If you know me or have followed me for a while you probably know that I struggle to sleep, a lot. (Blog post: sleepless nights) Because I struggle so much to sleep, I’ve tried out a lot of different methods to help me sleep. Some worked for a while and then stopped working and I’m grateful for the times that they helped. This is a list of things that helped me fall asleep, not stay asleep. There is a big difference between the two, and if you struggle to stay asleep like I do, these might not help you. However, it’s always worth a try, right?
1. Go to sleep at the same time every night
A lot of people will advise you to do this if you struggle to sleep and when I was around 12-14 years old this really helped me. I picked it up again when I was 18-20 and for a while, it made sleeping easier. If you have a certain rhythm, your body will follow suit and know when you should sleep. Once you’ve gone to bed at the same time every night (successfully), all you’ll have to do is keep this up, as you’ll start feeling tired automatically around that time.
If your bedtime has slipped way past normal times (so like past the middle of the night/2 AM, 4 AM, etc.) set your alarm clock for say 7 or 8 AM in the morning, every morning. Yes, you will feel absolutely drained after the first few nights, since you’ll only be getting 4 hours of sleep, but after a few days, your time clock is likely to rest itself.
2. Stay up until you start feeling so tired that once you hit the bed you’ll have to fall asleep
A bit contradictory to the previous point, but it can work really well. However, this won’t work if you never get tired or don’t have that feeling that tells you to go to sleep. But for a long time, I did get this feeling and I knew that it would come eventually every night. Rather than subjecting myself to a certain time, then lying in bed unable to sleep because it was too early, I would simply stay productive and do stuff on my computer until the tired feeling hit. As soon as it hit I closed my computer and went to bed where I’d fall asleep almost instantly. However, beware! If you ignore the ‘tired’ feeling, you won’t be able to simply fall asleep when you finally do go to bed. Listen to your body, it helps!
3. Do, or do not use phones/tablets/computers before sleep?
One of the most common advice given in relation to sleep is to stop using computers, tablets and phones for at least an hour before you go to bed. The light on the screens is bad for you, etc. etc. But let’s be honest, how many of us are actually able to put their devices aside an hour before going to bed? (Yes, we all might be a bit addicted.) Instead, download a blue light filter for your phone, tablet and computer. It’s probably the best next thing you can do, other than not using your devices.
Additionally, I am not convinced that not using these devices will help everyone. My thoughts continue whether I use these devices or not. And it’s more about what you’re doing – don’t join some late night Twitter discussion of some sorts – don’t have a late night argument on Whatsapp. Use your device to say, read, instead. Or listen to some podcast, music or watch a relaxing show. If you use your phone, use it to get yourself in a relaxed state of mind.
4. Dream yourself into sleep / Imagine / Visualise
Dream yourself into sleep. We all have things we dream of, right? Picture that, imagine yourself in, well, Hogwarts or wherever. Pretend that you’re walking through the castle’s halls and think up an adventure. Chances are that you’ll be asleep when you’re only at the start of your imagined adventure. (That is, if you truly manage to imagine and feel it.) If it doesn’t work immediately, just keep on going. It’s much more fun to be caught up in your own invented adventure while awake than to simply stare at your ceiling, right?
If I have a good night of sleep, it is more likely to happen on a day when I’ve played a football match. Exercise is proven to stimulate good sleep at night and for a considerable amount of time, my sleep would be better on a day on which I’d exercised. That is to say if I had gone for a run, training or indeed played a football match. Nowadays, these activities don’t seem to exhaust me enough, but I am still more likely to sleep well on these days compared to non-exercising days.
6. Sleep on the other side of your bed
Move your pillow to where your feet usually are. If you have a double bed, sleep on the right side instead of the left. I don’t know why but I swear, this trick works like magic sometimes. In fact, this trick still works for me! I only use it when I’m really desperate and while it does not solve bad sleep, it helps that extra little bit.
7. Get up/do something if you really can’t sleep
If you really can’t sleep, don’t keep lying there, turning and staring at your ceiling. Get up and do something or read the next chapter in your book. Sometimes I’d open Panopto and watch a lecture… sometimes they are truly boring enough to literally fall asleep! Another thing that helps is telling yourself that you need to make it to the end of the lecture recording, or a podcast, a show or a chapter. You’re not thinking about needing to sleep when you do this, so naturally, if you’re tired, you’ll simply fall asleep before you do reach the end of a recording/chapter.
8. Try to keep your eyes open
Similar to the point mentioned above, tell yourself to stay awake and to keep your eyes open. This doesn’t always work for me, but on the rare occasion it does. If you are really tired and focus on staying awake you’ll fall asleep. Which brings me to another point: don’t think about having to sleep!
9. Listen to music or an audiobook
If your thoughts are keeping you up, try and take your mind’s attention elsewhere. This is why some people will be able to fall asleep while watching television. Listening to (calm) music can also help, or an audiobook. As a child, I listened to the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings audiobooks and since they can keep going for hours, you are basically guaranteed to drift off before you finish the book.
Other things you could try that have helped other people:
- Sleeping tea
- Melatonin supplements (Read about what they are and how they work.)
- Dodow (A lamp that will project a blue circle on your ceiling to help align your breathing which should help you fall sleep.)
Do you struggle to fall asleep at night? Do you have any tips that help you? Share them below!