If you’re anything like me, your daily and nightly routine seem to be a bit backward when it comes to energy. While I wake up early each day, I find myself more awake when I’m trying to fall asleep. Why is this? We’ve gone through an entire day’s work – a good workout, a full work day, and after-work errands – yet it feels like our minds are more active than ever upon the day’s close.
I did some research to answer the question, “are our minds more active at night?” and here is what I found:
Your brain is more creative when you’re tired.
One of my favorite professors in college taught a class called, “Creative Processes.” In this class, we kept a journal of illustrations, quotes, assignments…anything that sparked an idea. He encouraged us to keep this journal next to us at night in case our next great idea hit, reminding us it would be much more difficult to recall in the morning. For those of us that enjoy the creative arts, this makes perfect sense. We’re constantly thinking up new ideas and what we want to accomplish next. If you don’t consider yourself creative, don’t worry. Creativity comes in many forms – like planning out your next day’s activities or thinking up a list of to-dos. You're more creative than you think, especially when you're tired.
At night, there are a smaller amount of distractions.
Throughout the day, you’re distracted by a variety of people and experiences. At work, you focus on your load of responsibilities. At the gym, you focus on your exercise goals. At home, you focus on making dinner or conversation. What happens when you lay down to go to sleep? None of this. There are practically no distractions. Your mind can wander as long as you’ll let it, and most of us let that get the best of us.
You worry too much.
Thinking and worrying are two completely separate concepts. While many of us think about our day and the day coming up, many of us also worry about tasks we didn’t get to. Worrying isn’t productive – it’s just the opposite. It leads to an overactive mind and racing thoughts that prevent us from falling asleep. What I’ve found useful is keeping a list of tasks along with a date of when they need to be completed. I hate procrastinating, so I always give myself a couple more days than I actually need. This keeps me in order, on track, and less forgetful. At the end of the day, I cross off what I’ve done. The rest stays on the list and out of mind.
We all have busy days and find ourselves working from the time we get up until the time we lay down. It can be difficult to transition from one to the other, especially when we’re not getting to bed at the time we’d like. Set a hard cut off of when you hit the pillow. Give yourself at least half an hour before bed to rid your mind of that chaos. Relax. Turn off the screens, take a bath, read a book, write, hold a conversation. Wind down.
While our minds are seemingly more active during the day, we tend to create unneeded activity at night. There will never be enough time in a day to accomplish everything on your list. Understand that when your day comes to an end, you’ve done all that you could have. Allow yourself to ignore the distractions, let go of the stress and find peace of mind. Tomorrow, you can start again.