How to Fall Asleep Fast When Stressful Thoughts Are Keeping You Awake at Night

Woman in bed with insomnia

There’s nothing worse than being kept awake at night by stressful thoughts, especially when you need the rest for a big event the next day. It’s so frustrating when you’re unable to sleep when you most need it!

I’m going to skip over all of the obvious insomnia tips like avoiding coffee in the afternoon, not watching screens at night, counting sheep, and so forth to tell you about a technique that really works. It helps me to get to sleep quickly – within minutes – when I have stressful thoughts running around in my head. It’s so simple, so why not try it?

The Visualization Technique

When you get into bed and are trying to go to sleep, the trick is to visualize your stressful thoughts in your mind; perhaps as icons on a computer screen or animals in a room. Then you mentally push them out of sight and concentrate on keeping them there while you stare at a blank screen or empty room in your mind.

I enjoy working on computers so I visualize my stressful thoughts as icons on a computer screen; perhaps they are wiggling and screaming for attention.

I then mentally push these icons off the left side of my screen. It actually takes effort to keep them there, because the icons want to come back into view. I concentrate on keeping them off of my “screen” and just staring at a blank white screen, mentally.

Now, if computer screens cause you stress, you should try a different variation.  For example, you could visualize your stressful thoughts as animals, maybe squirrels that are running around a room. Mentally push them into a closet and close the door. The squirrels will try to get your attention, but work to keep the door shut in your mind. Then try to stare at the empty peaceful room in your mind.

White empty room
Visualize a peaceful clean empty room like this one with your stressful thoughts pushed out of view

I’ve found, the more stressful the thoughts, the more mental effort it takes to keep them out of view.  You might feel like you’ll never be able to fall asleep because of the amount of effort it takes.  But stick with it. It’s usually the last thing I remember before falling asleep!

Why This Works

I’m sure I’m not the first one to come up with this trick, but when searching online, I wasn’t able to find anything very similar.

Other articles tell you relax and to try not think about your stressful thoughts. That’s kind of like telling someone to not think about pink elephants. It’s hard to not think about them.

With my technique, you actually do think about your stressful thoughts when you visualize them and push them aside. They’re still there, just in the closet.


To summarize, here are the steps of the technique:

  1. Visualize your stressful thoughts as physical things such as animals, icons, or objects
  2. Mentally push them out of “view”
  3. Keep them there while you stare at an empty space in your mind until you fall asleep

If you have stressful thoughts or any kind of thoughts keeping you awake at night, try this technique out and let me know how it goes in the comments below. 

I hope it improves your sleep! – Brian

Featured image photo by cottonbro studio.

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