and want to learn more about. Search up the topic on amazon and it should suggest some books on that topic. I usually go for the one with the most reviews.

You can either buy the book straight from Amazon, or what I like to do is to read the book for free from the library. It’s super easy, just sign up at your local library. Download their app and search for the book you want. They will let you know when it’s ready to pickup. Most books can be borrowed for 4 weeks with the option to renew for another 4 weeks via the app. I find I read library books quicker than I read books that I’ve bought, because I know I have to return them at a set date. And as a bonus – I don’t need extra storage for all the books – I get to return them when I’m done!

Soak in a warm bath for 20 minutes

I do this once a week on a Sunday night. Sunday night I sleep like a baby (a baby who sleeps through the night!). I sleep so solidly and feel so great the next day.

I like to add some magnesium flakes to the bath (it’s said to help release toxins from the body). I lock the door, light a candle and turn off the lights. Then I just soak for 10-20 minutes and let my mind relax. I feel like I’m floating afterwards, and I hop straight into bed and drift off to a peaceful sleep.

What Not to do Before Going to Bed

When I do these things I find I don’t sleep well. So stay away from these things if you want a good nights sleep:

Look at a device with a screen

This includes mobile phones, tv, tablets and laptops.

It is said that the blue light emitted by your phone screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. (source) This makes it hard to fall asleep.

Drink water, tea or any liquid within 2-3 hours of bedtime

Unless you don’t mind getting up in the night to go to the toilet, but I’d much rather stay in bed until morning.

Work just before bed

Working just before bed sets your mind racing and makes it hard for your brain to switch off.