A good night’s sleep is essential to a productive and enjoyable day. Yet to those with overactive minds and imaginations, it can be difficult to achieve.
All my life I have struggled to fall asleep. Even as a kid, without a worry in the world, I would toss and turn endlessly. As I grew older, it got worse and worse. I’d pull all-nighters without wanting to, and then sleep during the day. This hurt my productivity, my relationships, and my psychology.
After years of living this way, I grew desperate. I decided I would try anything, do anything to achieve a full, restful sleep every night.
And I eventually succeeded.
On my journey to consistent, easy sleeping, I bought and tested countless products and methodologies — some of them good, some of them bad.
Here I lay them all out for you. I don’t want anyone else to waste their money or their time the way I had to.
f.lux is a free computer app that changes the lighting and coloration of your screen in accordance with the position of the sun in the sky. It uses your location to track when the Sun will set, and lowers the brightness and harsh colors of your computer screen in accordance.
Why is this so helpful for sleep? Because all computer screens emit harsh Blue Light. This Blue Light slows and decreases the production of Melatonin in your brain, the primary hormone that facilitates sleep.
Without Melatonin, your brain can’t fall asleep. That’s why, after a long day or night of work in front of a computer screen, your eyes feel burned, and your mind tense and restless. This light makes it near impossible to become relaxed enough to go to sleep. Which leads to my next point:
2) Melatonin (The Supplement)
Sold over the counter at most drug stores, in pill form, melatonin is not like the other sleep aids, as it’s totally non-addictive, and, as mentioned in the point above, naturally occurring. It cannot be used as a sedative, but what it can do is restore your sleep cycle to a healthier rhythm.
You should take 3-5 mg of Melatonin about an hour before you want to fall sleep. Do this for a week, and then stop taking it. Only resume taking it if your sleep schedule still hasn’t been corrected.
3) Sleep “Talk Downs”
All over the internet you’ll find free, well-produced sleep ‘talk downs’. These are basically videos or audio tracks that feature a soothing voice calming you down, and influencing you into a deep, natural sleep.
Some contain background noise, including the pitter patter of rain, the light chirping in a forest, or the churn of the ocean. Then there are other tracks and videos featuring a solitary voice, or music alone.
There’s also a huge selection of free and relaxing music online, designed for the specific purpose of helping people fall asleep.
Yet there’s a caveat here. In order for these talk downs to work, you have to let them work. Don’t think about them being weird or uncommon. Insomniacs can’t be choosers.
4) Sleep Teas
These teas are the bomb. They usually contain a blend of Chamomile and Spearmint, two herbs that help lull you into a restful, sleepy state.
It’s long been known that the act of brewing itself is partially what helps in falling asleep. Creating a nightly ritual that preps you mentally and tells your brain “I’m getting ready to go to sleep now,” aids tremendously in unwinding from the stimulated, stressed mindsets of the day, to the calm and restful state of mind we need to precede sleep.
There are many brands of sleepy time teas. Most are roughly the same blend of Chamomile and Mint. Chamomile in particular has been used for centuries for all sorts of ailments, from eczema to insomnia. Believe it or not, just the smell of the tea alone can help.
Combined with the chemical properties, and the brewing of the tea itself, you may just be nodding off into your mug before you’re done.
5) Sleep Meditations
Out of the thousands of different meditation practices out there, I’ve selected the ones that are most helpful with falling asleep quickly and easily.
Basically, meditation is a way of training your brain to calm down. And if you can calm your brain down at will, you will be an insomniac no more.
These meditations can give you results the very first night you practice them, but it’s better if you do one of these meditations every day.
Here are a few, as follows:
Body Scan Meditation
Take ten deep breaths, smoothly and slowly exhaling all the way in and all the way out.
Bring your attention to your body, starting with your toes.
Feel for any discomfort or tension in your toes. Give them a steady flex for a moment, and then let them relax completely. Go through your entire body in this manner, until eventually reaching your head.
Once you’ve reached your head, allow your mind itself to relax, and release the tension it’s carried all day. If you can’t do this at first, it’s alright. Simply do your best, and go through and relax your body again. Slowly, your mental state will conform to your physical one.
Deep Breathing Meditation
Take deep, smooth breaths. Fill and empty your lungs completely with each one.
After a few of these breaths, begin to imagine the breath as a color.
Picture in your mind this color flowing in and out of you with the breath. Continue this visualization until your mind feels relaxed and calm.
Feel free to play relaxing music softly in the background, such as the tracks suggested in the Sleep Talk Down section. The youtube channels I’ve listed also have countless guided meditations for relaxation.
Stress Visualization Meditation
Start by breathing deeply in and out, observing your breath.
Visualize all your stress and tension as a small point of dark energy in your body.
Close your eyes and visualize each inhalation as golden light filling your body, and each exhalation as your body pushing out more and more pieces of that stressful energy ball.
Continue breathing and visualizing until all the stress is drained out of your body, and you feel relaxed and calm.
The ‘Nothing’ Meditation
Lay on your bed with your eyes closed.
Let your mind wander. Let it think whatever it wants and meander and fantasize and float around. Don’t judge yourself.
Give yourself this time to do absolutely nothing. Simply carrying out this break from everything will help you relax and understand how your mind rushes around, and how badly it needs a rest every once in a while. Let this be that rest.
Completely unstructured, unstimulated, relaxation time.
6) Meal Timing
This is a simple concept, but if you mess up this aspect of your sleep cycle, it’s likely the other tools won’t work. Eat immediately at the time you want to be eating in your optimal sleep schedule.
Do this no matter what. Eat dinner at a reasonable time, and do not indulge in late night snacks or meals. If you eat late at night, you’re training your body to expect that meal, and if your body expects that meal, it’s not going to want to go to sleep.
You should use your meals as the boundaries for your active, stressed, and completely awake mind. After dinner — which should be eaten no less than two hours before sleeping time — you should begin the winding down process. This nightly ‘getting ready for bed’ ritual is how you become a person who can fall asleep every night, easily, without fail.
All the insomniacs I’ve met don’t prepare for sleep, because they don’t expect it. And they don’t expect it because they don’t prepare!
You can stop this vicious cycle with all the tools I’ve shared in this post, but you must put them all together. The act of putting them together is the final, ultimate tool for curing insomnia. I call this:
7) Your Nightly Ritual
Here I will give the optimal night time ritual of someone who has understands these tools through their use, and is ready to go to sleep.
For this example, the desired sleep time is 10:00 Pm.
7:00 – Eat a large, hardy dinner.
7:45 – Meditate with any of the given methods for fifteen minutes.
8:00 – Take any and all sleep supplements such as Tryptophan, Magnesium, or Melatonin. Past this time you should not be in front of a screen unless its at the dimmest level on F.lux.
8:10 – Read, listen to calming music, a podcast, or the radio. Do not engage in highly stimulating, bright light entertainment. You should also not engage in strenuous exercise.
9:00 – Prepare yourself a cup of Sleep Tea. Do not do so franticly, or hurriedly. Do it as a relaxing ritual. Do not drink the tea too fast, or too hot. Enjoy it slowly.
9:20 – Put on your sleep mask or lay down in your bed in a pitch black and quiet room. Listen to a guided sleep talk down in the most physically comfortable way possible, and at the lowest understandable volume.
10:00 – You should fall asleep around this time. If you are not asleep or close to asleep by 10:45, get out of bed. Go into another room and resume the relaxing activity you were doing at 8:10. Engage in this activity until you do begin to feel drowsy. Then go back to bed, and enjoy a restful sleep.
7:00 am – Arise to your Wake up light, and enjoy this smooth, agony free, rise from sleep.
If you use all or most of these tools together, your life will change.
There is no excuse.
These things are out there, and they are all either free, or quite cheap. Use them to your advantage.
I wasted too many years searching for these solutions. Please use them. I don’t want to see another bag under an eye for as long as I live.