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My brain won't shut down at night and I can't sleep, what can I do?

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Question - (8 August 2007) 7 Answers - (Newest, 20 August 2009)
A female United Kingdom age 22-25, anonymous writes:

Hi i've been having problems sleeping lately. people have always told me i have an over active imagination but i never thought anything of it.Recently i have been not able to sleep well even though i'm really tired. I can't keep my eyes opne but my brain just won't shut down and i keep imagining things,not anything in partcular just sort of making things up like imagining stuff is happening and thinking of stuff that has happened and places i've been in the past, nothing bad just in general like remembering it. I have never had a set bed time ever and everyone says its becasue i don't go to bed early but that honestly has nothing to do with it. I can go to sleep whether i'm tired or not its just lately i can't switch off my brain just keeps going and going and i can't relax, when i just make my mind a blank and don't think about anything it like it automatically starts up again whereas before i could just make my mind a blank and go to sleep. I have never had these problems before, i did used to have a problem sleeping on sunday nights but i had seemed to panic that if i didn't go to sleep i would feel awful at schol and it was all down to that. I'm the same in the day with imagining stuff and daydreaming i just seem to automatically do it. I don't want to do to the doctors becasue i really don't think theres anything medical wise wrong with me, well nothing that they can do. What can i do to try and stop ll this? I'm not saying i never want to be able to daydream or think about these things again but i want to be able to sleep properly again, i used to be able to just fall asleep at anytime of the day and then still sleep through the night and i never had anything like this. So what can i do? Anything that will help this? Whats wrong with me!!!! Please help.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (20 August 2009):

I've had the same problem since I was a kid, As a kid I would get up and do things, took everything out of my closet and painted it one night when I was 12. Still find myself disecting the layout of the garage and reorganinzing the shelves in my head at three in the morning sometime or going over every conversation I've ever had with a co worker. I tried everything else, change of diet, change of sleep cycles, meditation classes, exercise (which helped a little), My stress levels don't seem to effect it because it is still several nights a week whether I'm coming up on exams or in the middle of spring break or just about to start a new term. I use melatonin, now. Over the counter herbal treatment, Whole foods, or Wild Oats would carry it. Works like a charm everytime. Some people struggle with it, makes them groggy the next day, other people have told me it gives them upsetting dreams. I've never had either guess it depends on your brain type.

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A female reader, mz2jlpmghrs United States +, writes (9 August 2007):

mz2jlpmghrs agony aunt I used to have the same problem when I was 8. She made me warm milk. That helped. Also when she toke yoga, heres a technique. Make your toes stiff, then relax them. Then make your calfs stiff, then relax them. Keep trying that and work your way up. My dad told me to think of 1 color. Pick your favorite color. Mine is purple. Then close your eyes and try to imagine only that clolr. Just let your mind see miles and miles of that color. Also put on some music. No rap or hip hop. Jazz or nature sounds. I have 2 cds. One is instrumental saxaphone jazz and the other sounds like the beach. Hope this helps! :)

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (9 August 2007):

Hiya!

My boyfriend has the EXACT same problem. I often joke that he must have two brains because he always has something on his mind. He has trouble sleeping too.

What he tends to do is put music on before he goes to sleep. Try listening to classical music (it may not be your thing but give it a go) and instead of thinking about how the day has gone etc. REALLY try to concentrate on the music. Listen to the different instruments and imagine you're really there in the orchestra pit with the music all around you. Listen for when the strings come in, when the music changes tempo etc.

He tends to find that helps.

Another thing you could try (it may sound weird to you but anythings worth a try right?) is looking around locally for meditation classes. This doesn't mean changing your religion or anything drastic like that. But it can help you to take control of your thoughts and help you relax. There is usually an art that they teach you which is the art of clearing your mind. You sound like you could deffinately do with this and I'm thinking of enrolling my boyfriend too! Clearing your mind should help you sleep better and also maybe even release any stress you may have in the future.

Anywho, sorry for the long answer. Let me know if you give either of these a go :) Hope something works for you!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (8 August 2007):

Hi i wrote this, just to answer some of your questions, I'm not stressed about anything and its the summer holidays so theres nothing i've been really doing. I do tend to slep with the tv on but i have done all my life, i'm not scared of the dark i juts can't seem to feel comfortable without it on, its like company but it is turned right down. Theres nothing i'm horrifying i'm thinking of its just general daydreaming. There are no family issues in particular. Thanks for your advice i just thought writng this for you may make it clearer and help you understand it abit more. I try not to make the question to long as i thought not many will answer it if its long.

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A male reader, somewhat_anonymous United States +, writes (8 August 2007):

Just a couple things to add. You said you've been really tired. It seems illogical, but it has been proven that if you are too tired, you cannot sleep. I forget the biological reason for this.

Also, besides stress levels (and sometimes this comes with stress) has something changed in your schedule to where your brain is forced into working right before bed time? Any reading, writing, academics? You also said you have an imagination, are you concentrating on an art project before you go to bed? A lot of people require complete down time before (up to 2 hours in some people) before going to bed. Something that doesn't rewuire thinking like a watching a sitcom or something.

The same is with exercising too late. Your mind and body don't want to just shut down abruptly, it has to ease into it. Examine your schedule and see if any of this rings true, you may just need simple schedule adjustments.

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A female reader, Basschick Australia +, writes (8 August 2007):

Basschick agony auntYou are experiencing stress, perhaps for the first time ever. There are probably things going on in your life that are putting your brain into overdrive. It could be your school schedule, or personal issues with friends, family or romantic partners. Try these things: Make sure you're getting exercise during the day. I've found that when I'm physically exhausted my brain shuts up. Cut out your caffiene for awhile. If you're used to having coffee or cokes in the evening at dinner, it could be that you're becoming sensitive to the caffiene (it happens sometimes when you're under stress). If you're skipping dinner, it could be that your blood sugar is low by the time you're ready for bed. That always makes me jittery and causes my mind to race. Eat a piece of cheese, or have a piece of turkey and a glass of milk. Start getting into "wind-down" mode prior to bedtime. Put on your jammies, take off your make-up and listen to relaxing music, or read a book that's boring. Keep the lights low so your eyes don't get over-stimulated, keep the T.V. off, it can set your mind racing. Sometimes praying or meditating and picturing scenic oceans, or beautiful mountains can relax people prior to falling asleep. Lay out your clothes ahead of time so you're not wondering what to wear the next day. Sometimes if there are things running around in my brain before bedtime, I make a list and that helps get them off my mind. If you're just imaginging horrible events, or possibilities don't watch the news or any kind of cop shows before going to bed (No C.S.I no matter how much you like it). And last, think about what you may need to cut out so you're not so stressed. Maybe you're a member of a couple of organizations that you need to consider dropping out of until the summer when school is out etc. You could be over-extending yourself and it's causing you to feel overloaded and unable to sleep. I hope something I suggested will help you get through this problem before you have to start taking pills. xoxox

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A female reader, eyeswideopen United States +, writes (8 August 2007):

eyeswideopen agony auntTry a nice warm bath just before bedtime and no caffeine after supper. You could try one of the over the counter sleep aids, they are non-addicting and may help. Otherwise you may want to visit the doctor just to make sure everything's OK and to get his/her input.

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