Art by Ryoko Nagara
We've all been there. You have to get up early so you go to bed in time, only to toss and turn for hours. It sucks, especially if you already got in bed later than planned. I have a chronic shortage of melatonin, which is a substance your brain makes to help you fall asleep, and despite taking melatonin pills, I still often struggle to fall asleep. And that's exactly why I came up with this post.
1. Don't force yourself.
One thing I've learned from not being able to sleep is that forcing yourself will only make it worse. If you try too hard to make yourself fall asleep, you won't be relaxed. Also if you keep thinking "I can't sleep" then you won't be able to sleep. Instead, tell yourself "It's okay that I can't sleep." because it is. If you can't sleep then the worst thing that's gonna happen is you being tired in the morning. You'll survive. Something my mother always told me is that if you just close your eyes and relax you will rest as well. That thought always makes me feel a bit better.
2. Go for a short walk.
I found that sometimes it helps if I just get up and go to the bathroom to pee, or go to the balcony to watch the stars for a few minutes. Just getting out of your bed for a short moment can help you falling asleep. Or at least it helped me.
When I can't sleep I often go read. Reading requires me to focus, and that tires me. As soon as I notice that I'm having trouble to remember what I just read, I know that it's time for me to try and sleep again. That, or when my eyes are getting heavy. If you don't like reading you can draw, or do something else that doesn't require a screen (as in phone, laptop, etc). It's best to stay away from electronic devices when you're trying to sleep.
4. Don't look at the clock.
This is a mistake I made a lot when I was younger. I would look at the clock and panic because of the time. I would be like "Oh my god, it's 2.14am, I only have five more hours to sleep!". Things like that make your stressed, and stress makes you more alert, which keeps you awake. So turn the clock away from you so you can't look at it anymore.
5. Count backwards.
This trick really helps me when there's chaos in my mind. I (mentally) start counting backwards from 100 to 0. This requires me to focus on the counting, which allows no room for any other thoughts. Eventually it'll get harder to focus on counting because you'll start to feel sleepy, but try to finish nonetheless. Although personally I quit halfway through a few times because I was so sleepy that I forgot to count. If you don't feel sleepy when you've reached 0, just start over! Or maybe start at 200, to make it extra difficult. It's like counting sheep, but easier and more effective.
That's about all the tips I've got! What do you do when you can't sleep? Let me know in the comments!