We've all been there. It's two in the morning, you have to be at work the next day and you just cannot fall asleep. You've tried the warm milk, dark room, sniffed some lavender and nothing. It's the middle of the night so it's too late to buy a special pillow or change your daily routine.
So, here you are, doing exactly what all the magazine articles tell you not to do. You're on the internet looking for some new ideas. Here they are. They are a little unorthodox but they work for me. Give them a whirl and see which one gets you slumbering:
Scream: Really angry? Upset about something that happened today? If you're struggling to let something go you can try screaming it out. I know what you're thinking. I'll wake my partner/child/neighbours. This is how you don't. Ball up your fists. Open your mouth and scream silently for as long as you like. Don't let any noise out but feel free to fall to your knees in the bathroom and shake your fists at the ceiling. It is surprisingly effective.
Match Breathing: This only really works if you have a partner in the bed with you. As having someone slumbering beside you is normally extremely annoying when you can't sleep it's nice to be able to put them to some use. Lie as close as you need to be to hear them breathing. Concentrate on trying to copy their breathing. In and out. Slower and slower till you are in tune with the sleeping one's breathing. Great for people who struggle to meditate.
Give Your Brain Something to do: Often when you can't sleep it's because thoughts are going round and round your head. Phrases that torture you and images that suck you back awake just as you were turning the corner. It's all very well being advised to lie still and keep your mind quiet, but sometimes it just will not shut up. Occupying your brain can help. I like to visualise it as giving the dog a bone to chew. Maybe if you do that it will stop gnawing on the doormat. I'm not going to insult you by suggesting reading. If you're here I'm guessing you've already tried that. Also, reading keeps me awake. It is too exciting. I'm pretty sure my childhood insomnia was caused by too much of that good stuff. Here are some different suggestions:
- Boring Games: I disobey the regular no-screens-sleep-hygiene advice. I play Sudoku on my phone. I'm rubbish at it and I hate it. If you love Sudoku this probably won't work. Find something that is tedious for you. Try online chess, crosswords, solitaire, patience, anagrams, minesweeper, logic problems and nonograms. If you start enjoying one too much, stop. Go back and find something worse.
- Fill Your Ears: Some people find it helpful to drown out the voices in their head. Find some headphones and try listening to something. Could be a comforting classical piece or an angry heavy metal rage. This can also be useful if there is an annoying noise keeping you awake and you don't have earplugs. A guy I knew years ago was stuck in a tent while hiking in Poland. Wolves kept howling outside and filling him with a primal fear. The only thing that worked was playing his walkman (I told you it was years ago) on full volume until he fell asleep. A dull audio book might work for some people, but remember, reading can be too exciting. An autobiography read by someone comforting might just do the trick.
- Build Something in Your Mind: My husband swears by this. He says when he can't sleep he builds a wall in his head. Using imaginary bricks. I'm not a 3D thinker so this doesn't work for me. He says he couldn't build a house. Too exciting. A wall or a chimney is his recommendation.
- Overdose on Cute and Funny: Sometimes you can't sleep because you're deeply unhappy at work, over-thinking the future or worrying about how to pay off all that debt. Give yourself a holiday from all the worry and allow yourself to look at something frivolous. Really. Searching for a solution to your money problems in the middle of the night will not help you sleep. Find some lolcats or silly humour to tell your brain it can stop looking for the answer right now. Gentle tends to be better and stay clear of the comment pages.
- Tell Yourself a Story: This is one of my favourites. Lie down, close your eyes and imagine yourself a story. Whatever you want. It could be silly or steamy, serious or weird. I have my own theory that it helps your brain understand it's time for the dreamworld. I like to feature characters from novels or TV shows I love. Can't think of anything? Use a story you already know. Sometimes I try to remember the scenes and lines of my favourite film from the opening credits onwards. I've never got beyond the first quarter.
I really hope one of the above work for you. You have my sympathy. Not being able to sleep is not fun.