How To Turn Off Your Busy Brain (& help your teen do the same!)

mums and teens with busy brains not sleeping

Dear Brain, will you please just shut-up!

Last night my brain woke up as I went to bed!

I was struggling to keep my eyes open on the sofa, but as soon as I put my head on the pillow a flood of thoughts fired up my synapses and that sleepy feeling evaporated.

These thoughts aren’t worries, they’re creative ideas, posts for the blog,  teaching goals or travel plans for the family. I’ve always been at my most creative at night; I nurtured this habit while studying but now it ‘s much less welcome when I have to get up at 6am and go to work!

So How Can You Combat Busy Brain at Bedtime?

Consider this;

Why do active thoughts rush in as you lay down to sleep?

Maybe because it’s the first opportunity for them to be heard all day!

I know that I am so busy with work, shopping, school runs, exercise and pets that my brain is overwhelmed each day with a running commentary of practical thoughts‘What am I cooking tonight? oh no, I hope the boys put their soccer kit in the wash, will I have time to dry I? did anyone feed the dogs? Oh s**t! I forgot to buy toothpaste, again…’

When I lay down to sleep the commentary of ‘life as busy mum’ is paused for the first time that day. What ensues is a tiny space.

A moment of stillness.

These thoughts have been queuing all day, possibly all week!

Teens Need A Quiet Mind Too

Teens can struggle with getting off to sleep, just like the rest of us, and although you may have created a calming bed-time routine, their minds are filled with thoughts that come racing-in as soon as their head hits the pillow! Mackenzie from Reflections from Me commented on my last post that her 11 year old daughter has a great bed-time routine, but just can’t sleep till about 10pm, leaving her short-changed on sleep.

What’s keeping her awake?

A Busy Brain!

Balm For A Busy Brain

Knowing why teens and Mum’s alike experience busy brain is the first step towards finding strategies to calm it.

If thoughts are rushing into the stillness just before sleep, then they are likely to be things that are clamouring for your attention and feel neglected.

Why are they neglected?

Five thoughts that get neglected:

  1. Ostracised thoughts: these are the ones you’ve been avoiding because they make you unhappy, uncomfortable or sad.  You’re hoping they’ll go away if you keep ignoring them!
  2. Heavy weight thoughts: these are the ones that open up the proverbial ‘can of worms’; they start a snowball effect, the consequences of which seem too far-reaching to contemplate.
  3. Crystal ball thoughts: these are the ones that try to predict what will happen in the future; playing out scenarios for you to watch, re-casting characters and making plot changes like your own personal movie.
  4. Detective thoughts: these are the ones that encourage you to do a post mortem of an event, message or word; magnifying every detail looking for clues to explain why…why aren’t I invited? Why didn’t he remember? What did that smile mean?
  5. Dare-to-dream thoughts: these thoughts give you permission to dream, they light your creative fire and  inspire you to take action to achieve personal happiness and fulfilment.

These neglected thoughts deserve your attention and acknowledgment, and without it they will continue to find opportunities to fill the spaces at the edge of your consciousness.

How To Make Friends With Neglected Thoughts

Great ways to do this are:

  • Re-home your worries – write down worries and post them in a shoe box. This allows you to acknowledge and articulate them, but deal with them at another time.
  • Visualise your dreams – create a vision board to see your dreams come to life, read how I created a vision board here.
  • List your longings – those crystal ball thoughts belong on a list, whether it’s a bucket list or a To Do list, write it down and deal with when you’re not trying to sleep.
  • Can your ‘Can of Worms’ – wash out a used can, label it ‘Can of Worms’ and drop your unsolvable thoughts into it. Once a week you & your Can of Worms  can together and sort out what’s really giving you busy brain.
  • Magnify your mind – go crazy with a mind map and let that over-analytical brain connect the dots; soon you’ll have enough material to start writing your first detective novel!

Representing your neglected thoughts in words or images will give them permission to rest.

They have a place to be. Which will give you a place to be without them.

Breathe, shut your eyes, notice the silence. 


Goodnight Busy Brain.




  1. Julie Jo Severson says:

    Ha! Wow! What a clever, insightful post. I’m up with those crystal ball and detective thoughts all the time. Magnifying my mind might be the best one for me to try. That and a little bit of brandy:) Thanks for your beautiful comment the other day by the way over at Ten to Twenty. That meant so much to me. I’m glad I found my way over here.
    Julie Jo Severson recently posted…Debuting on Mamalode and Ten to Twenty ParentingMy Profile

  2. Kirsten Toyne says:

    This is a wonderful post. I love your content but also the clarity of your words. I love your practical ideas particularly list your longings. There is a great you tube video aimed at adults but it reminds me of your post. It is The School of Life ‘How to deal with Insomnia’. I am going to share this on My FB page the Guilt Free Guide to Motherhood.
    Kirsten Toyne recently posted…Your Feelings Count-The Summer Holiday Self Worth Challenge Part 2My Profile

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks you Kirsten, I am chuffed that you enjoyed the post and will pop over to check out your FB page. I have read your latest post on self-worth, it really resonated with me, so good to have discovered our mutual connection through #mummy&us.

  3. Mackenzie Glanville says:

    Thank you for adressing my problem this week, not only for my daughter but for me too. I also suffer busy brain so I know where my daughter gets it from. It’s funny I was thinking of getting her to create a vision board so I will have to do that! I love the can of worms idea too. I think you are right we tend to block those thoughts out, get on with our day and then they bite us at night time when it is quiet. Really thoughtful and insightful post. Thanks for linking this up with me #mummyandus
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…sick children #mummy & usMy Profile

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Mac, always a pleasure to link up with #mummyandus, you’re linky’s got quite a following now! Your comment on last weeks post was a great prompt to address a specific issue this week, it’s something I have personal experience with myself too. I often feel my ideas go off like pop-corn just as I lay down to sleep; I don’t want to stifle them, but neither do I want to think about them at that time of night!! Would love to know if any of the ideas in the post work for you or your daughter, I need to start applying them to myself too!!

  4. Kristen says:

    I will have to start doing some of these tips because I have been having a difficult time sleeping which makes it even harder for me to get up in the morning. #mummy&us

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