Bedtime is in 3 hours. Help me sleep tonight.
May 25, 2015 4:30 PM   Subscribe

I had a terrible fight with a loved one today, and my stress levels are sky-high (to the point of nausea). At this rate, I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep tonight. Bedtime is in three hours - Please help me get to sleep.

I have a hard time falling asleep normally, and usually take a cocktail of melatonin and benadryl. I'm not sure if that will be enough to shut down my brain tonight.

I also have ativan, but used it the past two nights and I don't want it to become a habitual thing - I get rebound anxiety if I take it for too long, plus someone I know is addicted to benzos. Trazodone gave me nightmares.

I'd like to exercise, since that's the best tool for helping me sleep. But I'm just recovering from a cold and am not sure how much I can do (plus it's getting late).

I was considering meditation, but I'm a beginner and have a hard time clearing my mind even on the good days.

I'd love to hear some good advice from anybody and everybody. Bonus points if you're anxiety-prone and have methods of falling asleep even during high-stress situations. Thanks.
posted by BuddyBoo to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Epsom salts bath.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 4:38 PM on May 25, 2015

I am anxiety-prone and a lifelong insomniac. In this situation, I would try: put some cold compresses on your eyes if you've been crying (when I cry, my eyes get all itchy and swollen. A cold washcloth will work), then take a nice warm shower or bath. Put on your most comfortable pajamas. Pull up a breathing/relaxation video on Youtube. Do it for two minutes. Just take in breaths for five seconds, let out breaths for five seconds. Look at the timer on the video. If you want to stop after two minutes, stop. If you want to keep going, keep going. Pull up an episode of a tv show or a movie that is mildly funny or that you've seen SO MANY TIMES that it's calming. Watch that for awhile. Maybe do two more minutes of deep breathing. Drink a glass of water.

Try to go to bed at your normal time. If you can't fall asleep, go back to the movie/breathing video. (I know a lot of people say don't watch tv if you can't sleep, but the low sound of the tv is distracting enough for me to help me sleep.)

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by Aquifer at 4:44 PM on May 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

Distraction distraction distraction. Try reading a book (preferably not a sad one) in bed, and read until you get sleepy. You may want to turn the clock around to face the wall, so that you don't stress yourself out. If you are too upset to read, take some time to think about what you would like to say to the loved one, and even write it down (but don't send it, for now). Then read. Good luck
posted by leslievictoria at 4:46 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you're right that exercise would help - and it doesn't have to be anything vigorous. Could you go for an evening stroll while listening to a cheery podcast, or to music?
posted by HoraceH at 4:55 PM on May 25, 2015

I only only do this when nothing else works, but my last resort when nothing else is working is to fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV on purpose. What works best for me are slowish paced TV dramas that I like OK but have seen before, so I'm sufficiently distracted but not compelled to stay awake to see how they end. Also they have to be in English, or else I keep opening my eyes back up to see the subtitles. Podcasts also work.

It's not a healthy habit, and the sleep you get that way is suboptimal, but it's better than no sleep at all. Try everything else first, but if you find yourself lying there wide awake fulminating and fretting, maybe give that a shot.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

You might find this breathing technique, the 4-7-8 Breath, helpful. A mixture of mindfulness and physiological cues for your body to fall asleep.
posted by goggie at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Apparently the only way to get my favorite PM Yoga (Gaiam's video with Rodney Yee) is to pay kind of too much for it to rent/buy from youtube or the Gaiam site, so if you don't mind paying I highly recommend it. It's real gentle, and shouldn't be a problem post-cold except maybe some dripping, so keep the tissues close.

Alternately, if you're at all responsive to ASMR, find an ASMR video on youtube and listen to that.

When I am all emotionally strung out, I take a B-complex vitamin and a magnesium supplement (I am not at all woo, contrary to what this entire post sounds like so far, but all recommendations above help to relax muscles and/or help with lactic acid buildup in muscles causing soreness, which'll happen when you're super tense).

Fresh sheets if you can. A little extra water before bedtime just to hydrate. Hot shower, carb+fat snack before bed (PB+crackers, cheese+crackers, cream cheese toast, etc).
posted by Lyn Never at 4:59 PM on May 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

The playlist I made after this Askme is absolute magic, and still works for me 4years later. Even if I don't fall right asleep, it's soothing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:01 PM on May 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Seconding ASMR videos - even the ones that don't trigger my ASMR are super relaxing. I also like a lot of what comes up when you search YouTube for "guided meditation" or "meditation for sleep" (I also have a hard time clearing my mind, but the videos seem to help me with that).
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:07 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have GAD and I like a nice cup of tea, green tea has some relaxing properties. I also use lavender spray.

I love watching cooking shows, relaxing ones, or even ASMR videos. Basically, anything where someone is doing something and you can just watch.

It's not going to help you now, but I take hydroxyzine, which, unlike most antihistamines, crosses the blood brain barrier and actually does help with anxiety.

Barring that, why not take a pill and watch some of those relaxing videos, with your feet up? I used to take Xanax and etc. and it's not the end of the world to get yourself right after a stressful day (after 3 days? What? You are not your friends, okay?). We all have our tipping points, and you have had a hard time lately. Why not just chill out for a while and give yourself a break?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:15 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sometimes, for me, it's less stressful to just admit that I'm not likely to sleep - and to just aim for the quietest, most restful night possible. Do your normal bedtime routine. And then do something really low-key. That might mean listening to some music, in bed, for the evening. It might mean curling up with a book. If you normally take meds, definitely take them. A small, warm beverage (not one that will make you have to get up 12 times to pee during the night). If you're worried that you'll just lie there and ruminate about the fight, it might be helpful to write some stuff down - point form - just to get it out of your head.
posted by VioletU at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I read somewhere (maybe here on Metafilter?) about someone whose tool for inducing exhaustion was to spend a lot of time standing on one leg. I tried it recently when I was feeling wired one evening, and it did seem to help tucker me out enough that I fell asleep quickly.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:18 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nthing falling asleep in front of the tv on purpose. For me a stand-up comedy I've seen a few times works pretty well. The comedy keeps dark thoughts at bay, but since there isn't a plot and I've seen it before it usually puts me out.

I've also used old sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and the Andy Griffith show.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:21 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and basically any audiobook or podcast will knock me out if I try to listen while lying down. Adjust dullness level as needed.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:23 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another fan of already-seen tv. I watch sitcoms I've already seen when I'm stressed and can't fall asleep.

You can also try managing the anxiety by allowing yourself 10 minutes to think about the fight. Set a timer. Once it is done, remind yourself that you don't have to figure it out right now. In fact, psychological studies show that we tend to solve complicated problems when we are not focusing on them. So let the thoughts go and trust that your perspective on the event will improve with time. Tell yourself you are allowed to think about the fight again tomorrow and move to a relaxing activity.

Note: distracted mediation is better than no meditation.
posted by Milau at 6:32 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spend a short time trying to forgive the person, seeing their viewpoint, remembering their good qualities, sending them love. Forgive yourself, too, if needed. Spend a little time finding things to be grateful for.

Law & Order is good to fall asleep to, esp. old ones. You really know how it will go, it occupies your brain enough to keep it from churning, and then you fall asleep. So, shower or bath, meds, fluff the sheets, and pull up the laptop , turn down the brightness and volume, and hey, look, Jerry Ohrbach in his natty trench coat, and zzzzzzz.
posted by theora55 at 6:50 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sometimes anxiety makes it hard to make good, informed decisions about whether or not to take your anti-anxiety medication, and sometimes the reasons we think of for not taking the medication are themselves symptoms of anxiety.

In other words, if you are feeling anxious, and if you would be taking the medication in keeping with your doctor's instructions, then taking it is probably the smart option.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:51 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

The "Sleep With Me" podcast is pretty much built for bedtimes like this.

Each episode is about an hour long, and features a guy with a very sleepy-soothing voice tells a story that basically starts out a little bit boring and gets totally freaking boring.
So your racing mind has juuuuust enough story to pay attention to, but it's never interesting enough to actually keep you awake.

It's the only thing that puts me to sleep when I'm having high anxiety nights. Good luck.
posted by waterisfinite at 6:57 PM on May 25, 2015 [10 favorites]

running when i'm in an anxious state helps take the physical effects of anxiety. if you're the type that gets tired after strenuous exercise, this might help in getting to sleep (but it might keep you wired if you're not the type)

also, the 4-7-8 breathing technique slows down your breathing to the pace that approximates your breathing during sleep. it helps if you're feeling anxious and want to sleep.

for the long term: you might want to keep in mind an SSRI to manage anxiety induced insomnia. it's something i suffer from and zoloft helped a great deal.
posted by kinoeye at 7:00 PM on May 25, 2015

Chamomile tea or 500 MG of calcium.
posted by brujita at 7:01 PM on May 25, 2015

The Pzizz app works great for me.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:25 PM on May 25, 2015

Despite the terrible name, I love the Buddhify 2 app for meditation. It has a wheel of situations you can choose from, including trying to fall asleep and struggling with emotions. It's calming and doesn't feel too twee to me.
posted by wintersweet at 8:09 PM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

For anxiety, I give myself five minutes to sit down and make a list of what I'm anxious about to address the next day. For some reason, the act of writing it down helps release me from the stress of rehearsing/anticipating whatever happens next.

For when I can't sleep: Sponge bath, Murder She Wrote, chamomile tea, and lavender balm. Deep breaths. So soothing.
posted by mochapickle at 8:20 PM on May 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sometimes I use melatonin, an all natural sleep inducer, when I can't sleep (when I am jet lagged or have an important test the next day). I would not rely on this consistently, though - I try to limit it to once a month or in emergency situations, but works like a charm and helps me get more sleep.
posted by pando11 at 9:11 PM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

For me, an anxiety prone troubled sleeper, two things not mentioned so far that help:

1. Swimming, noticeably more than other types of exercise (Apparently this is true for many people and no one is sure why.)

2. Listening and responding to Pimsleur language lessons in bed in the dark (Given the active nature of responding to the recording, this might seem a bit counterintuitive, however doing it, at least for me, can induce the same focused yet relaxed state occasionally reached by meditating.)
posted by pickles_have_souls at 9:32 PM on May 25, 2015

Since everyone else in this thread has the responsible-adult options covered: alcohol.

(Note: this is assuming you don't have any benzos in your system, of course!)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:20 PM on May 25, 2015

I'm a little late, but you could skip the melatonin/benadryl cocktail and just take some straight-up Zzzquil or Tylenol PM for one night. The dose is two tablespoons/two pills but I find one is enough. More and you just get groggy in the morning.

When my mind is racing, I like to put on an episode or playlist of Parks & Recreation or The Office on loud enough so I can hear it and listen to it, but not so loud that once I start to fall asleep it will wake me up. I find it helps to focus on the show so I don't have to think about whatever is stressing me out/upsetting me. I always use an episode I've seen several times and know well, so following along with my eyes closed is easy.

Also: alcohol makes people drowsy, but results in a less deep, less satisfying sleep. It's also much easier to wake up in the middle of the night. Not recommended.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:45 PM on May 25, 2015

I've been using the Muji To Relax app during some pre-sleep anxiety and it has been amazing. I just focus on the sound of a crackling fire and for some reason it totally knocks me out. There are a bunch of different sounds to listen to, too, if campfire isn't your thing.
posted by thebots at 11:06 PM on May 25, 2015

Alcohol also mixes badly with some cold meds (not recommended with anything including Tylenol/acetaminophen).

I'd be exercising as much as I could, or trying to cry it out. Feels good to sleep afterward.
posted by Lady Li at 11:20 PM on May 25, 2015

When I can't sleep, I make some ginger tea and add in some honey, lemon, or lime or even a dash of rum if I feel like it.

If I'm really feeling down I like going through Youtube and watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway.

I also keep a journal of things that bother me. They're mostly long-winded ramblings, but it's good to just get them out of my head. I also prefer writing by hand rather than typing. When I've got a lot of thoughts racing in my head, I feel overwhelmed when I start typing and I just start hitting up backspace and delete and I end up with a blank document. At least when I write with a pen, I can start with something and just go on and on and just write and scribble away with the pen (which does have a therapeutic effect on me). Then, I just shift to a new topic when I hit a new paragraph or the next page. Besides, writing with a pen will tire my wrist out eventually and I'd think that going to bed is a good idea.
posted by Carmine Red at 12:06 AM on May 26, 2015

I have anxiety-related insomnia, and AD/HD so there have been quite a few nights where my mind is racing around in circles and not letting me sleep, so I've totally been there and here's my experience:

First, agreeing with the recommendation to accept that this might be a bad night for sleeping, to get what rest you can, and recognize that that's ok rather than stewing over that, too.

Other stuff: I also love exercise for burning off mental energy before bed, even just a few jumping jacks and push-ups, and if you're on the downslope of a cold it might feel rough but you probably aren't going to hurt yourself (I had a running coach who insisted on our training while coming off a cold; we hated it but it didn't prolong the sickness (supposedly)). Chamomile tea is wonderful for me, but meditation keeps me awake. I also have good experience with putting the TV on the weather channel or something, volume down low, and deliberately sleeping on the couch.

There's another technique I discovered by accident for dealing with emotional disturbances that I call "pyramid diving" (after Maslow's hierarchy of needs)—basically, I make myself uncomfortable on a physical level, let it really sink in, then switch to comfort and make myself feel all nice and comfy. (The original incident, I was furious and frustrated about something, and went for a bike ride. The weather turned cold and rainy and I wasn't dressed for it so I was feeling cold and damp and miserable right when I realized I had forgotten to eat and was getting really hungry. So coming back home it was a hot shower, dry comfy pajamas, and comfort food. Which is always nice anyway but I realized how much better I felt mentally after that.)
posted by traveler_ at 12:38 AM on May 26, 2015

Seconding the Sleep With Me Podcast. I have terrible insomnia. I discovered this when someone mentioned it in a previous Askme, and it's literally the only thing that helps me fall asleep on those nights when my brain won't shut down. I'm usually conked out before the thank-you portion is over.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:03 AM on May 26, 2015

The over-the-counter (in the U.S.) sleep medication doxylamine is actually more effective and faster-acting for me than my controlled-substance prescription sleep meds—more effective to the point that it usually makes me sleep for 12 hours or so and then feel tired for the entire next day, but when you really want some oblivion...
posted by XMLicious at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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