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Mind Games!!!!! To help me fall asleep.... Tell me yours
June 24, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

For years, when I couldn't sleep for whatever reason, I was able to mindlessly play this game where I would picture my dream flat (which was an actual place I had spent time) and arrange the furniture in it how I would do it if it was mine. Now it doesn't work. What are your mental mindless games you use to drift off to sleep, or relax?

I could spend quite a while thinking about that dream house quite happily, over and over again, and eventually fall asleep. But even if I was still awake, I could lay there content for a long time visualizing that house.

But now I live in a new country and my dream house feels soooooo far away, deep inside, I know I will not live there again (at least not any time soon) so imagining that place doesn't do the trick anymore. Its just occurred to me that I should maybe find my new dream house here- so when I have time I will search the listings and go to some open houses.... but that could take a while.

One thing I could try is spending a million dollars/pounds whatever in my head, but since it is very difficult to actually visualize in a compact way I end up going back to whatever negative loop is keeping me awake....
posted by misspony to Health & Fitness (68 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I moved to a new country I would sometimes think of walking up and down the aisles of my favorite supermarket back home. This was my go to falling asleep trick for a while.

I've also tried to think of everything in a very long list, like every county in the state where I grew up, every president of the USA, every country in Europe, etc.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:32 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Take deep, restful breaths as you count backwards, slowly, down from 100. One number per breath. Each time you exhale, think about how you comfortable you are sinking into the mattress.
posted by mochapickle at 7:33 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Umm, I know this is really uncreative (which is maybe why it works), but I repeat the word 'sleep' over and over in my mind.

'Sleeep...sleeeep...sleeeeep...sleeeep'.

(Most boring AskMe answer ever :D)
posted by Salamander at 7:35 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Somewhat like the dream house game you play, I imagine a house from my childhood or adolescence. My mind roams the rooms there. I force myself to remember every corner, every object, every texture, etc. Can be emotionally stirring but otherwise comforting.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:37 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I envision imaginary homes (which might solve your "favorite home feels far away" problem). They're all impossible - an ocean-going floating pavilion, a house carved out of a mid-ocean rocky cliff, a sequence of loggias built along a mountain stream, a flying house, etc. But the rules for all of them are that if I live in them I am perfectly safe, nothing bad will happen and neither I nor my cats will age or get sick, because magic. I occupy myself laying out the rooms, planning the best accommodation for the cats, etc. Somehow, the soothing idea of being at sea or flying also helps me to fall asleep.
posted by Frowner at 7:38 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


I do long division of 4 or 5 digit numbers, the actual long division process - trying to keep track of all the different numbers in the different locations for the actual algorithm
posted by ish__ at 7:38 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I like picturing pleasant places that I haven't been to in a long time and seeing how many physical details I can remember. This can include places I've visited once while travelling or my grandfather's house that I visited every Thursday for the first 14 years of my life.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:41 AM on June 24


Huh, I didn't know anyone else did that (the arranging furniture in a house thing). I do that, too. Something I used to do when I was little that may work as well is to imagine being on a camping trip on a beautiful island without any supplies at all. So I would spend the falling-asleep time figuring out how to arrange for tools, shelter, food, supplies. I was young, so it was more adventurous and fantastical than stressful and Survivoresque. Somehow getting each item in place was comforting.
posted by dreamphone at 7:42 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I think of the most boring thing I can think of. Something I don't care about or have an opinion about. Like banana peels. Or paper.

Anything that holds my intellectual or emotional interest is out. If I feel a twinge of "hey that's interesting!" then I immediately ditch it and go for something boring.

I also find those sleep masks incredibly helpful but ymmv.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:44 AM on June 24


I used to try to figure out how to pull off the perfect crime...well...sort of. Like how I could sneak into the principal's office and steal his favorite pen without getting caught.
posted by 724A at 7:45 AM on June 24


Think of 5 good things that happened that day. They don't have to be super awesome or anything; "my lunch sandwich was pretty good" or "I saw a calico cat in a window!" are sufficient. I usually fall asleep before I either finish the 5 or finish them and then recap them once.

I used to tell myself adventure stories as I fell asleep, but eventually they started keeping me up, and now I'm writing 3 novels, so don't do that.
posted by wintersweet at 7:46 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


You're in a forest clearing. You see a path that leads into a cave. You follow it into the cave. The cave contains rocks of all shapes and sizes. At the entrance of the cave is a pick and chisel. You pick them up and select a rock. When you exit the cave and walk back up the path, the rock is in the clearing. You begin to carve the letter "A." When you finish carving the letter A to your satisfaction, you return to the cave and select a new rock for the letter "B" and so on. You follow your carvings with your eyes closely.

I switch it up with lower case and capital letters, as well as different styles and fonts. I use numbers when letters don't seem to work. Sometimes flowers, etc.

I'm usually asleep before I reach "L," though I used to make it all the way down to "Q." It's quite a useful getting to sleep aid.
posted by zizzle at 7:47 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


I do the slow count thing but imagine I'm standing on a beach and drawing each number in the wet sand. After I draw each one and admire it a moment, a slow shallow wave runs up the beach and over my toes and erases the number (long inhale) ... Then goes out again with a low slow surf-sigh (exhale), leaving the sand clean and smooth for the next number.
posted by The otter lady at 7:48 AM on June 24 [15 favorites]


I organize my closet, or organize rooms in my house. Same kind of thing as dream house!
posted by katypickle at 7:53 AM on June 24


Maybe if you imagine your former dream house as doll house that you are playing with in your current location it won't seem as far away.

For myself, I noticed that when I was trying to stay awake and failing that my thoughts would start getting jumbled/nonsensical. So if I was reading a book about birds, I might go from thinking about a regular bird, to a bunch of birds in my house or birds talking maybe to other animals hey here's a talking otter he seems pissed about something I think he wants a burrito - then I would snap myself awake wondering how I got to thinking about burritos.

When I had trouble sleeping I tried combining relaxing breathing and forcing this sort of free-association/nonsensical thought process - basically trying to jump start this first stage of sleep. I took whatever I was thinking about and spun it into surreal directions. It works pretty well most of the time. It's somewhat related to the more common advice to picture a flowing river and whenever you have a thought to picture it dropping in the river and floating away.
posted by mikepop at 7:54 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


I close my eyes and try to "see" the room in vivid detail through my eyelids. Vivid, vivid detail. The number of pens on the desk and their individual colors of ink. How many socks are on the floor. That type of thing.

When I want to change it up, I try and come up with the absolute perfect, airtight zombie movie. It's pretty much impossible so you'll be busy for many nights.
posted by Diskeater at 7:59 AM on June 24


As an avid player of Rock Band I will often think of songs I know well but aren't in the game, and then try to clearly visualize how they would play -- which notes would correspond to which buttons, etc.

If I don't feel like doing that, my niece taught me the Alphabet Game. Pick a topic and try to think of an associated word for each letter of the alphabet. For me this is usually "NES Games" or "Action Movies" or something. If you get through the alphabet, start over. You can also challenge yourself to think of more than one thing per letter.
posted by Monster_Zero at 8:01 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Previously-ish.
posted by jeudi at 8:05 AM on June 24


Go through the alphabet thinking of a one-syllable word beginning with each letter. Then do 2-syllable words, then 3-syllable words. You probably won't stay awake long enough to get to 4 syllables. It's okay to skip X. My rule for myself is that the word can't have a suffix like "-er" or "-ing" or "-able" as one of the syllables.
posted by Redstart at 8:09 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Thanks everyone! This is great so far. I had read the previous post, but I was less interested in word or math games and more into easy visual stuff.... and so many good ideas!
posted by misspony at 8:13 AM on June 24


I do alphabet games...

1) Actors, A to zed
2) Music acts of the '70s, A to zed
3) Movie titles from the '50s, A to zed

etc.
posted by mitschlag at 8:14 AM on June 24


I invent the Best Bed Ever. Science need not apply, nor health and safety or security, it just has to be an awesome bed that suits whatever comfort/entertainment requirements you have that night.

I still return time and again to my original concept, the Bed-Pool, but there have been many others as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:16 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


1. Picture a night sky with tons of stars and whatnots in it. Slowly focus on each individual star going out.

2. Go back through your day in reverse in super detail. (I got under the blankets, I put my head on my pillow, I patted the bed to get the cat to come up, I turned off the light, I turned off the computer, I brushed my teeth...)
posted by sperose at 8:20 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I replay a recent favorite tv episode in my mind, trying to re-create it down to the last detail. Sometimes I change the plot and try to figure out which direction it would take after that.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:22 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I think of conversations that occurred during the day and try to trace the train of thought in the conversation, ie first we talked about Jo's new house which led to talking about curtains which led to talking about the new stores at mall X which led to talking about how bad the traffic is on interchange Y, etc.
posted by mouseboy at 8:24 AM on June 24


I think about finishing a long, exhausting, multi-day hike up a mountain in the rain and mud and coming to a small cabin/hut with an amazing, huge sunken bathtub and a wood-burning stove and upstairs a big open space (I actually spent the night somewhere like this once and I keep thinking back to it). I think about starting the fire and taking my bath and what I would eat and how nice it would feel to go to bed in a cozy, lovely, snug cabin.

GAME OF THRONES SPOILER ALERT (in small so it's easier to skip if you want -- most recent season of the show, nothing big)

I've also, just recently, started thinking about the labor laws I would implement if I were God damn Daenerys Targaryen and were responsible for the welfare of all those people, freed slaves and former citizens alike. I think about hours I would allow people to work by day or week and how to structure minimum wage requirements while taking into account different living situations and how I would manage a grievance process and I find all of this very soothing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:24 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


Imagine bands styled according to different decades/genres: the Mamas and the Papas as an '80s hair band, the Spice Girls as a Motown girl group, KISS as Smash Mouth.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:28 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


One of the things that I do sometimes when I feel overactive and thinking too much is to just try and make my mind blank and think of whiteness. That really can help me calm down and stop thinking about everything and slowly slip to sleep.
posted by Carillon at 8:30 AM on June 24


I do two different things.

In one, I imagine I am in a package in a train car with a lot of other packages and that someone is looking for me, but they can't find me. Then I imagine the train car riding on rails through space, with lots of twists and turns.

A more recent one, I repeat to myself, "You're already asleep, and this is a dream," over and over, and that seems to work.
posted by moonroof at 8:36 AM on June 24


I imagine that I'm from an planet that is tidally locked to it's sun so that the sun never sets on the inhabited side. In order to sleep the citizens have come up with an elegant solution: beds are in fact a comfy, compact, hydrogen-fuelled spacecraft, with a glass roof, whisking them off to sleep.

The bedtime routine is as fixed as ours - there are tiny preparation rituals in the house, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, nearly passing out drunk whatever, until you get into bed and pull up the covers. At that point the bed's glass roof descends gently down, effectively tucking in the sheets as the unit rises slowly. A hatch opens in the wall; smoothly, smoothly does it, and the bed capsule ('bedsule'?) is neatly ejected outwards, carrying me super fast and silent over to the dark side of the planet. It slows as the sun dips under the horizon, and moves in slow elegant circles for as long as I wish to sleep.

I imagine watching the sky darken as I'm warm and tucked up, looking through the glass at distant, gorgeous star clusters under increasingly heavy lids. Maybe other capsules are drifting dreamily by, and we're each rocked to sleep by the humming motion. I can slumber as long as I like because dawn won't be triggered til I start to stir - at which point I'll be zipped back home, to emerge fully refreshed. But for now there's just happy, sleepy me, safe and undisturbed in the enormous, silent cosmos.

Knocks me out every time.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:37 AM on June 24 [22 favorites]


My partner is extraordinarily talented at falling asleep. If they're not gone after a couple of minutes, they visualise the "sleep bear" who takes your hand in their paw and leads you up the stairs to sleep. They also "feel" (imagine) the sleep hormones travelling through their body (heavy hands etc).

I tend to do something my mother taught me when I was little: focus on every single bit of your body, starting at the big toe and moving upwards. You get a feeling of warmth, like the thoughts are covering the body part, and it needs a gentle concentration to hold it in place as you move up the body.

I also count out-breaths in rounds of ten, like in meditation.
posted by mymbleth at 8:49 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I get up, make a cup of tea with hops in it (hops are magic), sit or lie in a dimly-lit area that is not my bed* and listen to an audiobook. It needs to be narrated by someone who doesn't go in for big dynamic range, and nothing too edge-of-your seat. I like non-fiction for this.

Sometimes, I'll do a little yoga (just really gentle stretching) to work out any tension and edginess that might be keeping me awake. It also helps slow the breathing.

If that doesn't help, I recommend working in as much exercise as you can. It really does help.

* If you stay in bed, you're still stressing about falling asleep, and about the fact that you can't fall asleep. If you're elsewhere in your home, you'll get drowsy and then you can wander into bed, all pleasantly sleepy.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 8:50 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Seconding the A to Z game. I don't have much of a mind for trivia so my categories are more like, Fruits and Veggies, Herbs, Birds. Last night it was anything associated with bees. ("Apiary, Bumblebees, Cells...")

Much like meditation, anytime you find your mind wandering to something else, bring it back to the alphabet and continue. I rarely make it all the way to Z.
posted by purple_bird at 8:51 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I have a really hard time falling asleep, so I think of something I am looking forward to (like a vacation or party), and start imagining every thing about it - what I'm going to wear, what it's going to look like, who will be there, etc. I usually don't get too far until I'm drifting off.
posted by elvissa at 8:57 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


How is it that nobody has mentioned thinking through a ribald sexual encounter yet?
posted by kmennie at 8:59 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Not a mind game but it stops me thinking about stuff. I listen to astronomy videos/lectures on youtube through headphones connected to my iphone/wireless. with the volume really quiet. so I have to relax to hear. the ones without dramatic music are the best. SETI lectures, the universe episodes, astronomy cast.
posted by browolf at 9:07 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I used to speculate about the atoms that are currently in my body, and imagine what they've been doing since they were formed. Before they were me. This is fun and soothing to do even if, like me, you're no expert on the actual formation of the universe and its constituent doohickeys.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:30 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I write holodeck programs, because I'm a giant nerd.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:34 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Also, if you listen to the same guided meditation track frequently, and train your body to relax to it on cue, it'll put you right out. There are even sleep-oriented ones.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:36 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I imagine taking public transportation in a new city, and what stuff looks like or is made of. I am 99% sure I got this idea from someone on MeFi. Questions include: Do the stations have stairs, elevators, escalators (and what do they look like? are they working or non-working)? What is the seat arrangement in the train? Are the seats plastic or metal or...? Where are the poles/handrails located? Is the fare card a swipe card or proximity card? What's the currency look like and how do I buy one? How do the fare gates open and what do they look like? Do I need my card to get out at the end of the trip? Where is the map in the train car and what does it look like? Do the lines have names? colors? numbers? What's the flooring material of the station and train car? Are there dings or beeps to announce stations? What's the signage like? etc. No people except the station announcer/train operator if that's an option. Just the mundane details, though I sometimes go into bizzaro/fantasy/abstract versions with really weird stuff like slides or talking animals or seats made out of numbers or something.

(another related game is: what was the engineer/designer thinking when they added X feature -- for example, carpets -- to my city's train system. but it doesn't help me wind down.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:43 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Re-posting an old answer:

When I'm trying to fall asleep, I play a mental game I call Four-Letter Words. You start with any word with four letters, and then you replace one letter, to form a new word. You should do it as quickly as you can think of it. The letter you replace can come from anywhere in the word. You keep going as long as you can, replacing letters to form new words... and I suppose with 2 players, whoever gets stumped first is the loser.

Just in case it wasn't clear, I'll give you an example. Word... work... fork... form... firm... farm... harm... warm... warp... harp... carp... card... cord... and back to word!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:59 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I used to imagine myself falling down a long, dark tunnel toward a distant spot of light. Then I got older and found out that's what people say they see when they're dying, which made it kind of creepy. But it still works for me.
posted by bassomatic at 10:13 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I imagine a wave crashing on the beach. When does the foam crest? What's the shape of the wave? I imagine a droplet within the wave and track its movements. Then the wave hits the shore, slips under, and I imagine another wave. How is that one different?

Also, if I'm in the horrid 'oh god it is x already why am I awake I need to be up in y hours' I will try to distract myself from being anxious by making myself calculate the time by different percentages or units of measure - how many cakes I could bake, how many episodes of community I could watch, how far I could bike. A lot of people say that this would make them even more anxious, but I don't know, it makes it abstract enough that it works for me.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:21 AM on June 24


What are your mental mindless games you use to drift off to sleep, or relax?

1) Fantasize about superheroes having sex with each other

2) Masturbate
posted by Jacqueline at 10:54 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I count up to 100, but I have to imagine each number in 3D, each from a different media. So 1 might be shiny pink granite speckled with gray, and I visualize it. 2 might be a light box. 3 might be rough-cut wood. I usually cycle back through the pretty rocks and minerals pretty often, but also fall asleep pretty quickly.
posted by ldthomps at 10:59 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


How is it that nobody has mentioned thinking through a ribald sexual encounter yet?

*Raises hand* Though I always seem to fall asleep before anything really good starts up. It's usually just the groundwork for the scenario.
posted by Windigo at 12:36 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I am the opposite of claustrophobic - I actually have crowd anxiety and worked myself through a period of agoraphobia years ago, and being while trapped is terrifying I find small spaces very comforting. A lot of people seem to have the opposite issue, so YMMV.

Also, I'm a horndog.

- I dance the cooch for a traveling carnival or maybe I'm a very cool sideshow freak and I have the most opulent wagon all to myself because I am the star performer. I imagine the period-correct decor and details as I sink into my luxurious bed. The rocking of my wagon lulls me to sleep as we travel overnight to our next town. (Shout out to anyone who misses the show Carnivale).

- I am an extremely rich and highly desired sex worker who owns a private train car. It makes the Darjeeling Limited set Wes Anderson built look like fucking Amtrak. I travel between cities where my super hot clients who pay me $$$$$$ to fuck them live, and the rocking of the train car lulls me to sleep.

- basically huck finn's raft, mark twain already described it better than I can, i imagine the sun on my body and the gentle waves and trailing my fingers in the cool water

- This is probably the freakiest one for claustrophobes/feminists (it's just a fantasy!) but: I am some sort of mail-order wife who was cloned/built specifically for someone. I am being shipped to my new owner in a coffin/capsule-hotel like box. I was designed to not need to eat or poop and there is a button in my box that is very much like a morphine drip except it's a drug specifically designed for clones that is non-addictive and has no side effects.

- I can't believe so many other people do the tiny personal spaceship thing!
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:38 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


I imagine books or essays I would like to write but, crucially, have nothing to do with the writing or work I actually do. That is, I am an economist but imagine history or science fiction books I would write.
posted by shothotbot at 12:57 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Not winning points on imagination here, but I have had a lot of success with focusing just on my breathing. Deep breath in (belly should be big)...deep breath out.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 3:23 PM on June 24


We used to go to this ice cream parlor when I was a kid. They serve a sundae there called the "Dare to Be Great" that's made with, like, every flavor on the menu. (If you finish it your name goes on the wall of fame/shame.)

Sometimes I imagine a giant ice cream sundae, and name all the different flavors it would have.

(I'm also a big fan of designing imaginary/fantasy houses where I would like to live.)
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:40 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I imagine climbing the endless winding stairs of a solitary lighthouse. I've never yet reached the top, but that's part of the design I suppose.

Ursula Hitler's method also works well for me.
posted by Turkey Glue at 4:47 PM on June 24


I used to try to plan what to wear the next day, by mentally flipping through my closet. Until I realized it put me to sleep everytime, before I could make a plan. Seriously, it took me a while before I noticed this was not an effective way to save time in the morning...

So now, I call it putting myself to sleep by trying to remember what is hanging in the closet.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:41 PM on June 24


I often put myself into scenes from TV shows or movies where I have a huge crush on a character. I always fall asleep before the inevitable sexy times happen haha.
posted by Youremyworld at 6:41 PM on June 24


I tell myself The Three Bears, and/or I recite a pop song or Christmas carol or national anthem backwards, and/or spelling each boring little word, and/or I do simple multiplication or subtraction problems. And/or the ever-popular Detailed Visualization of A Nice Quiet Tropical Beach on a Day of Perfect Weather.

If there is any possibility at all that what's keeping me awake might be discomfort just below my threshold of noticing, I take some ibuprofen and do some stretches before I do all those mental exercises.
posted by gingerest at 7:42 PM on June 24


Bonus add-on trick:
When sleeping, your eyes are rolled right up into your eye sockets, but in a relaxed way.

I deliberately roll my eyes up and to the left while relaxing into sleep and 'day' dreaming. It seems to trigger my brain into proper dreaming, same way as smiling is associated with being happy. Fake it til you make it!
posted by Elysum at 7:45 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Square roots, especially for numbers like 2 that can just span off forever.

I also do point/line geometry, and try to transform 2D shapes into 3D, then figure out their angles for a regular shape, then add another point and …

The other thing I do is try to remember the Greek alphabet, where I can usually remember all of the names of the letters but not the shapes and rarely in order…
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I have a story I made up:

Once upon a time there was a beach. It was a long sandy beach. On that beach there lived a grain of sand. It was a kind of ordinary translucent whitish grain of sand. And next to that grain of sand lived another grain of sand. That second grain of sand was also a translucent whitish grain of sand. And on the other side of the first grain of sand was another grain of sand. It was a slightly more grayish grain of sand than the first two. And next to that grain of sand was another grain of sand. This grain of sand was a darker grayish than the grain of sand that it was next to. And on the other side of the first grain of sand was another grain of sand. This grain of sand was a pure white grain of sand. And next to that grain of sand was another grain of sand. This grain of sand was a dark gray, almost black. And next to that grain of sand was another grain of sand. This grain of sand was also dark, but not as dark a gray as the previous grain of sand, but much darker than the earlier two mentioned gray grains of sand. And next to that grain of sand was another translucent whitish grain of sand. This grain of sand was even more translucent than the first two grains of sand. And next to that grain of sand was a slightly gray but not very gray grain of sand. And next to the slightly gray but not very gray grain of sand was a slightly off-white grain of sand, which was just barely less gray than the previous grain of sand so as to be called white not gray. And next to that grain of sand etc. etc. etc.....

Sometimes I tell this story to help my husband fall asleep, or at least to take sadistic pleasure in his inability to escape listening to it.
posted by daisystomper at 8:29 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


That is vastly superior to The Three Bears, in that it is orders of magnitude more boring, and endless, and thus even harder to be care about missing the end of. ("The Three Bears" is actually Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but she doesn't even come into the story for a long time, at least the way I tell it in my head, so she doesn't get a billing.)
posted by gingerest at 8:55 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


How is it that nobody has mentioned thinking through a ribald sexual encounter yet?

*Raises hand* Though I always seem to fall asleep before anything really good starts up. It's usually just the groundwork for the scenario.


I do this too! Though mine's kind of an ongoing story involving a celebrity crush. (I can't believe I just admitted this!) Like Windigo and Youremyworld, I get so involved in setting up the scenario and the backstory that I usually fall asleep before the actual sex happens.

Other things I do:
-I imagine going to a favorite place, especially one I haven't been to in a while. I think about how I'd get there (car? bus? train?), who else is there (is it crowded or am I the only person there?), and try to remember every detail of the place - what do I see, hear, feel, and smell.

-I imagine meeting someone I haven't seen or spoken to in a long time. What might the circumstance be, and what sort of conversation might we have?
posted by SisterHavana at 9:00 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I used to have a terrible time falling asleep if I was stressed or worried. So I taught myself a sleep-induction (kind of a self hypnosis) that works every time. I tell myself to relax each part of my body in turn, starting with my head. I focus totally on the feeling of relaxing, or picture a soft white light filling each part as I go. The repetitive words I'm thinking help so no stray thoughts have room to wiggle in. After I go all the way down to my feet, I imagine I'm sinking into a deep, comfortable, relaxing space and start the 'relaxing each part of the body' thing over. I don't think I've ever made it to three repetitions of this before I fall asleep.

Alternative: I tell myself that even if I can't sleep, I'm going to just lay there with my eyes closed. I start focusing on the images that come up in my mind's eye and try to lose myself in them. I find this most effective when I'm somewhere with really loud music, like a festival, where the noise disrupts my ability to focus on the words of the induction.
posted by ananci at 10:05 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


One visualization I like is walking down a dimly lit staircase slowly, counting the stairs as I go. I find it helps to imagine it as made of rock or brick - something interesting enough that I can spend some time settling in to the details, but not so interesting that making up the setting becomes distracting.

Another is lying somewhere, like a tent. I'm looking at the "ceiling," which is a solid color. It ripples gently and slowly, coinciding with my breathing. It starts out red, and slowly cycles through the colors of the rainbow.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:54 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I go through my next day. Imagining getting out of bed, showering, with the intent of eventually getting to work and starting on whatever I need to be working on. I almost never make it out of the shower before I pass out.
posted by xorry at 5:49 AM on June 25


i'm surprised at how similar some of these are in spirit to my own brain-trickery.

when i can't sleep i imagine that I'm out in nature somewhere and have to find a place to sleep for the night. this involves finding the ideal place, dry, somewhat sheltered, no bugs, safe from animals, foraged bedding made from piled leaves and branches. these must also meet several criteria to be suitable for sleeping; comfort, no bugs etc. sometimes this involves building a shelter, sometimes there's rain or snow that i have to plan for. sometimes i'll be living there for a while so i have to account for drinking water and food.

this list of preparations and contingencies goes on and real-world me is usually fast asleep long before dream-world me has gotten very far into his scouting campaign. one consequence is that i've become mildly obsessed with wilderness survival. another is that all of this dream-scouting has fluoresced into two separate place-narratives that i switch between depending on my mood. as each becomes more detailed with characters and scenarios i have something to look forward to as i get in bed at night. i would call these stories but they aren't that fleshed out and i haven't written them down, besides they would probably bore the pants off of anyone else and writing them out might interfere with my sleep ritual.

the nature aspect really works for me because it ties in with a self-hypnosis tape i had as a teenager. one of the best parts of that tape was the relaxation section where the narrator called on the listener to imagine that s/he was out in nature on a calm beautiful day. the tape called for the listener to establish this as a place that could be returned to for relaxation and every time i would imagine myself there i would smile and exhale as the narrator told me to do. to some extent that still works for me and sometimes at night i merely have to close my eyes and smile and welcome sleep and feel it wash over me in waves.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 11:19 AM on June 25


A little late, but, I used to have a lot of trouble falling asleep due to racing thoughts/anxiety. I had a pretty effective visualization that would help stop the train of thought. I would imaginge an image, any random thing, say a ball. Then I morph it in my mind to another object, and keep doing this as quickly as possible. So say, a ball morphs into a flower, morphs into a butterfly, to a bird, to a plane, etc. This is very good if you have a problem with thoughts keeping you up. The visuals, and the slight but mindless effort of thinking up new objects really blocks racing thoughts. At the same time try not to really put any conscious thought into this exercise. Just kind of let the images come, and try to do it quickly to block superfluous thoughts. I know this is probably hard to understand, I had a hard time coming up with how to describe it, but it always worked really well for me and let me get to sleep quickly. The main thing is finding a way to shut down disruptive thoughts that keep you up.
posted by catatethebird at 4:49 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


This si completely fascinating to read!

I use progressive relaxation (learned it in high school theatre class, it is described well here [pdf] in this handout on managing anxiety). What I like is that it focusses my mind while helping my body slow down.
posted by chapps at 7:51 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, I realize am essentially repeating Ananci's suggestion, I missed that)
posted by chapps at 7:55 AM on June 26


You are lying on a soft pallet on a river raft that is lazily floating down the Mississippi late at night. It is a warm night, but there is a cool, refreshing breeze. A full moon; many, many twinkling stars just overhead. A magical lantern glowing with a soft golden light is hanging from a hook and has attracted one or two beautiful jade green moths. No other bothersome insects exist in this world. Next to you is seated someone you are very fond of who cares deeply for you. Their hand is on the tiller and you rest easy knowing that you can lean on them and trust them to guide the both of you on this floating dreamland thru the night. You or they occasionally speak softly recalling the events of the day or remarking on the beauty of the evening. All is calm and serene. You drift off to sleep gently rocked by the mighty river feeling safe, blissful, without a care in the world.

Feel free to embellish or alter as desired.

Note: This works best in the summer, on a waterbed, with an oscillating fan in a corner of the room on the lowest setting, but with enough imagination can work anytime, anywhere.
posted by marsha56 at 11:11 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I remember a movie where someone said that they pretended to be a dead extra in a movie...

But my trick is to count backwards from 30, slowly, breathing deeply with each count, and half yawning so you can hear your breath quite loud in your ears (sort of Darth Vader-y but don't let that put you off) and I imagine with each breath and count that I'm taking one step down in a narrow stone spiral staircase in an old castle tower.

If ever you find yourself thinking about something else, start counting again at 30.

Sweet dreams.
posted by guy72277 at 1:05 AM on July 4


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