Give me your sleep / relaxation tips
September 12, 2012 2:23 AM   Subscribe

I keep having sleepless nights because I can't slow my thoughts down. What techniques do you use to help you quieten your thoughts so you can sleep?

I've been sleeping badly for the last few months but it's getting worse. I've been prescribed Zopiclone which helps me sleep the one night in 3 or 4 that I use it, but the other nights I'm suffering. I don't want to use the Zopiclone any more frequently, even if I were allowed to.

I have a lot on my mind right now (which I'm dealing with elsewhere) but it's not these subjects that are occupying my mind when I try and sleep.

Last night (for example) I got about an hour and a half sleep because my brain was wandering through bits of conversations I've had or may have, repeating snatches of a song, ways to tackle a DIY project that have coming up, and ponderings about where to go on holiday. They're just... "static" that keeps chattering away instead of fading out as I drift off.

So... how do I switch my brain off?

My "sleep hygiene" (keeping the bedroom for sleep and sex) isn't great, but there's no TV there and I don't use my laptop in bed. I've tried using milky drinks and diet modification. I have a clock that fades its light and radio to a timer. I've tried making my room smell of lavender. None of them seem to be doing much at the moment.

Please give me your tips and suggestions...
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
I sometimes listen to music with -- the important part -- headphones. If I listen to music over speakers I can tune it out and still be fussy, but if I have headphones on, the music is taking place inside my head and I can't concentrate on other stuff; all the replayed conversations and whatnot get pushed out.

I usually fall asleep within a few songs and if I wake up later (because the headphones have grown uncomfortable, say) I'm already half asleep and it's easier to go back to sleep.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:36 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like to go for a run about three hours before I lie down to sleep. This helps me process my thoughts and settle down for the evening. It has helped my sleep enormously.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 2:37 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a very similar issue to this. It helps if I make sure I am really really tired before I go to bed, though if I get to a stage of being 'overtired' that actually makes it worse. Also, if I force my mind to repeat some phrase (mine is 'Up down left right' for some reason) then I find the other thoughts pushed out. And finally, tensing and then releasing all the muscles in your body might help, starting with your toes and working slowly up to your scalp, holding each 'pose' for a few seconds.
posted by StephenF at 2:39 AM on September 12, 2012

I don't know about Zopiclone at all, so definitely speak to your doctor before you try including it, but have you considered melatonin? I take Midnite brand melatonin chewable pills. They don't make me sleepy exactly but they do, occasionally, shut my brain up just enough for me to drift off. Then they give me super vivid dreams, but it's an acceptable tradeoff for me.

On nights when the melatonin fails or I don't want to take it, sometimes playing a visually repetitive game for a little while helps. What happens is I'll play some Tetris or Hexic or some other kind of shape-based puzzle game, and when I close my eyes I'll "play" it in my head, instead of drifting off to conversations or worrisome thoughts. It's kind of like when you get a song stuck in your head, only visually.
posted by Mizu at 2:40 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lists is working really well for me. I can be exhausted, and lie there with my brain chattering away about everything we've seen and done all day. I've started making alphabetical lists when the light goes out. I do flowers, but you could pick anything (countries is good, likewise vegies) you think you probably know quite a few things for each letter. I have never gone beyond "g", and most nights - even if I think to myself 'oh, I'm wide awake, I'll be here for ages', I don't get past 'b'.
posted by thylacinthine at 2:48 AM on September 12, 2012 [6 favorites]

I repeat my martial arts kata in my head, or close my eyes and really concentrate on trying to see black and not the colours and flashes that my brain produces. If that makes sense.
posted by Skyanth at 2:49 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I get up. Usually, I work, but sometimes I read or write. That makes the time productive while I await sufficient fatigue to sleep. If I don't sleep several nights in a row, by god I will before long.

It's self-limiting for normal people, I think, and variable depending on age and circumstance. Stressing over maintaining a schedule is counterproductive.

I have found when I have midnight mental wanderings over a mass of complex problems, getting up and inventorying them puts them on paper instead of in my mind, freeing up the mind to sleep. Plus, you've got a checklist you can use tomorrow.
posted by FauxScot at 2:49 AM on September 12, 2012

I try to concentrate on just my breathing: My brain tries to go off on other tangents but I find, if I can force it back to just this, I will fall asleep after 10 minutes or so.
posted by rongorongo at 2:53 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Helpfully, it looks like Zopiclone isn't available in the States. It's a "non-benzodiazepine hypnotic" (according to wiki) so it's a sleep aid rather than a sedative or the like.

Melatonin, on the other hand, is prescription only in the UK.

The internet makes regional laws look like weird things...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:04 AM on September 12, 2012

Mental math.
posted by lakeroon at 3:12 AM on September 12, 2012

This sounds like something your doctor, or a specialist they refer you to, would be much better suited to helping you with than random people on the internet.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:13 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel your pain. Once this has started it is hard to get out of. My suggestion is, at the start of the day, make a list of things to do (clean room, buy bread, organize files, etc). Write them down - doesn't matter how unimportant they are. During the day, get those things done and before going to bed, cross them off your list. Try to think about how those tasks are completed. Really, totally done. Complete. Off the list. Able to be forgotten now. This, for me at least, helps my brain turn off its "gotta get everything done and figure everything out!" mode.

Definitely see your doctor though. Little tricks like that can only do so much, and whatever else it is that you are dealing with is almost certainly the indirect cause, as this other stress in your life is putting your brain into a state of anxiety. So you might be thinking about other, trivial things at night, but your brain is hyperactive because it is already in anxious-mode. Good luck!
posted by molecicco at 3:19 AM on September 12, 2012

This has happened to me in the past and still happens when I've got big stuff going on in my life.

The good news is, I've got it under control; the bad news, it doesn't happen immediately and is contingent on a bunch of lifestyle changes.

To whatever extent it's possible for you, start to SWITCH OFF at least 2 hours before bedtime. With me, I finish all my emails and other personal chores which require mental activity, switch off my laptop and spend my last couple of hours of the day washing up, tidying up (but not doing a big clean or anything too strenuous) and watching un-challenging stuff on TV. I find that if I switch onto a particular programme everyday, soon I experience a Pavlovian reaction of relaxation and sleepiness as soon as that programme begins. That's what I mean by un-challenging. I also have a bedtime. That means when I see the clock hit 10, I know it's time to start wrapping up for the day if I'm going to hit the hay at midnight. I start to experience the same reaction as I do to my bedtime TV - feeling sleepy as soon as I see it's approaching bedtime.

Of course, this can be hard to fit into a typically busy lifestyle - 2 hours of nothing when you could be accomplishing stuff?! - but when I made the decision, it really did help me. My sleep routine has adjusted enough now to allow deviations, so I can go out and stay out late a couple of times a week and it won't impact on my sleep. But mostly, I stick to this routine.

No coffee after 6pm. No planning stuff, even fun and interesting stuff like holidays or DIY projects. That's for the daytime.

Of course, YMMV and see your doctor if these tips don't work out, but sleep hygiene is a big part of getting a good night's sleep and if, like me, you are prone to an overactive brain at night this will, hopefully, help.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:24 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

oh god I was a terrible insomniac from the time I was a kid until a few years ago and that was exactly what my nights were like - hours of racing thoughts, going nowhere. The first thing I did that helped was to arrange my schedule to fit when I slept best - I'm a night owl so working he night shift is great. The biggest best thing, though, is audiobooks. I put on a familiar book - something I've listened to already, (if it's a new story I'll be up all night listening) - turn the volume down so that it's just audible if I lie still, and ....zzzzzz . Listening to a good story is nice and relaxing, it takes you out of your own worries just like reading a book does, except that you can listen with the lights out and eyes closed all wrapped up in a blanket. I use either a netbook or an mp3player, and just queue up a few chapters so that it stops playing well after I'm asleep. If I wake up during the night, the book goes back on, and I'm back in happy slumberland. Best thing for racy mind ever.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:27 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can try my new favorite breathing exercise: breathing summations. Each breath is one count longer than the next but you count starting where the last breath let off. Out "one", in "two, three", out "four, five, six", in "seven, eight, nine, ten"... keep going until you lose count or get uncomfortable, take a couple of normal breaths, and start over from one. (If that's too easy by itself, also think of your breath as filling you up evenly from the bottom and letting out evenly from the top, so in for four is lower stomach, upper stomach, lower ribs, upper ribs, out for five is upper ribs, middle ribs, mid body, middle stomach, lower stomach, etc.)
posted by anaelith at 3:46 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have the same racing-mind-insomnia (on top of being naturally inclined to be awake 10am-2am instead of 8-12 or whatever). For me the magic is podcasts, usually NPR/Economist/BBC documentaries and so on that are just interesting enough to focus on and not interesting enough to keep me awake (or be disappointed about missing the second half), or some Stuff-You-Should-Knows that I've already heard (or Stuff You Missed in History, Stuff Mom Never Told You, etc). There's also Miette's Bedtime Story. Like 5_13, turned up so it's just barely audible.

Melatonin, on the other hand, is prescription only in the UK.

You can order melatonin on eBay, shipped from the US to the UK. Lots of people do.
posted by K.P. at 4:15 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I want eyes-closed, no-light distraction from troubling thoughts while trying to fall asleep, I do logic puzzles in my head. I read one or two before I go to bed – this sort of thing, or "lateral thinking" puzzles, or the classic truthteller/liar- or "what color hat?"-style problems. This often works for me.

Another thing I sometimes do is to focus on what I'm "seeing" with my eyes closed, which seems to force more visual effects to manifest... very much like an MP3 player visualization, which is rather soothing (to me).
posted by taz at 4:19 AM on September 12, 2012

Podcasts and logic puzzles have helped me, and an audio book sounds great too. Mildly interesting sitcoms via Netflix on my iPhone also help. I can usually get through one episode and then I fall asleep on the second. Turn the sound way down and put the phone screen-side down when you feel yourself starting to drift. 100% less freaking out with churning thoughts.
posted by bunderful at 4:25 AM on September 12, 2012

I have a few techniques to deal with this.

The one that most irritates my husband is discussing the things in my head with him. This is not the best option because it tends to keep us both up and my husband probably prefers to be asleep.

Sometimes I force myself to clear my mind. Concentrate on breathing, like rongorongo says, and as things pop up, try to force them back out again. It is very hard to keep things out, but if I just keep pushing them away and concentrate on my breathing, and eventually most of them will stop coming back and I can fall asleep.

Another option I have is to think about something specific and unrelated. Mental geometry is a popular option.

The last option I have is to get up and read a little of something. It doesn't tend to matter for me what I read, but fluffy pulpy things tend to be the things that I read.
posted by that girl at 4:28 AM on September 12, 2012

No matter what crappy things I have been doing that should mess up my sleep, I've recently realized that a spare pillow (I use thinish feather pillows) over the upper half of my face to create a pitch-dark and muffled environment makes me sleep like a baby. Before doing this, I would be awake half the night those days I had lots on my mind, if I had coffee too late, etc.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:30 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find the 'distraction' methods of listing things mentioned above keeps me from really getting into a thread of thinking, so to speak. Clearing your mind actually creates more space for the tangents when you are wound up and overtired. I'm a fan of mindfulness but it may not be that great starting in that situation.

My last-line option is doxylamine which is an over the counter antihistamine. I find it very effective and only use it when I'm at the 'danger to self' haven't slept for several nights running stage. A low dose of this is enough to reset my insomnia pattern.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:58 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have this problem, but I have ADHD and my mind is never quiet. As counterintuitive as is sounds, there are times when taking a hypnotic makes it worse but taking adderall or ritalin let the roar subside. But I'm weird with most meds.

Otherwise, I find listening to audiobooks essential to falling asleep. They have to be ones I know already so I can just listen and not get overly involved. Other sleep hygiene things don't seem to matter very much for me, though I did replace the bulb in my bedside light to an orange bulb to block blue light. Might help.
posted by monopas at 5:06 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've found this tip to be helpful for me. Basically, you allow yourself to think about whatever you want, but try not to think any words, just images. Money quote:

Let's say something is bugging you, or fascinating you, and the thought is keeping you awake. I'll bet that in those situations you're obsessed with the verbal elements of your problem. You're imagining what you will say to someone, or how you will explain yourself, or maybe what words someone else chose when annoying you. To fall asleep, don't abandon the troublesome topic, because you probably can't. Just picture the situation in images alone. That will satisfy the part of you that can't let go of the problem while putting you on the sleep trajectory.
posted by deadweightloss at 5:32 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I count down from 100 to zero and do not move at all. If I move - twitching a foot or even moving my head a little - I have to start again from 100. I end up focusing on being absolutely still and relaxed and zoning out. If I do manage to get to zero, I figure I am really not sleepy and get up and do something, but it's rare.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:35 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I listened to this Rejuvinating Sleep meditation podcast every night for several weeks and was out within 15 minutes instead of my usual 90. Eventually it got too familiar so I started having tangent thoughts while listening, making it much less effective, but ymmv!
posted by wyzewoman at 5:42 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should know that it's very possible - even likely, if this has been an ongoing issue throughout your life - that there's nothing you are doing wrong. Some people are just bad sleepers. I am one of them. The only thing that worked for me in the end was a nightly dose of Trazodone, which is not a hypnotic but is a low dose of an older antidepressant that essentially shuts down my brain. It is non-addictive; I've taken it for years and not had to increase my dose at all. I will take it every day for the rest of my life if I have to - that is how great the benefit has been for me.
posted by something something at 5:45 AM on September 12, 2012

I listen to podcasts. Since I use an iPad with the Podcasts app, I can set a sleep timer! The most sleep-inducing podcasts I use are from Philosophy Bites, so I can relax in the delusion that I'm learning something and being lulled to sleep.

When I'm overwhelmed by a deluge of thoughts, I try to divert my attention to crafting something small, like 'hmm, let's say I got an all-expenses-paid holiday, what would I do?' and gently prod my mind to provide more and more detail. So this helps me concentrate on something happy and relaxing. Even if I don't fall asleep after conjuring up eighteen exacting holiday meals, my mind's relatively rested.

My father taught me this: concentrate on single body parts and relax them, working from head to toe, breathing deeply (and relaxedly) the whole time. So, first your hair, then your ears, eyebrows... sounds silly, but it works. I sometimes do this for myself in my head, but it may be more effective if someone you trust would do this with you at bedtime by narrating and touching that part, if you like, so all you have to do is be still and relax.

YMMV, but I hope the suggestions in this thread don't stress you out, and help you get some good sleep.
posted by undue influence at 6:15 AM on September 12, 2012

One cause of this is Vitamin B-12 Deficiency. You might want to eat more meat, check for malabsorbtion or stop being vegan (which ever one of those things makes sense.)

Another thing you can do is take some Benedryl/Zzzquil . It's diphenhydramine, it's an anti-histimine and it makes you really sleepy. You find it in cold remedies, alergy meds and in Dramamine, for motion sickness.

It's pretty great stuff, dirt cheap and if you're itchy, heeeeeyyyy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on September 12, 2012

I have had great success with puzzles. I went through the Pencil Puzzles section of Games Magazine for a while, then I toted my tablet upstairs and it was Bubble Breaker, Mah-Jongg, Peggle, Chuzzle... I go through phases. But I find that playing repetitive games causes my brain to be filled with mostly blankness accompanied by a sort of process chugging in the background that keeps moving tiles/pegs/chuzzles even after I stop playing, so when I turn the tablet off I'm usually out in 5 minutes.
posted by agress at 6:35 AM on September 12, 2012

I have a similar problem and have for years. Contrary to all "sleep hygiene" advice, television is the only thing that helps me fall asleep, and I use it pretty much every night. For years, it was DVDs of The West Wing. More recently, I like Arrested Development, Bones, Grey's Anatomy, etc. I need something that I have seen before that doesn't have sudden loud noises. Unlike a lot of people, light has never really affected my sleep, so it may be that I really am anomalous.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:39 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not a great sleeper, and when nagging thoughts are keeping me awake (like you, they're often just rambling thoughts about NOT what I'm stressed about, but they happen when I'm stressed!), I start to imagine a world in great detail -- maybe one I've read about in a favorite book, or maybe one I'm inventing -- and when I've got the world in my head, I start putting myself in a story in it. Maybe I'm replacing the protagonist, or being their best friend, or inventing a new character after the events in the book, or just creating something wholesale. (So what I'm saying is, I guess I do fan-fic in my head.)

Whenever my thoughts wander off that and start feeding me conversational snatches or bits of songs (the worst!), I force myself back to thinking about the world and the story. It keeps the "static" thoughts out of my head and it's easier to fall asleep even though I'm thinking hard about one thing instead of thinking driftingly about whatever crosses my mind.

I don't think this would work for everyone (surely some people who do this get more and more awake and alert by it, and surely some of them then have to leap up and go start writing it), but it works pretty well for me for dealing specifically with those "static" thoughts in times of stress.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:49 AM on September 12, 2012

Can you get a lot of exercise earlier in the day? That helps me a lot. It's like, if my body is tired enough, it quiets down my brain as well.
posted by mskyle at 6:52 AM on September 12, 2012

Sleeping pills do nothing for me but make me hallucinate. The adderall I take first thing in the morning for my ADHD is what makes me sleep the best at night. Without it, I will absolutely get out of bed at 330am to google random things that my mind cannot let go of, like "how many (unwrapped but uncrushed) twinkies would fit inside gagarin's vostok?"
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 AM on September 12, 2012

I've taken zopiclone and honestly I think it is a shitty sleep aid. It does nothing for your underlying anxiety. Since the anxiety and stress is bothering you every day, you should go back to the doctor and get some better meds (maybe a low dose SSRI plus a benzo).

Failing that, you could try a restorative yoga practice at bed time. I had some good luck with the "Yoga for stress relief" DVD.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:10 AM on September 12, 2012

This is going to sound silly, but I visualize a closet. This closet has a really high shelf at the top. All my thoughts go into a box, and then I put the box on the shelf and close the door. I'm not sure why, but this works for me.
posted by selfnoise at 7:27 AM on September 12, 2012

I had insomnia bad enough that I would get bored lying in bed and would get up to read, write or just do something (my thinking was also along the lines of sleep hygiene).

I had no luck at treating the insomnia directly but the issue went away when I got myself on a more consistent schedule.

Now if I have insomnia it is either because I let myself sleep in real late or because I pushed myself past when I got tired at my normal bedtime.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:51 AM on September 12, 2012

I count backwards from 99. Every time I lose track (which seems weird; I feel so awake, but I usually can't get to 70 without messing up) I start over. I visualize every number and really try to "feel" them.

Sometimes I also count sheep, but I imagine each individual sheep and his or her defining characteristic. Don't get too wild with it, but really think about each sheep.
posted by k8lin at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2012

Someone in another sleep thread recently mentioned apps for sleep hypnosis, stuff like Andrew Johnson's Deep Sleep and Pzizz. On a whim I tried the Johnson one because it was cheap and my sleep always gets messed up when the school year begins, and I'm amazed how well it works for me. My sleep was so deep the first two nights I tried it my husband had a hard time waking me up in the morning, and my dreams were very vivid and felt like novel-length stories. It was great. I have a feeling this varies a lot by person, but it might be worth a shot.
posted by ifjuly at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2012

although we don't have zopiclone in the USA, we do have eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zolpidem (Ambien), both of which are extremely similar. Eszopiclone is essentially the exact same molecule as zopiclone, but a sort of a mirror image, so apparently several places refuse to market them together because they are like copycat drugs.

If you have tried the ideas above (and particularly the other parts of sleep hygiene you didn't mention, like cutting out caffeine, not eating or exercising right before bed but getting regular exercise, and not taking naps during the day), you could ask your doctor about switching prescription sleep aids. Melatonin has some limited evidence behind it, but at least in the USA, we much more often use trazodone - still limited evidence, but I think better. The non-benzodiazepine medications like the one you are taking and other similar drugs listed above have been found to have a few undesirable side effects (like being habit forming, causing parasomnias like sleepwalking/eating in your sleep, etc) that trazodone does not have. Just a thought.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2012

Nthing audio books you've listened to before.
Talk radio might help, as long as it's not something that will captivate your interest and keep you up.
posted by luckynerd at 10:10 AM on September 12, 2012

I must listen to the radio at night and it's hard for me to sleep if I can't. I usually listen to Coast to Coast a.m., BBC overnight or Phil Hendrie (although sometimes I can't sleep well to that program because I'm laughing). It has to be talk though - because talk drowns out the inner monologue in a way music doesn't.

If I still can't sleep, I do a version of the "counting sheep" routine, but I imagine I'm lying in a beautiful field and cats or bunnies or very sleepy puppies are surrounding me. I think about how awesome that would be and at the same time I try to really notice each individual animal there with me in the field.

And if all else fails - Xanax.
posted by Kloryne at 11:01 AM on September 12, 2012

Podcasts on headphones. Something fairly boring is ideal, like Ann Widdecombe talking about the history of the Yorkshire moors or an LA Theaterworks production of Noel Coward. has readings of lots of public domain books--a 19th century adventure yarn like Three Years Before the Mast can put me to sleep for weeks on end before I get through it.

And then Xanax. Zopiclone appears to be chemically related to Ambien, and I am basically terrified of using hypnotics of any kind because sleep-driving and shit. Perhaps that's not so common with Zopiclone, though? Anyway, I use Xanax to dial down the intrusive thoughts so I can get to sleep maybe once every two weeks or so.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2012

I find that writing down stuff that's on my mind before I go to bed (whether in the form of a diary entry, a to-do list, an outline of an assignment I'm working on, or whatever) often allows me to get to sleep easier - once I've got it written down, it's like I've given my brain permission to not think about it any more for the night.
posted by naoko at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

A technique that sometimes works for me is similar to undue influence's: I slowly concentrate on relaxing different parts of my body, starting at my toes and working up in sections. So I think about relaxing my toes for however long I like until I can feel them relax nicely. Then I slowly move up to my feet (tops and bottoms). Then calves and shins, then quads, hamstrings, and everything in that are, then hips, then back and abs, then chest and upper back, then down my arms similarly, then face, then scalp, etc. It isn't foolproof but if you can feel sufficiently in touch with your body then it gives you something non-stressful to concentrate on and relaxes you.

Otherwise, podcasts. A Prairie Home Companion, The Writer's Almanac, and Car Talk (despite the loud laughing) all help me. Get a podcast client that has a timer so your playlist will stop after 30-60 minutes so you they don't wake you up at 2 AM. I like Beyondpod on Android.
posted by Tehhund at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2012

I've suffered this for years and have tried what seems like everything. I have several things I do throughout the day, like no caffeine after 12 noon, I journal in late afternoon/early evening writing down whatever anxieties or obssessive thoughts are rattling around up there. It was suggested not to do this at night because they might follow you to bed. Don't eat anything 2-3 hours before bed. I've also gathered a list of breathing exercises, guided imagery and meditations for relaxation once in bed. I also take Seroquel two hours before bed, which helps a great deal.
posted by dreamingviolet at 12:44 PM on September 12, 2012

I forgot to mention that I use an app for ipad called Ambience when I get in bed. It has hundreds of ambient sounds (rain is my favorite) and I can set a timer and have it gradually fade out. It's something to focus on so my mind doesn't run amok but still very relaxing. I also stop reading an hour or two before bed and just play repetitive, mind-numbing games like solitaire to help calm down and get sleepy.

Insomnia sucks. I hope some of these things help you slay the beast.
posted by dreamingviolet at 1:02 PM on September 12, 2012

I'm a bit of a failure at this, so, not much by way of advice -- just here to say that I've taken Imovane nightly for most of my adult life, and I think it's a fantastic medication. I feel low-stress, not...zombied, pre-bed, and feel great the next day.

After much experimentation there I decided the "sleep hygiene" theories were bunk. Most of the world does not live like that, has not lived like that, with a special room etc etc. If it works, great, but, don't (har har) lose sleep over those ideas.
posted by kmennie at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2012

Do you have a old favorite TV series, one where you've seen every episode? For me, its reruns of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Murder She Wrote. I keep both at the top of my Netflix queue solely for their sleep-inducing effects. Since I've seen them all, I don't get mentally stimulated by the plot. I start closing my eyes during the boring parts, and before I know it, I'm asleep.

That, and absolutely no caffeine after 12PM.
posted by invisible ink at 4:56 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm basically echoing what other people said. Trazodone + Klonopin (though the Klonopin is for sleep anxiety). Podcasts. I downloaded an entire two semester course on anatomy and physiology just to listen to at night. Audiobooks (libivox rules). Progressive relaxation. Finally mindless TV played very quietly and with the picture contrast set to zero so it's still dark (or a pillow over the upper part of my face since my current TV doesn't have that feature, that I can find).
posted by kathrynm at 6:41 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lately, i create lists on teuxdeux....someone on mefi recommended it. I literally just have to throw everything up....and out of my head. As I create the lists I start to sort what is a do to item and what is just brainless stuff. Often, after it's all out of my head and I can see it on my dimmed screen, I feel Kind of purged, and i can finally rest.
posted by anitanita at 10:56 PM on September 12, 2012

Wow, there are so many answers. I found that Zoloft stopped this completely.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 12:22 AM on September 13, 2012

A friend told me that she gets back to sleep by thinking of all of the things in life she is thankful for. She focuses on things that are great in her life, not things that are causing her to worry. I've tried this a few time in the last few weeks, and it has worked.
posted by TEA at 4:48 AM on September 13, 2012

Yes to the sleep hygiene, including the winding-down bedtime routine. If I have a lot running through my head, I write it all down as a way to let it go temporarily.

I've had success falling asleep to maitri meditation, but usually I just do math, counting by numbers, e.g., 9, 18, 27, 36... I suck at math, so this takes real focus. When I lose my place or drift off briefly, I start over with a different number.
posted by moira at 8:58 AM on September 13, 2012

I've posted this elsewhere, but what I do is start speaking in my head in a nonsense language. Something like "Goobledy gorky nah nah..", etc. You can't put too much thought into the words since the point is to stop thinking. I figure it works like this: thoughts are made of words (for most of us, at least). No words in an understandable (native) language = no thoughts.

This is what I do if I'm having major trouble slowing down my thoughts. If it's lesser trouble in falling asleep, I picture myself jogging, or even running really fast (run faster than the thoughts).

My husband swears by picturing your entire day happening backwards. I've tried this too. If you can stay on task (sooo boring), it works; you never make it further back than a couple of hours before your day ended.
posted by kitcat at 12:28 PM on September 13, 2012

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