Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


For example, last night I devised and wrote this post in my head.
August 8, 2012 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I sometimes have the type of trouble sleeping where although I am objectively tired, I can't "shut my brain off" and end up lying awake with my eyes closed. What can I do with my brain during these times?

This isn't a chronic sleep issue for me and doesn't trouble me that much in and of itself. I've seen other questions about this type of insomnia but am not exactly seeking a cure for it; I'm more looking for ways to pleasantly ride it out.

So I often read or play games on my iPhone before falling asleep, and this seems to tire out my brain. Sometimes, though, my body feels too physically tired to focus my eyes at length or to hold up a book, yet my mind is still engaged and wants to think about things that are not sleep.

I'm looking for ideas of how to productively occupy my brain during these times. Without anything else to think about, I usually will obsess over recent life events or speculate about future things that I'm anxious about. I find this unhelpful and unpleasant, so I'm looking for ways to repurpose these spare brain cycles that are entertaining and/or useful, and perhaps as a side benefit would even help me get to sleep.

Good possibilities (a) would not involve me moving any part of my body or keeping my eyes open, and (b) would not require bright light, sound, or anything else that might wake my partner.

Audiobooks on headphones comes to mind. I also thought about trying to memorize things, like poems or lists of data or trivia, but I'm not sure how I'd do that without an original to refer to. What about meditation? I know nothing about that. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by zadermatermorts to Health & Fitness (52 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
What about meditation? I know nothing about that.

That's what I would suggest. I recommend this book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, to get your started.
posted by amro at 7:35 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have the same problem, and I listen to podcasts on headphones as I fall asleep. The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe works best for me, as it's intellectually but not emotionally engaging (I found that audio books or story-themed shows like This American Life didn't work as well, as I wanted to stay away to hear what happened next). Finding a way to interrupt the interminable pre-sleep rumination has really improved my life.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:43 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Count sheep/cats/numbers!

not as easy as it seems: For me, I noticed my brain can think two things at once. So while I might be counting with one part of my brain, the other part is thinking of all the things I have to do tomorrow and don't forget to take the trash out and that woman behaved strangely today what was up with that and what will my life be like in five years..

so I have to force the second half of my brain to visualize the things I'm counting. usually I draw the numbers in my head, going through the strokes to make the shape.

So even if you try to memorize things, your brain might work like mine and need a second thing to do.
posted by royalsong at 7:45 AM on August 8, 2012


I trick my brain into sleeping by listening to TED talks every night. You don't have to keep your eyes open, the talks are interesting enough to let your mind kind of zone out while listening, and then before you know it you are out. There are new ones about 4 times a week, and I hardly ever make it all the way through them these days.
posted by skrozidile at 7:48 AM on August 8, 2012


As a kid, I invented stories with me the hero, like flying about, or driving a big fat car through fantasy terrain, that kind of thing. These days, I do one of several things:

- Meditation: I focus on breathing. In case my mind starts to wander, I try to return to focus only on breathing and nothing else. It is oddly difficult.
- Relaxation, same thing. Forcing yourself to just let that left arm (right leg, whatever) go, and not to worry about any other part of your body, or the world, is quite challenging.
- Practicing: as musician, I have access to the stuff I've been working on during the day. It's in my mind. So I can simply go on working, makes me usually quite tired pretty soon. If you're a sportsperson, you can rehearse moves or techniques in the same way.
- Thinking about food, hmm, nice food.
- Failing at all these. This is my signal to get up and do some real stuff.
posted by Namlit at 7:49 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I try counting the first 20 numbers of the fibonacci sequence because you don't need to memorise anything, just basic mental arithmetic. (1 + 1 = 2, 2+ 1 = 3, 3+2 = 5 and so on), I rarely make it past 12 numbers, tbh.

Do you make notes? I find that writing down things, even if they're just things that I'm speculating will be dreadful in a notebook (I don't switch on a light, I just scribble) helps getting them out of my head. Plus, in the morning (assuming that my scribble is coherent enough) they are frequently amusing in the cold light of day.
posted by halcyonday at 7:50 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I try to do simple math in my head, adding and subtracting mostly. Since I suck at math, this usually knocks me right out.
posted by scratch at 7:52 AM on August 8, 2012


Playing with your phone before going to sleep can actually make you less tired. The light in the phone can trick your brain into thinking it's not time to sleep.

Listening to a guided meditation or an audiobook could definitely help. There are several CDs on Amazon with good reviews. You can find them by searching "guided meditation sleep."

Reading a book might help.

Taking a few deep breaths usually helps me clear my brain and fall asleep.
posted by guitareste at 7:53 AM on August 8, 2012


I used to have this problem. I fixed it by wearing my brain out every day; like the body, the mind only has so much capacity before it stops functioning and needs a rest.

So instead of idly surfing the net, playing games on my iPad or TV in the hours before bed, I try to memorize songs on the guitar with more complex fingering, or tackle math problems I've been saving up, or sketch out things I want to build around the house with measurements. I've found that TV and the net are so passively using my brain that they actually make my brain restless, so I spend a little less time doing that and more time actively engaging my brain.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:54 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I try to meditate on nights like that. Failing that, I'll think really intently about each part of my body--thinking about my toes, flexing them, thinking about what they feel like, what they do, and then the balls of my feet, and then the arches, and then...

I find that it's enough thinking about something that I don't drift back to desperately rehashing the rest of my life, but it's also mindless enough that it's not keeping me awake.
posted by MeghanC at 7:59 AM on August 8, 2012


I had the same problem-- and meditation did help. I took a local 6-week class in meditation to help understand the basics, but also found that this free body scan meditation helped in the middle of the night when lying in bed: http://archive.org/details/MCullenBodyScanMeditation

I tended to fall asleep half way through, and I simply felt less anxious about not sleeping and/or everything else.
posted by avidreader at 8:00 AM on August 8, 2012


I try to imagine visual things, because this seems to put the chatty/worrying side of my brain to rest. Sometimes I'm flying around the grand canyon, sometimes relaxing at the beach, sometimes walking through the jungle, whatever random setting occurs to me first. I try not to control what I'm imagining at all; usually the narrative (can you call it that when it's purely visual?) takes a weird turn, and then I know I'm 75% in dreamland anyway.

Another things that keeps me entertained when I'm a bit too awake for that kind of visualization is to play the alphabet game. You just need a category: indie bands, countries of the world, vegetables, etc. Then you try to think of one item in that category for each letter of the alphabet, in order: Asparagus, Beans, Corn, etc. If you get stuck a lot, widen your category (veggies becomes foods, indie bands becomes bands in general). You can combine this with the visual thing by imagining a really detailed image of each thing as it comes up. I've heard of some people "loading Noah's Ark" this way, coming up with alphabetical animals and then picturing the pairs walking up the ramp into the boat.
posted by vytae at 8:03 AM on August 8, 2012


I agree about the podcasts, or talk radio if you can find something suitable. For me it means I either listen to something worthwhile - or, as often happens, fall asleep after all. Either is good.
posted by Segundus at 8:04 AM on August 8, 2012


This is a variant on the podcast technique. My wife and I listen to old radio shows, like Gunsmoke, Dragnet, Jack Benny and The Great Gildersleeve. They're sufficiently distracting that they disrupt my brain's fixation on the events of the day, but not so engaging that I try to stay awake for the end. I can't tell you how many cases I haven't heard Joe Friday solve in the last few years.

There are dozens of podcast channels that regularly post new episodes, or you can go find them for yourself at archive.org.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:04 AM on August 8, 2012


I do this meditation every night - once my head hits the pillow, i close my eyes and follow the in and out flow of my breath, thinking "in" and "out" with each inhale and exhale-- when my mind wanders, i just jump back on the in/out pattern -- if i'm still doing that after an hour, i take a shower and/or get a drink and start over again.
posted by mrmarley at 8:06 AM on August 8, 2012


This is the sort of thing that happens to me when I go off my ADHD meds, in case that is something you'd want to explore.
posted by elizardbits at 8:11 AM on August 8, 2012


Meditation, yes. I went to a lecture the other day by a longtime Buddhist--who also knew the science of it--who gave us a simple meditation-lesson right there in the UU church. I've been doing it ever since and it's helped a lot. Wake at four a.m. and ruminate aimlessly? Meditate instead and sleep. Considerably improves one's mood, too. I'm impressed, and a convert. He recommended an older book, "The Relaxation Response," I think it was. I'm gonna look for it.
And meditation's simple, too. Just relax, breathe deeply, concentrate on your breath, "rise," "fall," let thoughts drift in and out without latching onto any of them. "Non-judgmental attention," the guy called it.
Good luck!
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2012


I have this problem once in a blue moon. Honestly, the best cure is to masturbate. Exercise during the day helps, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually have a really detailed system for dealing with this shit. I've honed and refined it over several years. What I do is imagine that I'm walking down a set of very large but shallow steps. They are numbered 20 to 1, and then there is a set of minus-numbered underground steps for very bad days, although I rarely get that far. Each step is a different environment that I have to traverse. It usually involves water at ankle level. Imagine a giant paddy field, sort of. So step 20 might be cold water, concrete floor, and pieces of polystyrene floating about on the surface of the water. Then I get to the edge of 20 and step down into 19, which is warm water on a marble surface, raised marble edging running through it, sort of maze-like, and the water has soap suds in it. When I get to the end of that I step into 18 which is a flooded field, tall grass, rainwater and mud. Et cetera. Imagining these things in great detail is very engaging, but also distracts me from my immediate environment. The counting down from 20 reinforces the idea that I am travelling away from wakefulness into sleep.

Or, I just masturbate.
posted by Acheman at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do things like recreate the floor plans for every house I've lived in or run through recipes I know by heart and all of the steps to complete them or take a mental walk, trying to remember landmarks and street names. For some reason this sort of focused concentration turns off the "busy" part of my brain and I almost always fall asleep in the middle the attempt.
posted by idest at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2012


I try to do things that focus my attention, but don’t require too much effort.

Try to name all 50 states - I do them in a rough alphabetical order, all the A states, all the C states, etc. Though, I do have to keep count on my fingers, I can do that pretty well without much moving.

Do the same alphabet game as vytae mentions above. I like to do cities in my state and animals.

Remodel/redecorate my friend’s houses in my head – for some reason this is much more relaxing than thinking about my own house!

So, basically things that give your brain a job, but not one that is taxing or related to things going on in your life.
posted by Sabby at 8:15 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have that problem. One "meditation-y" thing I do if I can't sleep is close my eyes and visualize getting back up and leaving my apartment. I get dressed, step out of the door, and start walking. As I get more tired, sometimes the places my mind wanders to get a little strange.

Call it pre-dreaming. Dream tailgating?
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2012


Meditation works wonders. Also, here's a visualization trick:

Imagine seeing yourself lying in your bed. Then let your scope get a little bigger, so you're floating by the ceiling. Now move your consciousness outside and visualize your apartment/house. Then get high enough that you see your street. Your neighborhood. Your city. Keep moving up and up until you're way out in the galaxies. At some point, you'll be in Steven Hawking territory and that's when you'll typically fall asleep. No idea why this works.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 8:24 AM on August 8, 2012


Sometimes I listen to podcasts, though that becomes a problem the next day when I have to find the place where I fell asleep. I also will listen to MST3000 movies (they are so familiar to me it's like hearing a favorite bedtime story).

I grew up Catholic and although I am not now, occasionally I will say the rosary. It falls more into meditation for me at this point.
posted by Lucinda at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2012


I visualize myself flying down one of the busier streets in my area and try to remember the order of the stores/gas stations as I pass each one.

Or, I do the alphabet game with something that's familiar to me but different than bands or movies. Right now it's World of Warcraft (Arthas, Bolvar, Chromie...).
posted by ladygypsy at 8:39 AM on August 8, 2012


For starters, do not lay there thinking over any problems or difficulties you're having: your boss or coworkers are hassling you? the car needs $xxx work? your kid's being a pain in the butt these days? Drop it all out of your mind, and don't rehash it over and over --- not only will all that stuff keep you awake tonight, but you also don't want to get into the habit of 'laying in bed' being equivilent to 'time to worry'!

As a kid, I often made myself into a character in my favorite books; and to be honest, I still do that sometimes. Otherwise, I imagine things like I'm the only person on a gorgeous beach..... smooth sand, beautiful blue water, gentle breezes....
posted by easily confused at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2012


First I think of an interesting place; anywhere in the world or just made up. And then I think of the house I would build there if I had unlimited resources. Everything from the direction the house should face to the layout of the interior is up for grabs. I think of interesting rooms it could have- really specific ones. I think about how the materials on the inside reflect the nature outside. I envision custom made furniture.

Even though none of this is realistic and I really have no expertise in architecture or interior design, its fun to create these spaces and think about what they would be like to visit. I realize this is pretty strange but it gets to me to sleep.
posted by halseyaa at 8:55 AM on August 8, 2012


Longtime insomniac with a chatterbrain that can keep me awake for hours every night.

I play a familiar movie with comfortable, non-jarring music. I know the movie well, so there's no impulse to stay awake to see new things, but listening to it occupies my chatterbrain and I just fade out mid-movie. I got a little speaker dock for my iPad and use VLC streamer to play it right next to me so no one else is disturbed.

Also, Stephen Fry audio books. Wonderful to listen to when awake, but his soothing plummy voice is perfect for distracting the chatterbrain while lulling the rest of you to sleep.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:00 AM on August 8, 2012


I don't know about productive, but what works AMAZINGLY WELL for me is a suggestion I beileve I read on a previous AskMeFi question.

basically, you visualize four dots. The dots should make a rectangle. Then visualize slowly drawing lines connecting the dots to make the rectangle. Once you can get a whole rectangle drawn then up the ante by making the connecting lines fancy somehow. I usually opt for the lines looping around the dots. You can complicate it further by adding more dots and changing the shape to a pentagon or hexagone or whatever.

Presto! Asleep!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:03 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will use the alphabet game if I'm having a hardcore rabbit-brain problem.

If I'm just needing to wind down/stop worrying, I do a sort of visualization exercise/game in which I invent the most fantastic circumstances in which to sleep. When I first started doing it, it was sleeping in a swimming pool, and every night for months I'd make my super-deluxe-awesome pool-sleeping floatation device a little more awesome/comfortable/high-tech, solve impossible problems with a wave of my hand (drowning and hypothermia? Science fixed that!), landscape the pool area, etc. In the years since then, I have had my own personal suite on the space station, built an outdoor bedroom on top of a building, and invented the Inflatable Hammock.

This gave me un-critical problems to solve (cupholders!), interesting enough to keep my mind busy until I was sleepy but not so compelling I'd stay awake for it, and the whole point of both the real and imaginary exercise was to get the best! sleep! ever!

I realized the night before last that I hadn't really slept in several nights because I was writing stories rather than focusing on sleeping, and so was plot-churning (and badly and unproductively anyway) all night. No plots allowed in the Best Sleep Ever game.

When it isn't fan season, I use the awesome Sleepy Time (Android) app on my Fire, which provides the appropriate wind/beach/train/rain background and covers up alarming night/house/dog noises that jar me awake.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I realize that this involves getting out of bed and moving around, so you might want to reserve it for times when the situation is a little more dire than usual and you really just want to go to sleep, but I find that nothing helps me shut off my brain better than stretching. When I'm just lying in bed going out of my mind and can't fall asleep, I will quietly get up, go to another room so as to bother my partner as little as possible, and, in the dark, will quietly and thoroughly stretch out my body. I don't have the patience or the mindfulness for meditation, but stretching seems to serve a similar purpose -- it gives me something to focus on and helps me relax and be in my body rather than in my head. It also helps me get higher quality sleep and feel more rested and relaxed in the morning when I wake up, which is a great bonus.

Also I don't normally shower before bed but I find that if I'm particularly groady then sometimes I need to take a cool shower before I go to bed to clean myself off or else I won't be able to sleep. Sometimes I shower and then stretch, and that usually does the trick nicely.
posted by Scientist at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the best state of mind to visualize elaborate sexual fantasies. Actual masturbation optional, I find it wakes me back up. Instead i lay there with my eyes closed and plan out the characters, the setting, the necessary props, and the particulars of each stage of activity, narrating in my mind as I go as if I were reading it in a book. Effectively distracts from quotidian ruminating, puts me in a good mood, usually I drift off before the fantasy really picks up steam.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I count backwards from 100. I was also told when I started meditating that a lot of meditative exercises include clouds in some way because people find cloud imagery very relaxing, so sometimes I imagine each number emerging from clouds or something.
posted by mchorn at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2012


Meditate by focusing on your breath. Thoughts will come into your head and you will get distracted - this is normal. When you realize you have stopped focusing on your breath, don't scold yourself or anything like that - simply bring your attention back to your breath. And so on. There is no need to deliberately control your breath - it works by itself. After some time your breath and heart rate will slow by themselves. They will probably speed up and slow down in turns as you get distracted by thoughts and then bring your attention back to your breath.

This type of meditation often helps me slow my thoughts enough that I can fall asleep. Even if it doesn't help you sleep, it is good mind training - it helps you develop the ability to bring yourself back to the present moment more often.

Source: I'm sitting in my dad's Buddhist retreat centre right now :)
posted by fullerenedream at 10:10 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like audiobooks for this. I sometimes listen to new nonfiction, but I've found that fiction I have already read is the best. Get an audio version of one of your favourite books, perhaps. That way there's no "what happens next" or "gee, this is really interesting, I want to hear this" impulse, but since it's your favourite book, it's engaging enough to keep your brain from wandering. You can continue to use the same book for this purpose indefinitely because, if all goes well, you will only be paying attention to a few sentences or paragraphs before drifting off.

Pay attention to the voice of the reader when you choose the book, because a softer voice will help. There is also an optimal volume: as quiet as possible without requiring an effort to hear it. If you have an iPod or something else with a sleep timer on it, that's great; you can set it to turn itself off after 15 minutes. I do this fairly often, especially when sleeping away from home, and I rarely have to go past the 15 minute sleep timer.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:28 AM on August 8, 2012


I have a game I play with myself when my brain gets like that. I take whatever phrase or sentence that comes into my head, and then rephrase it as many different ways as I can without using any of the same words.

So, 'I wish there were more ways to say that,' would become 'A bigger vocabulary would be a godsend,' 'Changing words without changing meanings requires a lot of skill,' 'Expressiveness is a the most valuable skill,' 'I . . . saying things in new ways takes a lot much practice, and so on. It gets slower and requires more concentration to avoid the words you've already used like like 'is', 'there', and 'of'. After a round or two, I generally fall asleep.
posted by Garm at 10:31 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have used this technique, learned from a Travis McGee novel, to great success.
From The Dreadful Lemon Sky, by John D. MacDonald:

"I lay wakeful in the big bed, resentful of Meyer nearby in the guest stateroom, placidly asleep. When he had been involved in a government study in India, he had learned how to take his mind out of gear and go immediately to sleep. I had known how, without thinking about it, when I had been in the army, but in time I had lost the knack.

Meyer had explained very carefully how he did it. 'You imagine a black circle about two inches behind your eyes, and big enough to fill your skull from ear to ear; from crown to jaw hinges. You know that each intrusion of thought is going to make a pattern on that perfect blackness. So you merely concentrate on keeping the blackness perfect, unmarked, and mathematically round. As you do that, you breathe slowly and steadily, and with each exhalation, you feel yourself sinking a tiny bit further into the mattress. And in moments you are asleep.'

He was, but I wasn’t."
posted by Acton at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I take a detailed tour of my grandma's house (a beloved childhood location), pausing to remember every wallpaper pattern, knick-knack, and doo-dad. Not 'productive', but just engaging enough that my brain doesn't try to multi-task and just soothing enough to send me quickly off to sleep.
posted by Ausamor at 10:34 AM on August 8, 2012


Avoid blue light after dark (and this includes fluorescents and iPad)
posted by rr at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2012


I have the headband earphones from ThinkGeek, which I use to listen to boring podcasts or books I'm only halfway interested in to fall asleep. I've conditioned myself enough now that if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall asleep because of whirling thoughts, often I don't even have to listen to anything, just put the headband on and I'll fall asleep.

Things that are boring or that I'm not particularly invested in are key -- if I'm intrigued by what's being said, then I'll struggle to stay awake to hear what's coming next. Or I'll fall asleep in the middle of it and have to spend irritating minutes the next day searching for the point I fell asleep. I've got apps with sleep timers to use, but that just ends up with me searching within the 15 minutes or whatever it was set to to find where I left off, so I prefer things that won't bother me if I miss parts.
posted by telophase at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2012


I like old time radio dramas. Tales of the Texas Rangers, Dragnet, The Six Shooter, and Yours Truly, Jonny Dollar are my favorite and are all available on archive.org for free. I've listened to the shows so many times that it doesn't bother me not to hear the ending most of the time. Other good podcasts are The History of Rome, In Our Time (BBC), and, if you are into shortwave radio, World Of Radio. The last one there is my backup for putting me to sleep on hard nights. Lots of monotone numbers being repeated. Of course I always re-listen to all of them during the daytime.
posted by sleepytako at 10:58 AM on August 8, 2012


Audiobooks help me. When I was pregnant and my insomnia was worse, I found that listening to the labor hypnosis recordings I had relaxed me so completely, my insomnia almost disappeared. So, hypnosis, maybe? It's basically guided relaxation.
posted by linettasky at 11:11 AM on August 8, 2012


meditation oasis has a BUNCH of mp3s you can download for free.

there are some really good ones but most of them knock me right out so i don't know how they end.

#27 and #28 are pretty good for going to sleep.

as the woman says, don't worry about hearing every word, just relax and let your brain go and come in and out as you need to.

i used to use these podcasts a LOT when i was going through a very stressful time. but now i find if i have that occasional night where my brain will not shutup, i will think yeah but the podcast isn't going to help and then end up just doing it and lo and behold i have a great night of sleep.

i spent half an hour in bed last night exhausted and spinning my wheels and i swear i made it through 5 min of #27 before i was out.
posted by sio42 at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I count in foreign languages. It takes more mental focus than counting in English, but not a ton of energy. I also like to do powers of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16...) and Fibonacci numbers.

If those aren't working and I'm still worrying, I tell myself stories. I also pray (may or may not be relevant to you).
posted by epj at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2012


I have had this problem since middle school (and that was a LONG time ago), and have found the only way to keep my brain from jumping from thing to thing is to give it one thing on which to focus. The vast majority of times, reading a book is what will help me. I fall asleep reading almost every night. If reading just won't do it, or if the book is so interesting that I find I'm up past 2 or 3 am, I will sing through a musical in my head. The act of concentrating on one thing keeps me from jumping from thought to thought, which really does help me to relax. If you aren't a musical fanatic (and, I guess I just outed myself), you might want to think through a story you have read, or an old episode of a TV show that you know particularly well. Or, possibly recounting the events of the day backwards.
posted by blurker at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2012


If I find myself having a run of night's like this, I try to decompress before getting into bed. I sit with a pad, pencil and lit candle and just write down whatever random nonsense is floating through my head. Generally it's just noise and static, but writing it down gets it out of my head. Occasionally I'll remember something that I have to do tomorrow, which makes doing it kind of useful. I think of my brain as being a toddler that just wants some attention sometimes.

If I'm already in bed and can't settle, I'll muse on whatever it is that my brain is jabbering about at that particular point. If it's a problem, I spend the time looking for solutions. If it's just replaying scenes from my day, I let it get to the end of the scene and then try to distract myself by actively thinking about something else.

I've also taken the time to listen to a hypnosis/relaxation CD.
posted by Solomon at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2012


Before going to bed, I write down in a flip notebook all the things I need to do the next day, so I feel like I've permanently downloaded that set of worries. I can get to them in the morning.

Then, in bed, I try to bore myself to sleep by thinking about beige. Just beige. Works most times.

On nights when I'm really freaking out about something, I plan something in my head, something I'd really like, reality notwithstanding. If an obsessive thought enters my head, I plan that problem right out of existence. Bothered about a bad neighbor? I "plan" for them to move, and to give me their beautiful boat as a parting gift. Bothered about a project at work not going well? I "plan" for that project to suddenly become unnecessary, and to be taken off my plate. And while we're at it, I get a huge bonus for having worked so hard on it before it became unnecessary. And then I plan what I'm going to spend the bonus on.
posted by Capri at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I use progressive relaxation. Start with your toes and tighten them for five seconds then relax. Move up your body doing the same thing. I'm sure there's a CD/mp3 whatever out there. I think I used to use a tape to walk me through it.
posted by kathrynm at 6:31 PM on August 8, 2012


I spend a little bit of time composing and then refining a short (2-4 lines) poem, one that rhymes and has lots of alliteration. Then I repeat it over and over like a mantra. The first part gives my brain something "productive" to do for a bit, the second part calms me down and keeps my mind from venturing into more stressful territory.
posted by a.steele at 8:14 PM on August 8, 2012


I would say you are not engaged enough and are not running at full capacity in your daily activities (compliment).

Stay awake and be productive (not free-surfing the internet) late into the night until you are exhausted enough to crash into your pillow.

Limit the amount of liquid you drink an hour before bed (if safe).

Flip your mattress or get a new one.

Wash sheets at least once a week.

Adjust your diet and eating habits around dinnertime.
posted by kanaan_minks at 10:49 PM on August 8, 2012


I imagine a relaxing, peaceful place in as much detail as I can. I conjure up the warm breeze and imagine the sound of the waves softly murmuring on the beach. I imagine the imaginary sofa in my imaginary beach house where I'm falling asleep. I focus on that relaxing imagery.

If sleep just doesn't come, I focus on the fact that I'm resting. For me, finding something productive to do with this time is actually counter-productive. Trying to use my brain - to learn or practice something, or to solve a problem - just keeps me more awake.

Focusing on relaxing and resting, and practicing restful and relaxing thoughts, are what works best for me.
posted by kristi at 11:28 PM on August 8, 2012


Once in bed, I give myself 5 mins for my heart rate to slow to normal, then I start to consciously breath more heavily and slowly (like Darth Vader but not quite so exaggerated). Then, starting at the number 30, every time I complete a in-out breathing sequence, I count down one number, and if I find my brain wandering, it's back to 30. At the same time I visualise my cycling route through the woods, trying to go slowly and see all the smaller details - this puts me in a dreamlike state.
It usually works for me, but not always. If ever I wake up during the night I do the same exercise straight away.

I also once read that you should try to imagine you're playing a dead extra on a movie set. Never worked for me though....
posted by guy72277 at 1:15 AM on August 9, 2012


« Older I've been commissioned to pain...   |  There are SPOILERS in this que... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.