Sleeping Tricks

Last night, I had a hard time sleeping. I kept waking up in the middle of the night obsessing about random things (my specialty).

My dad, who is a champion sleeper, once taught me a great trick: Pretend that you’re going to fall through the bed. It makes you realize how tensed up your body is and helps you relax. Counting sheep is also helpful, although weirdly I never know where the sheep are supposed to go once they’ve jumped over the fence. I sometimes make them circle back, so it’s just one or two exhausted sheep running around the whole time. Apartment Therapy also found the most relaxing song ever, which actually slows down your heartbeat.

Are you a good sleeper? Any tips?

P.S. Encouragement.

(Photo of Sally Field)

  1. I find that no electronics about a half hour before bed really helps me sleep better. I also just focus on deep breathing (thinking “in…. out” in my head) which usually lulls me to sleep. I recently downloaded a super cool alarm clock app which also has different background noises to help you fall asleep – my current “theme” is water, cicadas, and chirping birds.

  2. When I had trouble sleeping a while back I was told to play the alphabet game — didn’t try it straight away, but I found that trying to remember the names of characters or actors from a truly inane soap really helped! Or I’ll listen to an audiobook on really low volume on my iPod so I can barely hear the words, just the drone of a voice, but I have to be careful not to self-strangulate with the earphones!

    Oh but I really like Kimberly’s idea (above) of starting a dream! I’m going to try that. :)

    On a slightly off-topic note, that picture of Sally Field? LOVE IT. LOVE IT.

  3. When I’m having a hard time sleeping I always think of how nice it is to be in my soft, cozy bed and actually physically smile. I get so frustrated when I can’t fall asleep and smiling helps me relax and calm down. Weird I know! I also sometimes try to start my dream. I’ll imagine a scene I want to dream about and then try to fall right into it!

  4. Swap heads and tails – so move your head to where your feet usually are.

  5. I read once if you wake up in the night, pretend your alarm just went off and you have to get up. Something about that (probably my own laziness), often works for me. Why is it we never want to get up in the mornings?

  6. I was a terrible sleeper when I was wee. I have a fool proof trick my mom taught me from back then. Well, foolproof for me. I mimic breathing. My husband, my dog, my cat. If I have no one to breath with, I find a coin and hold it in my hand.

  7. I am not a good sleeper. I ended up taking some pills because i feel like a walking dead everyday. Counting sheep doesnt really works on me. Reading books either or playing games.
    I’ve tried going for a SPA but it didn’t work either.

  8. mo says...

    Hilarious about the counting sheep!

    I do something that works for me…. starting with my toes and feet… I focus on them and think of relaxing just that part of my body. Just slowly thinking about getting just my feet totally relaxed and ready to go to sleep. Don’t move on to the next part up until you have determined that your feet are relaxed. Then move up – legs, torso, arms, etc. I usually find that by the time I have gotten up to my arms I have become pretty relaxed and then my thoughts are too. I know this sounds weird by I thought I would share!

  9. I am an over-thinker at bedtime. Things that I do not worry much about during the day seem to increase ten-fold in importance when I go to sleep. When I’m trying to fall asleep I draw circles with my eyes and correlate my breathing to the circles. That way it steadies my breathing and I don’t actually think about anything at all. It’s magical.

  10. When I’m obsessing and can’t sleep I repeat (in my head) “Everything I NEED, I have right now”. Then, I will start to list things- starting really basic: a roof over my head, a bed, a pillow, food in my belly, a family that loves me…. Sometimes, I even fall asleep with a little smile on my face.

  11. Have you tried a sound machine? White noise or the sound of the Ocean works wonders for me. Also, try this: when you are lying there and a thought or question pops into your head, look at it- try to see it before you likes little loud or a puff of smoke and then blow it away…. Watch it float away. It was so helpful when I learned that meditation was not the art of thinking about nothing but instead the ability to recognize your thoughts( anxieties) and to have the power to push the away at that moment.

    • “Like a little cloud”

  12. I can’t believe no one has mentioned wearing blue blocking glasses at night. This has worked wonders for me. Blue light from TVs, iDevices, etc. affects the production of melatonin. I put mine on around 8pm and usually fall right to sleep. I never forget to put them on because I usually start to feel “off” around 8. The bedroom also shouldn’t have any blue light. The other most important thing (for me) is regular bedtimes and wake-up times (even on the weekends!).

    • Oh, I don’t fall asleep at 8; I wear them for 2 hours and then go to bed.

  13. Someone recently told me two different, slightly silly techniques for relaxing and falling asleep if you’re stuck awake worrying/stressing:
    1. Imagine there’s a very tiny version of yourself sitting on your head. Imagine they’re your guardian and in charge of watching out for any dangers or stressors coming up. You don’t have to look over your shoulder or worry about anything because they’re doing it for you! Now you can go about your day being happy (or go about your night asleep!).
    2. Imagine you’re an alien inhabiting your body for the first time. Think about how you would know that you have feet or a forehead of know that you’re lying down? Think about how pressures, textures,and temperatures feel.

    I usually don’t have issues falling asslep though. I have more difficulty waking up. I just downloaded the Sleep Cycle app and used it last night for the first time and it was awesome!! You put it on the corner of your bed and it tracks your sleep cycle based on your movement (you move more in certain sleep cycles). This morning I woke up an hour and a half earlier than normal and more awake than normal. Plus it creates graphs and statistics which appeal to the geek side of me. :) Good luck getting some sleep!

  14. I’m the WORST sleep over. I try to eat something protein-heavy (I know, they say you shouldn’t) right before bed, otherwise my ’empty’ stomach keeps me up all night. I also use melatonin pills.

  15. One trick to falling asleep that works for me involves turning off your brain (in a way). Because most of the time, it is your brain on overdrive that keeps you awake, and thinking, and thinking…. So what I do when I can’t fall asleep is trick my brain into thinking that I am about to fall asleep. And I do that by re-creating the thoughts you normally have right before you fall asleep. You know how your thoughts jumble and run from one idea to another, and sometimes you catch yourself thinking about a pink unicorn, and you have no idea how you came upon that thought? That is how your thoughts run just before you fall asleep. Thus, you jumble your thoughts on purpose, think about a red truck, and than about hot firefighters, and than about forest fires, and just keep jumping from one thought to another. Eventually, let your mind just “flow” and not focus too much on one thought. This should lull you to sleep and “relax” your brain. Try it and see if it works.. :)

  16. Play Scrabble on your phone. I find thinking about how I’m not falling asleep just exacerbates my stress and inability to sleep. Scrabble is great because it’s a thinking game. It’s not suspenseful, yet it’s still engaging enough not to be tedious and boring. As you play, you’ll get tired. I also play Chuzzle. Less of a thinking game, but still does the trick.

  17. I’m right there with you. I’m 16 weeks pregnant with my third and this is my 2nd night in a row with little sleep. I hate taking sleeping pills frequently, so I usually resort to getting up and doing a few yoga stretches to relax my muscles and then listening to some of my hypnobabies tracks to relax me. I hope you get some rest tonight!

  18. Oh man, I feel for you. I have been a troubled sleeper since a little girl. Always had to try really hard to relax, and I still have that trouble. I will go a couple weeks where I struggle to get a good solid night of sleep. But.. I have found some things that work!!!

    1. Lavender Essential Oil – Young Living Essential Oil specifically. It is the “swiss army knife” of oils. You can put it right on your body- I put it on my chest, on the back of my neck and on the bottom of my feet (soaks up really well through your feet) and then I take a couple deep breaths breathing in whatever oil is left on my hands. Great for relaxation- and also helps with anxiety. I have found this to be a great help with sleeping. (Just double check if this is okay for pregnant women…) There is also an oil called RutaVala that I have found to help me fall asleep too… Essential oils are great :)

    2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation- I watched Dr. Oz one day and he happened to have a sleep expert on who talked about PMR. It’s a way to help you go through your entire body and focus on relaxing each muscle. Here’s a link to a video where the Doctor talks you through it. It helped me!!

    I hope this helps and that you get some great sleep Joanna!!!

  19. AJ says...

    My sleep trick for when you have an “active” mind: count backwards from 300 by threes. It is challenging enough that you don’t think of other things but boring enough that you can fall asleep.

    I also read recently in an article about helping children fall asleep that reading a book before bed which is a level below their reading ability helps settle the mind and again, “bore” you to sleep. I’ve found this very helpful for giving me an excuse to read books that might otherwise feel like a vice!

  20. Strangely once I was comfortable I have never slept better than while I was pregnant. Once I was out I was dead to the world.

    Memoirs & Mochas

  21. tip: don’t get into bed until it’s time to go to sleep. Stop reading in bed, no snacking in bed, it should only be for sleeping and sex. If possible, spend as little time on your bedroom as possible, especially don’t do work in your room. It should be a relaxing environment.

  22. I have a similar theory to your dad – mine is “pretend you’re a bag of milk” (we’re Canadian– our litres/quarts come in bags). It’s always some weird way I’m pursing my lips or clenching the little muscles of my armpit… but Bag of Milk always helps me relax.

  23. This is weird but magical: lay down in the most comfortable position you can find and close your eyes. Then imagine yourself sitting on the side of the bed not being able to sleep. Imagine that you are suffering from a bout of insomnia. Really invest in the image. Pretend your staring at the wall in the darkness, that your eyes are adjusting to the night, that all you want to do is sleep. The strange paradox of imagining I can’t fall asleep always sends me to dreamland.

  24. When I was pregnant with my second child I started reading a book on the Bradley method of natural childbirth. The relaxation techniques are amazing! I still use them to this day.

  25. I had this problem too when i was pregnant….. My midwife told me: Eat more protein for dinner and take in magnesium before you go to bed. (preferably in powder than tablets.) Works like a charm!

  26. I would give myself a deadline like 30 Minutes, 1 hour …, if I couldn’t sleep until then I would get up and do things that I hate to do, for example: ironing ;)

    My husband would imagine that if he has to sleep on the airplane, economy class of course! You’re just so lucky to have a cozy bed just for yourself!!!

    Hope they would help :)

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  28. what is it with Dads and their perfect ability to sleep?!
    A British lady once told me this trick, and it has worked with me several times (although not these days, when my thoughts spiral wildly)
    Slowly count to 10; start again, but this time PAUSE after 1; go again, and pause after 2; again and pause after 3 etc; normally, you are asleep before you can pause after all the numbers. You can try it, no sheep involved! :)

  29. i cannot just put my head down and go to sleep. i have to get to the point of can’t keep my eyes open and then go down. bedtime reading always does the trick for me.

  30. A trick that for some strange reason always works for me is count backwards from 30 over and over again until I drift off.

    I’m not sure why the magic number is thirty but hey! :)

  31. Crafting answers to those Inside the Actor’s Studio questions…. my new trick, courtesy of my friend Lauren at :)

  32. The issue about where the sheep go has always bothered me – I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I too usually have a handful of exhausted sheep running in circles. Needless to say, it doesn’t work very well for putting me to sleep.

  33. You crack me up! LOL Poor little lambs :)

  34. When you can’t sleep, cook an elaborate meal in your head. I’ll pick something I hardly ever feel like making in real life (lasagna, coq au vin, etc). It always makes me pass right out.

  35. The best trick I know of is to replay your whole day in real time in your mind from the moment you awoke forward. I never make it past brushing my teeth!

  36. My aunt taught me a really calming trick.. Close your eyes and spend a few seconds relaxing every single body part from head to toe. I try not to leave anything out — scalp… forehead… eyebrows…. eyeballs!!…nose… cheeks… jaws…. lips…. ears…

    They may not be muscles or tense to begin with, but it’s such a meditative process. As you slowly go through each body part they’ll become immobile, as if they’ve gone to sleep. So it helps to make sure you’re in a comfortable position first. I don’t remember ever reaching my toes!

  37. I am generally a great sleeper, but I ALSO couldn’t sleep last night (though I’m not pregnant). So at 2:30 a.m., I finally placed my order for LOOKMATIC glasses that I’ve been trying to find the time to put in all week. But then, I couldn’t stop dreaming about my new glasses… Oh well!

    I laughed out loud when you said you can’t figure out where the sheep are supposed to go after they jump the fence because I can definitely get hung up on weird details like that too. Maybe we should try zooming out and looking at the bigger picture? Then again, somebody needs to think about the poor sheep :)


  38. LV says...

    I usually think happy thoughts when I lie down, although that doesn’t always get me to sleep, sometimes its quite effective.

  39. I had a yoga teacher that would always end her relaxation with “and relax the space between your eyes.” I never realized I was tensing those muscles sometimes- even just to keep my eyes closed! Now I use that phrase to remind myself when I’m trying to relax. Sleeping or not, it always helps!

  40. Your concern about where the sheep are supposed to go SLAYED me. Without consciously realizing it, I think I’ve always had the exact same problem! Just another reminder of why you’re my favorite :)

  41. I totally remember your dad’s tip from when you posted about it previously (here or on Smitten, I can’t remember) because I’ve used it more than once since then! I like the tip about imagining your body melting into the mattress—that does help me relax and, in fact, makes me realize just how tensely I subconsciously hold myself even in repose.

  42. A good orgasm make me really sleepy. You should try that.

  43. Like a lot of the previous posts I try to get my always worrying mind to some boring task, to soothe it and keep it away from the dark thoughts. Also, I´ve learned NOT to stay in bed when I can´t sleep. If 10 minutes pass by and I don´t fall asleep, I get out of the bed and I wash my hands or drink a glass of water. Getting out of the warmth of the bed and being a little cold also helps me fall asleep when I come back. If I can´t get to sleep after 5 pm I just call it a night and just wake up.
    Also, I was very worse some years later, but yoga (Try Strala on Broadway…it´s the BEST) and some cardio helped to tire my body and help me sleep better. Sometimes when you work sitting at a computer, you need to get your body tired, as if it was a kid so it can sleep better.

    I really recommend this moves before bed, some yoga moves for the bed…so you can loosen up before going to bed:

    Last tip, and the best ever DO NOT KEEP A TV IN THE BEDROOM. Mine is in the living room so whenever my husband and me feels drowsy, can go to bedroom and sleep without interference. Just ask your hubby not to make noises when entering the bed….

  44. I cuddle up on my husband, by his underarm/chest area. I make sure my ear is pressed up against him and I listen to his heart beat. The rhythmic beating calms my mind down and I fall asleep much faster than if I don’t do it. I always have such a difficult time if we can’t go to sleep at the same time.

  45. When I was little and couldn’t fall asleep I would change positions and sleep with my head at the foot of the bed. For some reason it always did the trick. But, of course, as an adult I always forget about it in the moment.

  46. I take mental tours of places I once knew very well but haven’t been in years (my high school campus, the house I lived in until I was nine). I try to focus on where things were and to remember details. I find it’s helpful to have something for your brain to focus on that isn’t too taxing. I also list alphabetical place names – all the places I can think of that start with A, then B, etc.

  47. I take mental tours of places I once knew very well but haven’t been in years (my high school campus, the house I lived in until I was nine). I try to focus on where things were and to remember details. I find it’s helpful to have something for your brain to focus on that isn’t too taxing. I also list alphabetical place names – all the places I can think of that start with A, then B, etc.

  48. I’m usually a great sleeper (too good really…I have fallen asleep mid-conversation before) so if I have problems sleeping, I tend to fret about it.
    If I’m stressed, I make a list of worries and tasks. Somehow, writing them down makes me less stressed because I don’t have to worry about forgetting one of my worries. Ha! The other thing I often do is count backwards from one hundred by 3s. It’s just hard enough that it distracts me from everything else. I’ve never reached zero.
    Good luck to you all!

  49. Me and you both, Joanna! There are nights when that dang hamster of thoughts just won’t stop running in my head.

    My go-to sleep trick: I visualize being in a place that makes me happy – usually the beach in Costa Rica or Jamaica. It works amazingly!

    I’ve also thought about taking magnesium citrate. There’s a Canadian product that I’m on the lookout for called Natural Calm. For now, the visualization technique is working well.


  50. What a terrible cycle we can find ourselves in…not falling asleep, over-analyzing, not falling asleep, over-analyzing…

    A couple things have helped prevent not sleeping, nothing ground-breaking, but I must have a full stomach and make sure I’ve gone to the bathroom before I a lay down.

    I will also add, not that it helps at 3 am, but if I do a late candlelight yoga class, I sleep sound and deep.

    There are some really interesting ideas here! Painting the inside black and planning an outfit are two I would like to try. Thanks!

    Katie @

  51. Joanna, I just adore how free you are with sharing your worrying/ over thinking quirks. It makes you an even more endearing person (I didn’t think you could get any lovelier).
    My getting to sleep trick: daydreaming about only beautiful things. It works so far!

  52. Here are a few tricks I have when I can’t sleep:

    Count backwards from 100
    Just GET UP and go to the bathroom! Sometimes I try to sleep through it (never works!)
    If I’m really struggling, try to read a little bit
    And if I really can’t sleep, a glass of milk and some PB on bread

  53. I leave my bed just for sleeping. (And maybe one other activity…) But I tend to not watch TV in bed or do anything else in bed. When I do lie down, my body knowns out of routine to relax. I also find that just being generally overwhelmed throughout the day helps me sleep just about anywhere and everywhere at any time I can find a few minutes to do so.

  54. I think it’s something to do with pregnancy. I’ve always been a deep, sound sleeper but since being pregnant (8 months along now!) I wake up ridiculously early (6:20am) nearly every day without an alarm. I can’t lounge in bed anymore. And the pregnancy pillow doesn’t help at all as it never stays in place and I manage to roll on my back anyway. I think part of the lack of sleep is the paranoia of rolling on one’s back during pregnancy! And sleeping on my side tends to hurt the hips after an hour. We don’t have it easy, us pregnant ladies :P

  55. I had never problems with sleeping, i have never slept much hours, but when i sleep, i sleep!
    When my son birth, and he waked me up every night about 6 times, it was a moment when i started having problems to sleep. Nights were so hard!!!
    I have needed two years to sleep as usual, my 7-8 hours, but good sleeping hours!!!

  56. Aw, I feel your pain, Joanna. I am like your father, an expert sleeper. I can sleep through anything and everywhere; I have fallen asleep standing up in buses, during yoga, and also underwater. Yes, this happened when I was doing my open water diving course and we were learning the basic drills while kneeling on the ocean floor (probably only 2 metres deep). But, my husband is the lightest sleeper I have ever met! We can’t even have his watch in our bedroom because the ‘ticks’ of the second hand keeps him awake! We are trying everything we can (chamomile, shower before bed, no caffeine after 4pm, no TV or lights in the bedroom). Sigh… he’s not even that stressed from work. So, I’ll peruse the comments of this post for more tricks and tips for him to try.

    • I’m a good sleeper too! It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great for traveling but I have no control over myself! I too once fell asleep during watsu, a massage in water, and woke up underwater! Ah!

    • Oops! :/
      I too have fallen asleep underwater, once during watsu…

  57. I get the same problem! My husband frequently helps me out with a technique he calls “deep relaxation therapy.” Step by step, he gives me a very specific scene to act out in my mind:

    “You are at the beach. Lay on the softest patch of sand you can see. Feel the soft wind blow through your hair. Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun as you lay down. Look at the shapes in the clouds…”

    I never think it’s working until I wake up the next morning. :)

    • That’s so funny that it works so well for you bc I tried that one time and it totally irritated me that someone was talking to me and I couldn’t relax. Lol

  58. Ugh, I can totally relate. I’m the worst sleeper. I usually do the math times table in my head, that usually puts me right to sleep. 1×1,1×2,2×2,4×6,8×9…in order, of course.

  59. During pregnancy I can’t sleep worth beans, but the Rainbow Relaxation from Hypnobabies works like magic. It’s a full body relaxation that basically uses the six chakras. It’s pretty easy to find online, and I find it so great for calming pregnancy anxiety, even if it’s kinda cheesy the first few times.

  60. This may sound silly but if I can’t fall asleep I think about what I am going to wear the next day. I usually fall asleep as I am mentally putting the final touches on my outfit… and then I don’t have to think about what to wear when I wake up!

    Good luck with that sleep!

  61. That’s a wonderful tip! Whenever I have trouble relaxing nor sleeping, I too imagine I’m falling and flying on a cloud.

  62. Such an intimate glimpse into the minds of others! There are so many fun suggestions -thinking of only the happiest things, naming mules, imagining the perfect outfit. I love Ellen’s idea of imagining that she is painting the inside of her head black. so clever!

  63. I am really lucky to be a great sleeper and I think having a set bedtime routine really helps.
    Everynight I put my pyjamas on and watch a bit of news in bed, snuggling with my cat. After about 10 minutes my Husband brings me my beddy bear (a heated lavender bear) and a glass of milk for me and a saucer of milk for SootyCat. Then it’s lights off and striaght into the land of nod.

  64. The alphabet trick is very good indeed. In France, we play that game in kindergarten and so on, and call it “baccalaureat” or “little bac” because it is obviously easier than the real exam ! I usually look for girl name, boy name, name of a city/country, a color, a job, etc. When it doesn’t work (mostly because I get angry I can’t remember THAT name of a country starting by an “h”) I do it with body parts. Endless !
    Also, apart from doing yoga regularly, I love alternative nostril breathing. It works so well to release the stress and clear off your mind. When particularly tensed, I do it whilst closing my eyes and picturing a blue light.
    One particularly weird trick that sooth me completely is to just tell myself that this is the middle of the day and I don’t need to sleep. Release the “I HAVE to sleep” tension.
    But apart from all those, the best thing for me is to make love, it’s like the most efficient cradle in the world. I know…

  65. Nice tricks! My trick is similar to the falling through the bed where you basically just make yourself really feel the bed underneath you – to realize how soft and comforting each part – pillow, duvet, is.

  66. I count exhales…but only up to 10. Then you have to restart counting. It slows the breath down and you don’t get up to high numbers (which just reinforce the fact that it is taking forever to fall asleep). I can’t remember where I learned this tip, but it really helps me.

  67. I try to feel every muscle in my body individually relaxing, starting at my feet, ankles, shins, calves, etc… and working my way upwards…it is good to imagine it but if you can actually do it, it works even more amazingly. If you are still awake by the time you get to your head, you won’t be for long after relaxing your throat, jaw, cheeks, forehead, scalp…zzzzzzzzzzzz.

  68. So glad you posted this. Ever since I turned 29 I’ve been tossing and turning. I will lay awake for almost 3 hours. I must try this tonight.

  69. So glad you posted this. Ever since I turned 29 I’ve been tossing and turning. I will lay awake for almost 3 hours. I must try this tonight.

  70. I also read somewhere to think of the ocean, and that works almost every time! Either I’ll imagine being the middle of the ocean, like alone in a paddle boat or something. Or I’ll just think about the sounds and the feeling I get when I’m sunbathing on the beach. Either one usually does the trick. :)

  71. These are great tips! Unfortunately, I’m not a good sleeper at all, so I definitely need some ideas on how to turn my mind off. Great post…thanks!

  72. I usually can by with just slowing my breath down dramatically ad deeply, like in a yoga class. If that fails I get up, go to the bathroom to pee, and then fall right asleep. Weird, I know.

  73. Oh my gosh, I do this! Also another really good trick is to literally turn your mind’s eye in towards the pillow. I find it stops my mind from running over all the things I need to do the next day, and just focus on how soft and relaxing the pillow feels under my head instead. My partner’s a terrible sleeper and it even seems to work for him! :)

  74. Eye mask! This way I can’t keep opening my eyes when my brain starts over-thinking everything. I find I feel more rested in the morning when I wear one as well.

  75. Eye mask! This way I can’t keep opening my eyes when my brain starts over-thinking everything. I find I feel more rested in the morning when I wear one as well.

  76. I remember reading that you should imagine your alarm going off and getting up to start your day. It reminds you of how tired you really are and makes the remaining hours feel like a luxury. It works sometimes… :)

  77. I read this tip on a Lifehacker Q&A with a sleep specialist I think. Either that or on public radio. The tip is to count backwards from 300 by 3’s (“300…297…294…”). It’s difficult enough to keep your mind from racing but it’s easy/boring enough to fall asleep. It really does work. My dad says just to count backwards but that can be done too quickly. It’s easy to get lost in counting by 3’s.

  78. There’s always Insomnia Jeopardy!

    I’ve always had a hard time with sleep. Daily exercise brought the most progress (by FAR) for me. Even with exercise, at 8 1/2 months pregnant, sleep has been tough. I tend to revert back to a trick I used when I was a kid, which is thinking “inhale, exhale” when I breathe. It helps clear my mind of other thoughts.

    Lately when I wake up anxious I tell myself, “You’re not going to worry about that now. You can think about it when the alarm goes off.” Strangely, it worked (or at least it did last night).

    Definitely going to add some of these tips to my arsenal, too.

  79. Step 1: relaxing. To do that you first need to tense your entire body, as many muscles as possible, all at the same time and keep that tension for a few seconds. Then relax all those muscles, as if with an off switch.
    Step 2: sleeping. Close your eyes and roll your eyeballs upwards, as if trying to look through your forehead but with your eyes closed. This is the eyes natural position during sleeping so putting them in place really speeds things along. Apparently a real trick used by people who need to fall asleep quickly like for a powernap.

  80. I was taught to see waves washing up on a beach and pulling back out along with imagining the sounds…it somehow works like magic for me a previous insomniac.

  81. My grandfather taught me a trick that I use all the time… he used to imagine that he was trying to sleep in the most uncomfortable place imaginable, like say, on the subway at rush hour with two bags to carry and people smushed up against you, loud noises blaring! Then he’d realize how comfortable and content he was in his own bed that he would instantly relax and fall right to sleep. It works!!

  82. Also, when I was little every evening my mom would have us wiggle our toes, wiggle our legs, wiggle our middle, etc. to help ease up any tension and it would relax you and make you laugh. :)

  83. I count backwards from 2000 thinking about the years as I go. It seems really possible to get to zero, but you’ll conk out well before. I almost never get to the 15th century.

    And then sometimes I name things. Like, I’ll try to think of three streets in New York City for each letter of the alphabet, or three international cities for each letter of the alphabet. Though my all time favorite is thinking of names for mules. Honestly, I have no idea where it came from, but it’s really, really funny and enjoyable and I always wake up in a good mood when I fall asleep thinking of names for mules alphabetically.

  84. I’m the bessstt sleeper! I can fall asleep anytime anywhere and I always get 8 hours.

    My trick is cold therapy – it sounds like torture but you drink icy cold water and splash your face with icy cold water before bed. It sounds odd like it would refresh you and perk you up but it doesn’t. I mean get the water as cold as you can stand it.

    If I ever can’t fall asleep, I always pretend I’m sleeping. Again, sounds so weird! but I just close my eyes, lay really still, and pretend like I’m trying to convince someone I’m asleep. Kind of like how little kids always pretend to sleep…before I know it I’m actually sleeping.

  85. I have no problems sleeping these days, but I used to be very anxious and unable to sleep. Then I moved to LA for a few years and my neurotic New York sensibilities became a little more chilled out. :) But when I used to have problems sleeping my mom taught me this trick: Think about what you did that day in detail. Start at the first thing you did in the morning. Start at when you first wake up and get out of bed and go through your day and picture all that you did. Stay focused on the physical acts and don’t let your mind skip ahead to what you’re going to do tomorrow. Hopefully you’ll fall asleep before you get to dinner!

  86. This might keep me up longer in the long-run, but every time I can’t sleep, I find myself thinking about whatever I was writing that day and mentally editing it in my head.

  87. I paint the inside of my head. Sounds weird, I know. But when I have trouble falling asleep, I imagine the inside of my head as an empty cavern. Then I take an imaginary paint brush and an imaginary can of black paint and methodically paint the inside of my head black! As I work my way around the edges, get the top and all the sides covered, my head turns dark, I get tired and fall asleep. Try it! It usually always works for me.

  88. My two tricks: If I’d had a really restless night, I will flip around completely and sleep with my head at the foot of the bed. For some reason, this works for me.

    I also envision the prettiest dress I can think of. Sometimes I theme it: prettiest Christmas party dress, prettiest wedding guest dress, prettiest music festival dress. Works like a charm.

    I’m going to try some of these ‘game’ suggestions while running! I’ve been having a terrible time not letting my mind race when I run, and I get in my own head: This is too hard. My shins hurt. I can’t go on any longer. But I really can… need something to occupy the time!

    • I love this prettiest dress game you speak of, I might need to try that just for fun! :)

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  90. It’s not really the falling asleep, but the waking up I have issues with! Once I’m up, I’m okay, but actually arousing myself from sleep is soooo hard, and I wonder if it’s because my sleep cycles keep getting interrupted. Hmph.

    • Try this on a weekend… :) Put your alarm on a very quiet or even just vibrate setting. Make a mental note that if you don’t pay close attention, you will miss it. Get excited about what you don’t want to miss.

      When you do wake up, never hit snooze.

  91. Not sure if anyone already mentioned this, but I do the yoga trick where body part by body part, you tense up (“Clench your toes… now your ankles…. now your calves…”) and then one by one relax them again. It distracts your mind and forces your body to relax. Incredible.

  92. I promise this works and so relaxing…You imagine a ball of light, any color, out beyond space and time, beyond the edge of the universe. It can be any size or shape, just whatever comes naturally. Then imagine it slowly getting closer and closer until you can ‘feel’ (imagine) its light on your feet. Then slowly let the light increase, up your calves and thighs to your hips, up your torso and down your arms, then up your neck until it reaches the top of your head and your whole body is lit in your mind’s eye.

  93. Lat night i STRUGGLED TO SLEEP ASWELL. May i RECOMMEND SOME RELAXING MUSIC, PERHAPS SOME SEA MUSIC, ANIMALS OF THE SEA. I truly do love your blog. and this dog is just so cute. what type of dog is it? I have a black toy poodle named Coco Barack The. so cute.

  94. The hardest thing for me on my sleepless nights is clearing the mind of all my repetitive, anxious thoughts. I meditate, and concentrating on your breath really does help. When an anxious thought arises, I just gently say “not now” in my head, and return my mind to the breath. Actually addressing the unwanted thought directly and setting it aside seems to help.

  95. I have a little trick but I suspect that it only works for me – I tell myself ‘Okay, it’s time to make an effort to get to sleep now’. Something about it reminds me to actively relax and clear my thoughts.

    I also use an old relaxation technique I learned in yoga, which has you send your attention to little parts of your body at a time, starting at your toes and working up, and taking a moment to relax each area before moving on.

  96. I’ve found that forcing a yawn or reading a not so interesting book (not on a display!) under dim lighting helps induce sleepiness. And as long as I don’t start reading things on my smart phone or iPad once I’m in my bed, I can fall asleep within 15 min.

  97. My cousin taught me a neat trick – imagine that you’re in space moving through the stars. Somehow that always help me wander off to sleep.

  98. haha karen, i do the same thing! just pretend to be asleep and focus on breathing.

  99. I am 38 weeks pregnant, and for the first time in months I slept really well last night! Might have been that I had a hot stone pedicure a few hours before bed?!?! Anyway, I woke up and couldn’t believe it was morning!

  100. I used hypnobabies during my second pregnancy and it is amazing how relaxed I would get! You can also buy mp3 hypnosis online that help with insomnia.

  101. I, too, have been having trouble sleeping recently and I definitely expect to get to try this technique this evening! My best falling asleep trick was taught to me by my dad as well: pretend you’re going on a walk with someone in a really calming place and tell them everything that’s on your mind. It always does the trick for me!

  102. We often put on a “show” (podcast) as we’re falling asleep. Usually it’s NPR’s Fresh Air. As long as the subject matter isn’t too upsetting, it’s a nice way to distract my brain and the talking lulls me to sleep. If for some reason I still can’t fall asleep, at least it’s not my own anxious thoughts getting in the way and sometimes I learn something!

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  104. I am a terrible sleeper but the best thing I have found is to count blessings/gratitudes. It’s relaxing and the peace it brings is substantive. Plus, it makes insomnia and the stress of not sleeping so much better! I have clean water, a safe home, healthy babies…a sleepless night is relative.

    Also: shut off the TV as early as possible.

  105. I have always been a great sleeper but pregnancy gifted me the rare side effect of intense itching when I try to sleep at night. Weird and so annoying. I was up until 4:15 last night. Sometimes I take benadryl but it only kind of helps.

    I’m going to try your tricks. Your comment about not knowing where the sheep should go, cracks me up! :)

  106. my trick has been to pretend to be asleep! if i’m antsy or twitchy, i stay as still as i can, and deepen my breathing, pretending that i am already asleep. if i really focus on my breathing, often this will sooth me enough to actually fall asleep.

  107. I had a bout of insomnia a few years ago. I tried Melatonin, Advil PM, etc., and nothing worked. Then my friend who’s in med school recommended Kava Tea. It’s a natural tea made from the Kava root by Yogi brand. It’s marketed as stress relief, but it knocks me out! I highly recommend it.

  108. we’ve been using a white noise machine as well as some of the previous comments and love it!

  109. My dad taught me this trick where starting down at your feet and working your way up your body you concentrate on each part, telling that part to relax. So you start at your feet saying “relax your feet, relax your feet” etc, until it feels like your feet are very heavy. Then you move up to your legs and so on. This tactic tends to work for me as a usually never make it past my waist. The other thing I sometimes do is read a book that I know won’t hold my attention, like a textbook. This tactic worked a lot (almost too much) in college!

  110. My sleep habits have changed drastically now that I’m in the ‘changing’ part of my life. ^_^ But I’ve found that turning my television to the soft music channel, down just low enough to hear what song it is, and setting the timer for the television to go off in a short time, does it for me! I rarely hear more than two songs before I’m out like a light! LOL

  111. I have a terrible imagination, so tell me: how do you pretend that you are falling through the bed? Also, when I feel like I am falling as I’m falling asleep, it jerks me awake but then I go right back to sleep!
    I know I am not supposed to do this but sometimes, I just scroll through Facebook and Tumblr on my phone until I get sleepy. LOL.

  112. I try to concentrate on my breathing, it almost always works.

  113. My tip: imagining a single drop hitting a limitless pool of water, and following the ripple as it expands…very relaxing.

  114. I am a great sleeper!

    I turn off my TV and don’t look at my cell phone for about 30 – 60 minutes before bed. I always, always read for at least 10 minutes to quiet my mind. I have a fan on for white noise. If I still have trouble sleeping, I focus just on my breathing.

  115. Pick a letter of the alphabet and try to think of as many countries/places as possible that begin with that letter. I was an insomniac throughout childhood and teen years (lucky my mum!) and was told about this trick when I was about 19. It works like an absolute charm!

    • Also, dimming the lights right before you go to bed (and never at any other time of day). I read somewhere that it helps your brain to realise that it’s time to start winding down.

  116. I have anxiety and I find that not many tricks work for me. I need to think about something that’s engaging enough that it distracts my mind from wandering, but boring enough that it’s not stimulating. Most nights I make my boyfriend “tell me a story” about how the universe was formed, the higgs boson, or George Washington war stories. It’s a little boring, which is sleep-inducing, but also just difficult enough to follow that it keeps my mind fully occupied until its exhausted. Also, I find it comforting to think about how big and far away all the things in the universe are :)

    • I have anxiety as well and I know the nothing works for me problem pretty well.. Well, in lot of cases this is just the anxiety telling you that nothing works. Because anxiety doesn’t want you to be NOT anxious all the time.. It’s a terrible vicious circle.
      Bu you “just” have to force yourself practising some of those techniques every night for a longer period of time. Just keep doing, even when it doesn’t work for what feels like an eternity. In the end, your body overpowers your head! Because most of those techniques are based on simple, physiological principles.

      On the other hand, having your bf telling you nice stories is pretty sweet as well :)

  117. I don’t mean to brag, but I am an awesome sleeper. I can fall asleep in less than 5 minutes and I usually don’t wake up until my alarm goes off. When I’m falling asleep I tend to think about happy things; things I’m excited about, friends I’m going to see, trips I’m going to take. I try to only think about nice things that I’m looking forward to and I think it helps my mind relax.

  118. Planning a wedding stressful enough that sometimes my mind starts to get over active! What I find helpful is counting one when you breath in and counting one two when you breath out … before you know it I’m knocked out!

  119. I’m an awful awful sleeper and generally get a few hours of sleep a night. It’s worst when I’m stressed at work and ill wake up at 3am and be mentally opening bank accounts in my bed. Since I was married in September my husband has been snoring happily beside me and driving me insane! I tried switching to the bed in the spare room which occasionally worked.

    Over the past two weeks we have started listening to audiobooks and I’ve never slept so soundly. We’ve still not quite finished roald dahls the witches in a fortnight as we are always fast asleep in 10 minutes. We listen to them for free on youtube and I fully recommend it!

  120. All of these are great tips.

    Here are a couple more: get up and move to another location (couch, guestroom, etc). Also write down what’s bothering you or if you’re making lists, write them down!

    Benedryl or other meds – better living through chemistry!

  121. Those nights are the worst! Sometimes I get overtired (I’m a grad student and often the only option for me to get all my work done is read nonstop until 2 AM)… and then when I finally go to bed, my body is like, Nope, we’re totally awake now. Sigh!

    When my mind is racing, I try to listen to the sound of my own breathing and really focus on the feeling and process of breathing. Basically I try to divert my thoughts to something really basic and physical to calm me down. And like you mention, just trying to be mindful of the tension in your body and slowly release it can be helpful too. One thing I always have to mindfully relax is my jaw. It’s amazing how tense our bodies can be and how full of thoughts our brains are at the end of a busy day!

  122. Spend the last hour before you go to sleep doing something completely unrelated to your job/school/worries/stresses. Read a magazine article for fun, read a couple chapters in a book, watch a documentary on whales on Netflix. Whatever it is, distract yourself from what you think about all day and you’ll sleep far better.

  123. I’m a really light sleeper and I have had pretty bad insomnia since grade school. I don’t have the time to get much sleep to begin with so I need quality when I can. I take Dramamine a lot of nights. It only lasts 4 hours so if that is all the sleep I get, or even a little less then I’m in good shape. I take anti-anxiety meds sometimes too. They don’t help me sleep but they help me relax and I fall asleep more easily. I once read that the average person falls asleep in something like 7 minutes. I cannot believe that! It always takes me at least half an hour.

  124. I read myself to sleep, but if I wake up in the middle of the night, I use a trick my mom taught me. I go through the alphabet and think of three girl’s names for each letter. (Abigail, Annabelle, April, Betsy, Bethany, Brenda…) I try to think of new names every time. I usually can’t make it through F. It works great because it engages your mind enough to stop thinking about other things, but is not engaging enough that it keeps you awake.

  125. I play solitare on my phone, which I turn to silent. Solitare requires me to focus so I can’t really think about anything else (anxiety keeps me up otherwise), but it’s boring enough that it gets me to sleep. Most nights I fall asleep somewhere in the second game. I’d recommend!

  126. I’m a horrifically awful sleeper, and suffering from particularly bad insomnia this week. I too am looking at the Pzizz app. Hopefully this can help!

  127. I play games in my head. Favorites include:
    • Name dog breeds alphabetically (one for each letter, or as many as I can think of for each letter before moving on)
    • Celebrities with three names
    • Celebrities with consecutive letter first/last names (Adrian Brody, Bradley Cooper, Celine Dion)
    • Six Degrees of Bill Pullman

  128. My piano teacher taught me a type of circular breathing when I was a child and very nervous about an upcoming recital. You breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts, exhale for 3 counts and rest for 3 counts. By focusing on making each part of your breath exactly the same you give your anxious mind something to focus on, plus the slowed breathing slows your heartbeat. That has really helped me when I have trouble sleeping.

  129. I’m usually a pretty good sleeper but if I’m having trouble quieting my thoughts I sometimes draw flowers in my mind. I guess the looping and repetitiveness helps relax my mind and I end up falling asleep.

  130. I have been a terrible sleeper.. But:
    What I find really helpful is a so-called “body-check”.
    You start at your feet and just concentrate on the body part and try to relax it.. Then you go on, body part for body part (ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, etc.)

    It helps clearing your mind and relaxing your body, step for step. You have to practice it, of course. Especially the concentrating and not thinking about anything else part.. But it works!
    Mostly I fall asleep when reaching my knees :D

    • That is a great idea.

    • I do something similar, but I visualize a wave from the ocean is washing over my body. Starting with the toes, the wave comes up, covers my toes, then goes back out. The next wave comes up, covers my ankles and then washes back out. It eventually covers all of my body, up to my neck, but by that time, I’m usually asleep.

  131. I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep, usually when I obssess over rhythmic sounds (breathing, dripping, clocks, crickets). I need a fan blowing to fall sleep.

    If I can’t get my mind to slow down, I start trying to plan my outfit for the next day. I usually fall asleep before I decide on something.

    Also, I read that counting backwards from 500 by increments of 3 is more effective than counting sheep. It’s boring enough to make you sleepy, but not hard enough to keep you up figuring out the math :)

  132. If I can’t stay asleep but really want to sleep, rather than read, I pray. I start praying for my loved ones, friends, my employer or coworkers etc and I always fall back to sleep. I most times never even finish the prayer as I am asleep again. Works like a charm…

    • I agree…I almost feel guilty that I can’t get through very many petitions for mercy.

  133. I do the same thing, I’ll just think about tons of things when I’m just laying there. If I know I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole I’ll use a visualization technique to clear my mind. I picture a white countertop that is covered in dust and then I imagine blowing it all off the countertop and being able to see the bright white. I use that to clear my head and dreamland is never too far off. I also slow down my breath and focus on it, that also clears the mind.

  134. Jo I’m a terrible insomniac and must have tried every trick in the book! But the one that (at the moment) is putting me out like a light is rubbing warm sesame oil on my back, shoulders and then my feet, then popping on socks. It’s like a drug! Hope you sleep better tonight! :)

  135. i’ve never heard of the pzizz app! going to look it up right now. thanks, k!

  136. I’m a light sleeper, and it always takes me a while to fall asleep. It sometimes frustrates me that my husband is out within minutes or seconds, while I always have to lie there for half an hour or so. But when I think about it, lying in a warm, snuggly bed next to my husband is not so bad! :) And I always do fall asleep before long … so it’s not really insomnia (I’ve had that, and it’s awful).

    If I really feel anxious and can’t doze off, it helps me to recite Psalm 23 (silently) to myself. Either the words calm me and help me nod off, or I have trouble remembering all the words and get so bored that I fall asleep. :)

  137. K says...

    My husband and I were totally skeptical, but the Pzizz app has worked WONDERS for us. It is so strangely calming. When we listed for the first time, my husband said that all he could think was “this is so weird. This isn’t going to work. Wait.. what is he saying???” ZONK. He didn’t remember anything after that thought.

    I have even used it with headphones on a red eye flight to NYC… I NEVER sleep on planes and I was out like a light. Amazing!

    • Planes are actually the easiest place for me to sleep! I fall asleep as soon as we start to taxi unless it is a work trip and then my body is always so mad at me for forcing it to be awake. I also sleep really well in cars. My family doesn’t take road trips because my husband has to do all of the driving. I start to get sleepy from the motion even behind the wheel and that isn’t safe!

  138. I LOVE my white noise machine. I flip it on when I climb into bed with a book and within a few pages, I’m nodding off. It helps calm me down and get ready to sleep. Also if my mind is running too much I think of a story line from a favorite TV show or movie, and let it play out in my mind. Usually before I get to the end of the story, I’m asleep.

  139. I swear I don’t think I slept the entire length of my pregnancy. I spent more nights on the couch watching bad (but excellent!) tv at 3am. Eventually after multiple episode of whatever reality show was on I would fall asleep. Basically it would take my mind off of whatever it was I was obsessing about at the time (sheets, an outfit for the baby to come home in, what would happen if my water broke at work!…) and then I would fall asleep. My husband used to say he could hear me thinking!

  140. Have you heard of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)? It’s when you feel a certain tingling sensation in your head and it relaxes people and help them fall asleep. there are a ton of videos on youtube with people whispering, doing role plays and even eating. Supposedly not everyone has the ability to feel ASMR but I find these videos very relaxing. You should check it out, maybe they’ll help you fall asleep!

  141. I’ve never been a great sleeper. My favorite advice is kind of counterintuitive. When you’re not falling asleep…just get up! I used to lay in my bed obsessing over my worries and eventually it would turn into getting worried about not sleeping, which would just keep me up more! Now I try to get up and do something relaxing in low light, like read a book or make some tea.

  142. it’s funny you should post this because i had such a terrible night’s sleep last night! anxiety dreams that made no sense kept startling me (and my poor husband) awake all night! meditating does help me but i was too lazy to get up and find my iphone and headphones at 3 a.m. yawn. no new mindy tonight so early to bed for me.

    • same here! very timely post.

  143. I am the worst sleeper. Sometimes I’m convinced I don’t sleep at all because when i do it’s very light. Shutting the brain off is very hard, I find the only thing that works well for me is doing yoga regularly.