10 things you can do to fall asleep at night
This list is inspired by yesterday night's bout of insomnia. I usually sleep well, but from time to time I'll have a restless night and will wake up the next morning not feeling as rested as I should. Here are some actions a person struggling with sleeplessness might find helpful, barring taking a sleep aid like Melatonin or Tylenol PM.
NB. This list is more for those who face occasional trouble sleeping. For those with more perpetual difficulties, a more involved solution and a conversation with a professional are probably warranted.
1. Count sheep
Or, alternatively, count backwards from 1,000 by 3's. The goal here is to be focused enough on something mindless that you're lulled to sleep.
2. Have a glass of warm milk
This is an old standby. If you don't like dairy, chamomile tea is very relaxing too.
3. If your thoughts are racing, try to meditate
Many of my sleepless nights have been caused by anxiety or some sort of stress. Meditation can help to address this. Repeating mantras is particularly helpful for me and plays the same focusing role as counting sheep.
This can be useful, even (or especially) for the non-religious among us (list on this topic coming soon!). Insomnia can be a cause or consequence of feeling helpless, and prayer is especially useful for when we feel fear.
5. Journal or Write
Sometimes when I can't sleep I feel like my thoughts are racing. Putting pen to paper can help me clear out the thoughts in my head. I find this strategy of facing my thoughts head-on helps reduce stress, whereas trying to ignore racing thoughts never really works.
6. Read, Watch a show, or Distract yourself with an activity
Sometimes, the act of trying to get back to sleep can lead to a spiral of doom where you feel more and more stressed because you can't sleep, even though you want to and are actively trying to. To break this spiral, it can be useful to do something to distract your mind. Then, after a bit of time, you can focus on trying to rest again.
7. Do some exercise
I've found that I tend to sleep less well on days where I do less exercise. If your living situation permits it, try to do some sit-ups, push-ups, or jumping jacks if you wake up in the middle of the night. Get your blood pumping, wash up, and then approach bed again feeling more physically fatigued.
8. Avoid blue light and bright screens
Blue light can cause headaches and poor sleep quality, even for people who like to fall asleep to the t.v. or other devices. Try to switch your devices to night mode, and keep them this way until morning.
9. Think about your sleep hygiene and optimize your environment
People swear by a number of recommendations here, but there's consensus on the following: keep your room relatively cool, reduce noise and light, and try not to eat within a few hours of bedtime.
10. If all else fails, give up and try to catch up on sleep at a later point
It's obviously good to sleep as much as possible during the night, but sometimes it's not in the cards. Worrying about not getting enough sleep isn't productive and can be extremely stressful, so at times you might just be better off starting your day *really* early. People have great success being productive in the morning, when the world is resting, so try leaning into that. And, if possible, make time for a nap the next day.