How to Sleep Well at Night Without Thinking
When asked, many people who suffer from sleeping problems will tell you that they just struggle to switch off at night. The brain is a curious system, and whilst we don’t know all of its intricacies, there are many ways to trick it into resting so that you can get a good night’s rest.
Here are 15 of the best methods…
Enforce a Sleep schedule
Go to bed at the same time, and set an alarm to wake up at the same time. Maintain this on weekends and holidays too, if you really want to build a good sleep habit.
Our body loves routine, so if you do something each night before bed, as long as it is relaxing and not stimulating, it will teach your brain that it is time to wind down and get some shut-eye.
Write down the things causing you anxiety
If you can move your anxious thoughts from brain to paper, you can unload a lot of the tension that keeps you awake at night. Write your stress-list earlier in the day, and try to tick off as many of the things as possible so that you go to sleep thinking ‘I achieved a lot’.
The bed is for dream and love making
Don’t eat, read, watch tv, play video games or generally just hang out on your bed. You need to make the clear association in your brain that the bed is for sleeping and *other things*.
Create your optimal environment
Some people like to sleep in a dark and cold room, some people need silence, some people need a night light, some people need a fan. You have to trial and error to find out what it is that you need in order to sleep well.
You can try and find some mental tasks that are mundane enough to trick your brain into falling asleep, but are not challenging enough to keep you awake. Making a list of animals is a good idea, but trying to solve a riddle is not. Doing sudokus and crosswords before bed might help some people, as long as they are paper-based and not on illuminated screens.
Think of happy memories and experiences
Having a mental highlight reel of your greatest accomplishments, most cherished memories, and pleasant experiences can relax you before you nod off. Be careful not to confuse cherished memories with emotional ones, as you don’t want to get upset or depressed before sleeping.
The 4-7-8 exercise is perhaps the most famous sleep-breathing exercise: Exhale completely through your mouth. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Caffeine or alcohol
We have a neurotransmitter called Adenosine in our bodies that tells the brain when it’s time to rest. Caffeine blocks these receptors, and pretty effectively too. The more caffeine, the more blocking.
Get out of bed
This is such a common mistake for people who have trouble sleeping. If you are laying there frustrated, tossing and turning, getting riled up, then the best thing to do is get out of bed, do something else for a while (no screens or gadgets), and then go back to bed with a fresh mindstate.
Make a to-do list
One cause of a busy brain for many people is worrying about all of the things they have to do tomorrow, or the day after, or next week. Get up, write those things down, and feel satisfied that you have a plan of action. You can’t take on the world from the comfort of your duvet.
Read a book
Find a relaxing book, not action or business. You want something positively uninspiring, or even dull, so that your brain thinks ‘I’d rather sleep than read this!’.
Note from writer: ‘I once had a book called ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’, it was so boring that I kept waking up in different places, even in the middle of the day. It was dangerously boring, I missed my bus once!’.
Listen to a podcast
Again, pick something dull or relaxing, because the point is not to stimulate your brain, but to get it to switch off. Philosophy, guided meditations and old audio books are quite effective.
Try Youtube for soothing sounds and sleep noise
It might be quite comforting knowing that there are other insomniacs out there, and even ones who spend their sleepless hours creating relaxing music to upload to Youtube to help others. Sounds of the jungle, whale noises, birds of the forest - it’s all there, and it’s free.
White noise is super effective when it comes to blocking out external and environmental sounds that disturb your sleep, like noisy neighbours, busy roads, clanging radiators etc. Some people use a fan as their white noise, and there are even some people who like the sound of a fan, but not the feeling, and so use Youtube to play a looping fan sound through the night!