Silence Your Racing Thoughts at Bedtime

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 14:47

By Jim Donovan M.Ed.
If racing thoughts get in the way of you and a satisfying night of deep, restorative sleep, I can relate. It used to happen to me every single night.

I’d lie awake as to-do lists, worries, and events that had happened during the day looped through my mind. It was incredibly frustrating not to be able to “turn off” my brain and get the sleep I desperately needed.

So I decided to do something about it.

Today I’m going to teach you the valuable “brain hack” I developed that can lull you to sleep in the time it takes to brush your teeth.

Pump the brakes on your brainwaves

It all starts with your brainwaves. And, more specifically, how their speed affects your ability to sleep.
Essentially, the quicker your brainwaves, the more awake you feel.
The chart below illustrates the connection between your brainwave speed and your various states of consciousness:


So when your mind is racing like a Formula One race car, it’s a sign that your brainwaves are in a beta state. They’re cycling way too fast, making you too alert for sleep.

As I’m sure you already know, factors like stress, caffeine, nicotine, or blue light from your electronic devices also impede sleep. That’s because they contribute to the rise in brainwave speed.

But what most people don’t realize is that you’re not at the mercy of your brainwaves!

In fact, you can adjust their speed in under four minutes. All you need is a little know-how. In just a moment, I’ll teach you exactly how to slow those fast beta waves keeping you up at night.

But first, let’s look at some fascinating science that explains why this technique is so effective…

Your brain LOVES patterns
It all has to do with a phenomenon called rhythmic entrainment, which is your brain’s tendency to follow repeating patterns.

Think about how you sometimes tap your foot or clap your hands along to the beat of a catchy song. That’s rhythmic entrainment. But it affects more than just your feet and hands.

Once your brain entrains with beat or pattern, its tempo can alter the speed of your brainwaves.
This is why slow music relaxes you, and fast music makes you feel energized.

What you’re going to learn today is how to get your brain to entrain with a simple, rhythmic pattern—and then use that pattern as a tool to help slow down your brainwaves. This will help you reach the perfect state of mind for a good night’s sleep.
Brain Tapping to the Rescue

This exercise is based on activating rhythmic entrainment by tapping to a specific rhythm. I call it “Brain Tapping” and I use it every single night to help prepare my brain for sleep.

This technique stops mental “chatter” by giving your brain something else to focus on…a rhythm that your brainwaves then sync up with.

You’ll then be able to slow down this rhythm, and, in turn, slow down your brainwaves to prepare your brain—and body—for sleep.

Let’s try it!

  1. First, find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. You may do this exercise sitting or lying down.

  2. Close your eyes and begin taking slow, deep breaths. Continue this slow breathing for the duration of the exercise.
  3. Begin gently tapping your fingers on the tops of your legs or on your chest, whichever is most comfortable for you.

(The tapping may be audible, or silent. Either way works just as well.)

  4. Alternate the tapping of your hands:


You should aim to do this at a rate of about four taps per second.

  5. During this process, attempt to let go of your thoughts and focus solely on the tapping. If a thought comes into your mind, it’s okay. Acknowledge it, and then bring your focus back to all the sensations connected to your tapping.

  6. Continue this rhythm for a few minutes, until you start feeling drowsy.

  7. Gradually slow down your tapping speed to one tap per second. Take your time with this part, as it’s crucial in helping to calm your mind.

  8. When you’re ready, stop tapping. Take a moment to notice how you feel. You should feel calm, clear-headed, relaxed, content—and ready to sleep.

If you don’t reap these benefits the first time, don’t give up! Some people need to let their body get used to the new sensations. So you may need to try it several times before it “clicks.”
Now here’s the great news..
If you’re a subscriber to The Jillian Michaels Fitness app, just login and navigate to the Jim Donovan Rhythm Sleep Practice section. There you’ll find guided sessions with me that will walk you through the exercise—anytime you need it!

If you like to learn more about my work, come visit me at

Sweet dreams!

-Jim Donovan 
Kučikienė, D. and Praninskienė, R. (2018). The impact of music on the bioelectrical oscillations of the brain. Acta medica Lituanica. 25(2): pp. 101 – 106. Retrieved from:
Nunez, P. and Srinivasan, R. (2007). Electroencelphalogram. Scholarpedia. 2(2): p. 1348. Retrieved from: