Five Things To Try When You Can't Sleep

Facebook is wonderful for keeping in touch but I’ve noticed that quite a few of my friends tend to use it to tell the world that they can’t sleep. Here’s some advice for you if you find yourself unable to sleep one night. I’ve often had to try these out myself! Note that these are just things that work for me and your mileage may vary, particularly if you are fortunate enough to have a partner next to you! You may need to appease them if you wriggle around too much.

  1. Plan to be awake for a reasonable time yet. This may seem like a stupid and defeatist “thing to do” and certainly not the sort of thing to put as number one on the list. Think about it though, there will be a reason why you are awake: you are worried about something, or are excited about something, you have indigestion, or you otherwise have some sort of reason why you are not headed to the land of nod. You are going to have to distract yourself, tire yourself or prove to yourself in some other way that you really need to sleep. As with anything, it is best to put in the hours if you are serious. If you are sleeping with a partner, extricate yourself and head somewhere comfortable where you won’t disturb them.

  2. Listen to some music you know really well. This is usually my first resort because then I can turn the light back off. By “some music you know really well” I mean something that you have loved for ages and you know inside out, so that you can predict the words or chords or samples or beats that are coming next. Sometimes you can just kick back and be asleep again before you know it. Meanwhile, if your playlist choice is something you really enjoy, you can at least make being kept awake a little nicer for yourself. Of course, this doesn’t really work if you have a partner who might be disturbed by noise leakage or who expects details next morning of what they talked about in their sleep.

  3. Do a jigsaw puzzle. I must admit that I have never done this but I have boosted it up the list a bit because I certainly intend to do it in future. I even rescued a jigsaw from my parents’ house in order to have one at hand! The idea is that the simple problem solving activity will relax and tire you in equal measure and leave you ready to sleep after a little while. Of course, you should heed the piece of advice from higher up the list and prepare to take a little while over it. That said, it shouldn’t be too taxing. If it’s too cold or there’s some other reason you can’t get out of bed (those first sleepless nights with your leg in a cast for example), you could try to do a reasonably hard su doku as an alternative.

  4. Grab a pen and paper and work out what is bothering you. The reason this isn’t higher up the list is that I used to do this a lot and it can help sometimes if you haven’t had a wide awake night in quite a while. However, there are only so many times you can write out lists of things that trouble you or intricately planned out itineraries for the day ahead. That said, if you are going to write a list of things that bother you, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, you are going to need to come up with solutions to the problems that you identify. Well, you are if you want to get some sleep anyway. The solutions you come up with don’t have to be the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything, just some point of movement that you can make tomorrow. If you’re stuck on something at work, think of who you will ask for help and so on.

Meanwhile, sometimes you can just be too worried about there not being time to do things when the morning comes. In this situation it is probably best to make a plan for how the morning will go, just something between best and worse case scenario, just so that you can convince yourself that it can be done. I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of things that have to be done so I find that a mental run through is of great use.

Of course, even if you are not worried, excited or overwhelmed, the pen and paper can be a great ally. Perhaps there are just thoughts worming in and out of your head and you just need to do something other than lie there, perhaps the jigsaw, the iPod and the su doku are not an option. Then doodling and sketching and outlining imagined pieces of dialogue are a great way to settle yourself down.

  1. Get up and eat something. You heard me. And this is no time for rabbit food either, get going on that comfort food. My preference is for toast with lashings of butter and honey, though something simple like a raspberry yogurt is also good on a hot night. I also find that instant coffee sometimes works if you want to try out-psyching the body that is determined to keep you awake.

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