Are you too Anxious to Sleep?

The Verbatim Technique

This is a tool for individuals who cannot sleep due to racing thoughts. I learned about it in a presentation by the Institute for Brain Potential, though I have made a few edits after using it with my clients over the years. I will describe how to do it, followed by an explanation of the science behind how it works.

After trying to fall asleep for 30 minutes or so and it is not happening due to racing thoughts, turn on a soft light by the bed, such as a dimmed lamp (nothing too bright). Grab a notebook and pen, which should be in place by your bedside already. Now start writing every single thought that passes through your mind. This is key, it must be every word, verbatim, as it comes into your mind. No abbreviations, no shorthand; every single word! The writing does not have to make sense, you are just getting it out onto paper. Even when you have thoughts like “what was I just thinking,” you must write down the words “what was I just thinking.” Do this for as long as it takes until you cannot hold your eyes open any more, then put the paper down, and turn off the light to get some sleep. Don’t worry, most people only get through about a page before the process starts kicking in.

This works because of two main factors. 

1. It allows you to get everything out of your mind and onto paper. This visible evidence has a way of tricking the brain into realizing that there is no need to keep running over these thoughts.

2. What moves faster at these times, your thoughts or your hand? If you said thoughts, you are correct. When your thoughts are racing, there is no way for your writing to keep up with the thoughts. Therefore, this discombobulates the brain, similar to some techniques used in hypnosis. After a few bouts with this type of confusion, the brain has an almost magical way of saying “this is too much work, I’m just gonna crash (sleep).”

About 90% of my clients who have tried this report that by only the 2nd night, they had a much easier time falling asleep, without even going a second round with the Verbatim technique!

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