How to Stop Ruminating for Better Sleep

Posted by Darian Dozier on Dec 29, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Add a heading-Aug-29-2021-11-43-27-57-PM

Rumination, the incessant loop of thoughts that refuse to let go, can be a major hindrance throughout the day and especially when it's time to sleep. When your mind is caught up in this cycle, it becomes nearly impossible to shut off and find the restful sleep you deserve. This can lead to or exacerbate anxiety, depression, and insomnia, resulting in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. To learn more about the impacts of rumination and how to break free from its grip, continue reading.

What is rumination?

Rumination, the never-ending loop of thoughts that cling to your mind, can be a major obstacle throughout the day and particularly when it's time to rest. When your mind gets trapped in this cycle, it becomes nearly impossible to switch off and find the peaceful sleep you deserve. This can lead to or worsen anxiety, depression, and insomnia, creating a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. To discover more about the impacts of rumination and how to break free from its grip, continue reading.

What is rumination? Rumination is a persistent whirlpool of thinking or worrying. It involves mulling over solutions, options, and consequences. Essentially, it's like playing a problem on repeat in your mind, examining it from different angles.

Those who don't ruminate can think about something, set it aside, and return to it later. However, individuals who struggle with rumination can't release the thought. They find themselves unable to stop worrying and constantly considering all the ways something could go awry.

Rumination can have a profound impact on the quality of life. It disrupts other aspects of the day, including sleep, work, family, and social time.

How is rumination linked with mental health disorders?

Rumination is a trait of both anxiety and depression that can perpetuate both disorders. 

Those with depression may ruminate over how bad things are going in their lives or overthinking how bad a situation is, etc. For example, one with depression and rumination may want to do something to change their life, but can only think about how everything bad happens to them and that they would probably just fail, until they eventually talk themselves out of it (or fail to talk themselves into it). 

Those with anxiety may do the same thing and ruminate over what someone said or their fears about the future. Either way, rumination doesn't lead to any actual progress. It just enhances the fear, sadness, and pessimism that are already established by the mental health disorders. Therefore, rumination can be looked at as a negative trait that helps to sustain the disorders. 

How does rumination lead to insomnia?

Rumination is considered insomnolent, meaning that it normally prevents one from falling asleep. Rumination is a positive feedback loop meaning it targets the part of your brain responsible for insistence and motivator which is responsible for gaining attention. Therefore, the more insistence there is, the more your attention is going to focus on that one thing. 

As you are attempting to go to bed, this feedback loop is still running, interfering with your ability to turn your brain off to go to sleep. If a mental health disorder runs alongside this rumination, getting a good night's rest may seem nearly impossible. 

It's important to address the insomnia consequence of rumination because prolonged insomnia can lead to severe sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is troublesome because it can negatively impact daily mood, energy, attention and can even have physiological consequences like weight gain and chronic pain.  

How to overcome rumination for a good night's sleep. 

In order to overcome rumination, you may have to interrupt the feedback loop. Here are a few ways to accomplish that: 

  • Avoid processing unfinished business at bedtime. Thinking about incomplete tasks can increase rumination. However, trying to avoid thinking about something can also cause rumination. Therefore, you may have to use some cognitive-behavioral techniques. 

  • One of these is cognitive refocusing. This involves selecting a positive thing to focus on. Imagine doing something calming or being somewhere that brings you peace. Get distracted by that for a while and then force your mind to move on. If you ruminate on the distractor, you may introduce a new problem, so it's important to teach your mind how to think about something and move on to the next thing. This may take practice, but once you can get good at it, you may find yourself with better sleep patterns. 

  • Another trick may be to think more concretely instead of abstractly. This involves thinking in images. You can use a single image or something that is boring so your mind begins to turn off. It's similar to the idea of counting sheep, except doing something that requires less working memory and more just visualization. 

If you or someone you know has difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, there may be an underlying sleep disorder. Please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health professionals. 

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