The night is our moment of rest, a moment to relax and put aside the luggage of worries that we have filled during the day. If nothing else, that’s what the theory says. In fact, many times we can’t help thinking about everything that happened to us during the day, what we left hanging on the job or our plans for the next day. It could be called a real review of everything we know we still have to do.
We have certainly already heard dozens of tips on how to get a restful sleep, which clears your mind of worries and how to acquire habits that promote rest when it is time to go to bed. In times when things are going well, the night is one of the most pleasant and relaxing moments of the day, our moment. Yet, in the most difficult phases of life, being able to carve out this moment of relaxation becomes difficult.
The lights go out, the house is silent, we remain alone with our thoughts. It does not seem bad, if it were not that this is precisely the moment when we are assailed by our concerns. We are with our guard down and we cannot do anything to calm the inner voice that reminds us of our problems. When we can’t silence this voice, we know that a long and difficult night awaits us.
Silence comes accompanied by worries
Imagine the following scene: we are watching a very interesting film on television, but since we had a busy day at work, we are going to fall asleep. We wait for the advertisement and take the opportunity to go to bed. We brush our teeth and go to bed, tomorrow will be a new day. Yet when we close our eyes, we immediately face everything that worries us, and that we know will keep us awake.
It is a very common scene. When our mind is occupied by a film or by a book that we are passionate about, we manage to direct our attention towards what we are doing, but then, when we remain alone with our conscience, everything we have hidden during the day.
Sometimes it’s not worries as much as ideas that don’t let us sleep. We are in bed and dozens of projects begin to come to mind. We begin to think about how to develop them, we even remember all those ideas for the famous novel that we have always dreamed of writing. Goodbye sleep. We spend hours wandering about ideas that seem fantastic to us, but that we will have already forgotten the following morning.
Problems occur overnight
The worries that assail us during the night are often not dramatic, yet at the moment they seem such. It seems to us that they have no solution, we experience them as something extremely negative and we don’t know how to deal with them. But just sleeping for three hours, waking up in the morning and realizing that, after all, they were not as dramatic as we thought. The importance we gave them and the anxiety played a bad joke on us.
We can spend hours rethinking that unpleasant conversation we had with one of our colleagues. Analyze every silence and every word, the nuances and the tone used. We freely interpret and draw conclusions, often not at all realistic. The following day will surely return to normal, yet, in the evening we will find ourselves doing the same reasoning again.
A problem that during the day may not seem important, at night it can appear enormous. Perhaps that feeling of helplessness and irremediability should be combined with the “loneliness” that accompanies us at night. We are alone in front of our problems, with no one who can reassure us or help us, and this only increases the concern.
Techniques for cognitive deactivation when going to sleep
There are numerous techniques that aim to eliminate insomnia. Good sleep quality can be obtained once optimal environmental (temperature, noise, light) and physiological (be relaxed) conditions are reached, thanks to certain good habits. However, if our thoughts prevent us from sleeping, we will be able to use some very specific techniques.
These are some of the cognitive techniques that aim at cognitive deactivation at night:
-Paradox intention. This technique consists in following the thoughts, getting out of bed and writing them on a sheet of paper, then dealing with the question before going back to bed.
-Observation of thought. Realize what you are thinking and put it aside. For this purpose, one can make use of symbolic thinking and imagine putting thoughts in a jar.
-Meditation. Try to empty your mind, using a mantra or cognitive activity that requires attention, but which, however, has no emotional relevance. For example, list the months in reverse.
-Directed imagination. The method proposed by Harvey in 2001, consists in using the imagination directed towards a concrete thought or image that is not exciting, thus avoiding activating thoughts. Imagine us on a Caribbean beach, for example.
-Interruption of stay in bed. Get out of bed after twenty minutes have passed without falling asleep, watch some television or read and thus interrupt the flow of thoughts.
It is proven that being able to control thoughts simply by wanting to stop thinking about them leads to an increase in their frequency. Just trying to think about something else often doesn’t work. Applying one of these techniques can be very useful when the time comes to empty your mind and relax to reconcile sleep.