It happens – there are nights when our brains just don’t let us have that sweet, and deep sleep. We toss and turn on our beds with busy thoughts including, of course, that embarrassing moment we had in high school. Before we know it, the sun has already set and we have to begin a new, restless day.
A blabbering mind can be a sign of some serious mental problem like anxiety. However, sleepless nights happen to everyone, every once in a while. Now that we’re too old for bedtime stories, consulting experts is probably the best way to go.
So we’ve gathered eight tips from experts that can put an end to our late-night racing thoughts. Besides, these suggestions can be a good read when you find yourself wide awake, staring at the ceiling at past three.
Think about meaningless lists
“The absolute prerequisite for sleep is a quiet mind. Think of something else, rather than what’s worrying you — something with a story to it. It can be anything of interest, but of no importance, so you can devote some brain energy to it without clashing into the real world and going straight back to your worries.
I fly a lot, so I imagine I have my own private jet and how would I arrange the furniture on it. If you’re someone who likes going to music festivals, what would your lineup be?” – Neil Stanley, a sleep expert.
Tell yourself to remain awake
“Thinking about sleep and wishing for it to happen is a recipe for staying awake. This is where paradoxical thinking comes in. If you give yourself the paradoxical instruction to stay awake instead, you’ll be more likely to fall asleep.
If you can be comfortable with the idea of remaining awake, then the performance anxiety and frustration that are associated with trying to sleep have nowhere to go and your arousal level drops.” – Colin Espie, University of Oxford’s professor of sleep medicine.
Get up and off the bed
“If 20 minutes has gone by as the mind races and is unable to relax back to sleep, it’s best to get out of bed. Without looking at your phone or any other screen devices, go to another dimly lit room where you keep a notebook. Write down the thoughts that are keeping you awake.
Finish with the words, ‘It can wait until tomorrow.’ Then, go back to bed, focus on the breath, and mindfully relax into those words, giving yourself permission to yield to sleep.” – Jenni June, sleep expert consultant
Write down your worries
“Spend a maximum of 20 minutes just getting everything out of your head and onto paper every day. It’s a therapeutic way to see that you probably don’t have loads to worry about, rather just a few reoccurring things. You can then see which worries are hypothetical (i.e., what if I make a mistake at work and lose my job) or ‘real’ worries (e.g., I made a mistake and have lost my job).
For the real worries you can then make an action plan/problem-solve and for the hypothetical ones, learn to let them go.” –Kathryn Pinkham, insomnia specialist at National Health Services
Perform breathing exercises
“Deep breathing … acts as a powerful distraction technique, particularly if paired with counting. You want to aim to breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and pause after breathing in and out; so you might choose to count for three when you breathe in, then pause and count to five when you breathe out, then pause.
Really focus on your breathing and counting, and if your mind wanders off, just take note of that and return your attention to the exercise. You may need to do this for ten minutes or so.” – Christabel Majendie, sleep therapy expert
Don’t try too hard
“Try not to struggle or ‘try harder’ to overcome the sleeplessness or get rid of unwanted thoughts, as this can worsen insomnia. One successful approach to overcome this negative cycle is to instead learn to observe and accept these struggles, using mindfulness strategies to help.” – Jenny Stephenson, director of HappySleepers
Get more sunlight during the day
“Getting more sun exposure in the midmorning can help readjust the brain’s internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep later that night. In my book, I write about how sun exposure is now a key part of many professional athletes’ travel schedules, and seen as a way of preventing jet lag. Non-athletes can do similar things.
Someone who can’t seem to fall asleep at night may want to try getting as much exposure to natural light in the morning, essentially prepping themselves to fall asleep when they want to.” – Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep author, David K. Randall
Go far and beyond
If all aforementioned tips fail, you can always go the extra mile. Even since the early modern Europe era, experts have been seeking for ways to attain marvelous eves of slumber. Some of them are the following from Benjamin Reiss’ book, Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World.
- From 16th-century French physician André du Laurens: Grab a few bloodsucking leeches, and place them behind your ears. When the leeches bore holes in the skin, pull them out and put a grain of opium in the holes.
- From 16th-century French surgeon Ambroise Paré: Kill a sheep, and press its lungs on one side of the head. Keep the head pressing in place as long as the lungs remain warm.
- From 15th-century philosopher Marsilio Ficino: After dinner, eat lettuce and drink wine. Then, rub an ointment made of violets or camphor on the temples. Dilute a few seeds of poppy, seeds of lettuce, balsam, saffron, sugar, and cook them in poppy juice. Lie in bed while listening to relaxing music, and cover yourself with leaves of cool and fresh plants.