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Late Night Thoughts: What It Means, Why It Comes & How to Push It Away

Late night thoughts can be strange. From running through your day to wondering how airplanes stay in the sky. Have you ever wondered what it all means?

late night thoughts

You’ve had a long day at work and are seriously tired. You haven’t stopped yawning for the last two hours. You’re seriously considering sleeping on the couch because you can’t be bothered to get up and actually go to bed. Something you’ve experienced? I know I have. But the scene doesn’t end without late night thoughts.

You do everything you need to do before you get into bed: get yourself comfortable, waiting for the deep bliss of sleep to take over. [Read: Is negative thinking ruining your life?]


You’re wide awake. The evolutionary theory of existence starts running through your mind. Tell me you’ve experienced this before!

Most of us instantly wake up and start running over random thoughts before we sleep. Sometimes we end up delaying sleep because our minds won’t let us rest!

These late night thoughts are more common than you think. Do they actually mean anything? And, should you be worried that you’re suddenly pondering why flamingos are pink? [Read: How to overcome the things that keep you stuck]

Should your late night thoughts cause you concern?

There are two ways to look at this. It entirely depends upon the types of thoughts you’re having and whether they’re recurring or not.

For most people, it’s a case of eating too much cheese before bed, or spending too much time on Netflix. However, if your thoughts are due to worries affecting your day-to-day life and invading your sleep too, it’s time to take action.

We all have worries, but some are worse than others. I’ll tell you my personal story and then you’ll understand why I’m quite so passionate about this late night thoughts issue.

I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. Sometimes it peaks and sometimes it doesn’t. Yet, it’s always there, bubbling under the surface. I always know when my anxiety is about to peak because I start running through a million disaster theories before bed. [Read: What it feels like to experience anxiety in a relationship]

Most of these theories have an extremely low chance of ever happening. Yet, at the time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose all monetary employment, my house is going to fall down, or my hair going to fall out.

Can you see how ridiculous it all sounds?

The thing is, when you’re in the moment, when it’s dark, quiet, and everyone else is sleeping, these thoughts can prey on your mind. What you need to realize, however, and something which freed me from my late night funk, is that it’s all rooted in fear. [Read: 13 avoidable habits that will change your life for the worse]

Don’t let the fear eat you

Fear will eat you alive if you allow it to do so. When the world is sleeping, everything seems more terrifying. The late night thoughts suddenly go from simple thoughts to facts, and it can be enough to stop you from sleeping.

The other issue here is that sleep deprivation is a real thing. If you’ve ever suffered a few bad nights of sleep, you’ll know how groggy, completely off your game, and agitated you feel. Imagine that over the course of a week or so!

Late night thoughts are harmless in general. However, when they start to invade your sleep and even stop you from getting a good night of shut-eye, it’s time explore where these thoughts are coming from.

You need to break them down, and figure out whether there is something you need to do in order to push them away from your life. [Read: How to stop having negative thoughts that drag you down]

Why do we have random late night thoughts?

Scientists really don’t have a solid answer on why a very random thought invades your mind when the sun goes down and the stars are out. It can be something going on in your life at that moment. Or, it can be something so unbelievably random that you don’t want to tell anyone for fear of them thinking you’re crazy.

Of course, you’re not going crazy, and it’s probably down to a very simple reason. Some of the most common reasons for random late night thoughts are:

– Eating too much, too close to bedtime

– Alcohol [Read: The most effective ways to prevent a crazy hangover]

– Consuming a lot of sugar in the hours before bed

– Exercising right before sleep, and not giving your mind and body enough time to relax

– Watching a high octane movie before bed

– Listening to fast-paced music before bed

– Scrolling through social media while in bed *huge no no!*

– Overthinking small events which occurred throughout the day [Read: How to stop ruminating, leave your past and live your future]

The most common reason could be the simplest of them all. When we eventually go to bed in the evening time, we’re relaxing for what is probably the first time all day. Most of us rush from one commitment to another, never really taking the time to simply enjoy the hours we have. So, when we eventually put our pajamas on and lay in our comfortable bed, we wind down.

For the first time all day we’re not thinking about the next item on our to-do list, and it seems strange. Your mind is so used to constantly being switched on, it needs something to think about! Enter the most random late night thoughts known to man! [Read: 12 ways you’re sabotaging your own happiness and ruining your life]

I’ve laid in bed and pondered how fish fingers are made before, now such is the strangeness of my evening thoughts! How about yours? What is your strangest set of evening thoughts to pop into your head when you least expect it?

What I’m trying to get over to you is that there is nothing wrong with you if you do have late night thoughts that are quite random and don’t have a pattern.

But, if you have late night thoughts that are recurrent, worrying, and based on fear, you need to address them. [Read: Signs of anxiety – How to read the signs ASAP & handle them better]

Ask yourself these questions to tackle your late night thoughts

1. What is it that I am scared about?

Really break it down into the simplest term and cut out all the other stuff that you’ve probably attached to it in your overthinking frenzy. What is the actual fear that’s causing you to have these odd late night thoughts?

2. How likely is it that this event or problem is going to become a reality?

Put on your reality spectacles for a second and really break this down. What are the chances?

Avoid the ‘what if’s and ‘well maybe this …’, be honest with yourself. How likely is it really? The likelihood is that you deduce it’s not very likely at all. [Read: How to explain anxiety to someone you love & do it fearlessly]

3. If it did happen, could I figure out a way to cope with it?

This doesn’t mean you’re putting into place a disaster plan because the problem is ever going to happen. It means that you’re showing yourself that if it ever did happen, as unlikely as it is, you’d be fine. It’s not until you break a dreaded event down that you see you’re far more resilient than you think.

The chances are, once you’ve identified the issue and really picked it apart, you’ll simplify your thoughts instantly.

Most of us overthink every tiny detail. Literally making a mountain out of a molehill. A tiny problem suddenly becomes earth-shattering. The likelihood of the worst-case scenario actually coming to fruition is so tiny, it’s not even worth thinking about!

By identifying it, labeling the worst event that could come out of it, and then figuring out how to deal with it, you’re literally casting the problem away. Effectively solving it before it happens. [Read: 20 signs of insecurity people can’t hide when they feel insecure]

Push it away

Another useful method is what I like to call the ‘push it away’ method. I used this quite successfully when dealing with anxiety.

In this case, you visualize the problem you’re thinking about as a color or an object, whatever works for you. Then picture yourself pushing it away with your hand, and saying “no” very firmly.

You can say it verbally if you want or just inside your head, whatever you want to do. You then visualize the problem being pushed so far away that you can’t see it anymore. The more you do this, the better you feel. Try it for yourself!

When to seek help

There may be some occasions when your late night thoughts simply won’t allow you to rest. Sleep is vital for overall health and wellbeing and without a good 7-8 hours every night, you’re going to be in a sleep debt before you know it.

Over time, that can easily lower your immune system, leave you open to anxiety and depression, and basically cause a whole host of other problems. [Read: Calm your mind – How to get the inside voices out of your head]

If you’re struggling to sleep because your thoughts simply won’t leave you alone, there comes a time when you have to reach out for help.

Insomnia is far more common than you might realize. Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s something you have to just put up with.

An appointment with your doctor may be able to shed some light on why you’re finding it hard to switch off and sleep. There are also some treatment methods your doctor might prescribe to you. But before that, there are some self-help methods you can try.

1. Avoid anything sugary or caffeinated before bed, as well as heavy meals

You’d be surprised how many people drink carbonated drinks before bed and then wonder why they can’t sleep! This is a prime opportunity for those late night thoughts to start creeping in.

In the couple of hours before bed, avoid anything sugary or anything containing caffeine. That includes chocolate! Also, avoid eating anything heavy in the four or so hours before you plan to sleep.

It’s perfectly fine to have a warm, milky drink before bed, however. Some people find it helps them to relax and doze off. [Read: How to help someone up when they’re feeling down and depressed]

2. Steer clear of anything too stimulating

Fast music, action films, video games, tense situations on TV – anything which gets your heart rate up or has to glued to the screen needs to go before bed.

When adrenaline is zipping around your system, how can you expect to be able to sleep? Those late night thoughts are going to have a field day! Try reading a relaxing book instead or even meditating.

3. Create a serene sleeping environment

Having a comfortable bed doesn’t always mean you’re never going to play host to late night thoughts. However, being comfortable does give you a better chance of falling asleep faster.

Check your mattress isn’t too hard or too soft and also check your pillows. If your pillows are older than 2 years, they need replacing. Also, treat yourself to some new bedding; make sure it’s not too hot or cold and that the material is soft.

When it comes to temperature, it’s best to avoid having the heating on. In the summer, a fan is fine but try not to sleep with the air conditioning on all the time. It will simply dry the air out. Open the window and let some fresh air in. [Read: How to reduce stress – 17 fastest hacks to a calmer and happier life]

4. Electronics have no place in the bedroom

Banish the TV from the bedroom. If you have a laptop or desktop in your bedroom, move it! You also need to avoid laying in bed and scrolling through social media on your phone.

The blue light emitted by devices can mess up your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your body clock. Your brain will start thinking it’s daytime and you’ll struggle to sleep.

5. Keep a notebook at the side of your bed

If you wake up and start thinking over a specific subject, scribble it down. Once you’ve done that, it will be out of your mind and you’ll be able to relax more easily.

Of course, this could also help you to work out what it is that is keeping you awake and allow you to decode your late night thoughts. [Read: Social anxiety vs shyness: How to decipher what you feel inside]

6. Keep a late night thoughts diary

This doesn’t mean you should sit there with a notebook and scribble down everything that comes to mind. In the morning, try and remember the things you spent time thinking about the night before.

Write them down and then after around two weeks or a month, look back over your diary. Can you see any patterns? Are there any thoughts that recur? This diary is key in helping you to overcome troublesome, recurring thoughts.

7. Try a sleep app

Some people find sleep apps very useful. These apps usually play relaxing music or they use guided meditation to lull you to sleep.

The beauty in this suggestion is that your mind is focused on what the person is saying or the tune you’re listening to. Then, you have less chance of allowing your mind to wander and come up with random late night thoughts. [Read: 14 really quick stress busters to recharge your mind]

They don’t work for everyone and you will need to make sure that you use the ‘night shift’ feature on your phone. That cuts down on the amount of blue light from your phone and stops it from causing you body clock issues.

Try these self-help methods and see how you go. If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor and look at others ways to ensure a good night’s sleep, free of irritating thoughts.

[Read: The 15 signs you’re trapped in relationship anxiety]

Late night thoughts are something we all deal with from time to time. For the most part, they’re nothing to worry about and probably completely random.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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