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I have great difficulty stopping to think of things I'm doing at bedtime. Whenever my night's sleep is bad, my day is much less productive. I try to compensate by drinking coffee, but this only works for a few hours.

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Write the things your thinking about down on a paper. The paper is better at remembering things than your brain. It's more engergy efficient too. – Demian Kasier Jun 24 '12 at 16:40
Imagine yourself floating in space. It's a simple exercise, and it works for me – riraito Jul 12 '13 at 22:09

24 Answers 24

up vote 64 down vote accepted

Here's my bedtime routine that works really well

  • Install F.lux - Seriously just do it.
  • Get ~7-9 of night time hours a night. So for example if sunrise is at 6am, then sleeping from 2am -> 10am is 8 total hours but it's only 4 night time hours. Sleeping at night is a big deal.
  • Do at least one physical activity a day. If you are sedentary all day your sleep will suck. The more active you are, the better your sleep will be. Computer cut-off time at least 1-2+ hours before bed.
  • Stretching/Foam rolling is also important. Not only will you feel more comfortable and relaxed but you'll speed up your recovery and reduce inflammation.
  • Be well hydrated. Minimum 2 Liters of day, more if you are bigger/more active. Water is like oxygen to your body and an essential nutrient. So getting dehydrated at night isn't too different than having sleep apnea.
  • Don't go to bed hungry. That doesn't mean to eat exactly before bed but your last meal should be within 2-4 hours of sleeping. Your metabolism doesn't shut down when you sleep.
  • Spend last half-hour/1 hour reading in bed. Avoid super exciting books that will keep you up for hours. Non-fiction/more technical books work best.
  • Most importantly: Take Melatonin 1-1.5 hours before bed. Anywhere from 1.5-12mg is fine, just make sure to avoid light sources, especially blue light. Start at the lower end of the dose and ramp up if needed - I talk more about melatonin and its benefits for sleep/health in this article.

Taken from my article: The most important thing you suck at: sleep

Reduce caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon. Caffeine has a ~5 hour half-life and can affect your sleep even if when you don't feel wired.

Finally, start a bedtime journaling habit. Go over what you've accomplished that day, what problems you've had and make your to-do list for the next day. This puts your mind at ease, ensuring a worry free rest.

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In my personal experience, melatonin's drowsiness effect dissipates if you do not attempt to sleep within an hour of taking it. On the same note, melatonin is a natural chemical released by the brain, so taking daily supplements could potentially develop a dependency on it. – Gaʀʀʏ Jun 21 '12 at 16:32
Nice article. Thanks. – zeferino Jun 21 '12 at 17:15
zeferino glad you liked it, hope it helps with your insomnia! @le_garry do you have any citation that shows melatonin supplementation can lead to dependency? As for the hour thing, I always take it 1-2 hours before bed. You do have to go through the bed time routine or it doesn't work. Although even stronger anti-histamines/sleeping pills - benadryl, atarax etc - can produce paradoxical effects if you force yourself to stay up on them. – mike Jun 21 '12 at 18:41
+1 for f.lux, it's probably the first and most important app that I would install on any computer. I'm even thinking of jailbreaking my iPad just to install f.lux – Adam-E Mar 10 '13 at 1:41
Adam-E, don't think, do it! I've had f.lux on my ipad for a while and it's made it perfect for reading before bed. – mike Mar 11 '13 at 1:11

It can be very helpful to get things out of your mind and in to somewhere that you trust you'll see them later, so you can forget about it now. For me, that means keeping a pad and pencil next to the bed, and writing down anything that I keep thinking about instead of sleeping. The next morning, I take that list and transfer the notes to wherever I'll find them most useful in the future, whether that's a calendar, a to do list, or somewhere else. It takes a little time to learn to trust your system, but it does work.

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Have pad & pencil too! Interesting what you are thinking about :D – hellectronic Jun 19 '12 at 17:53
I would also add that doing a brain dump at the end of the day helps as well. This keeps you from having to do this while you're trying to get to sleep, but the pad of paper is a good idea for the things that slip through. – scientifics Jun 19 '12 at 20:34

Black. When you are trying to sleep: Simply think all the time about the color black.

If any other thing than the color black pops up - think about black again.

If you're imagining a black object - think about the color black again.

That's my trick. This is so boring you will fall asleep in no time. Every other thought has no chance.

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This is funny. Thanks. – ramanujan_dirac Jan 15 '14 at 17:36

Start reading book.. nothing else is required.

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I have found in the past that unless I am exhausted, it is difficult to get to sleep in the silence. This can be easily remedied by listening to white noise. I find that the white noise provides just enough noise to drown out my thoughts, and is uniform enough to allow me to fall asleep. It may also help to spend 10-15 minutes before bed every night quickly reviewing your thoughts. This "purging" of thoughts may calm your mind somewhat and you may feel more comfortable that you have already done your thinking.

UPDATE: Attached a link to extended white noise on YouTube:

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Never tried white noise! :) – hellectronic Jun 19 '12 at 17:53
I use very soft very slow music at a very low volume. And never ever using earphones, you must use speakers. – HLGEM Mar 13 '13 at 13:45

First off, coffee is definitely not a solution (well, technically it is, but...never mind) - it makes it difficult to sleep by stimulating various areas of the brain.

So a couple of viewpoints:

  1. When I am working, and am in the groove, I don't go to bed. I keep working until my body tells me it wants to sleep. This can have its up and downs, but generally it helps me deliver high output for long hours.
  2. If I do want to go to bed at a particular time, I set some goals which I aim to attain before that time, and I then have a mental self-satisfaction which helps with relaxation.
  3. When I really have to get to sleep I count. A bit like Michael, I count my heartbeat and breaths - because this takes a little concentration, but is not too difficult to do at the same time I find it excludes all other thought and I drift off.
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Try simple meditation like focusing on your breathing. Whenever you wander away from focusing on your breathing, gently push away the thoughts and focus on your breathing again. Rinse and repeat.

Look into the source of your endless thoughts. If you are trying to remember everything you have to do tomorrow, capture it all on paper or other media (like someone already suggested). If there are other reasons why you can't stop thinking, try to figure out what they are and how you can alleviate the problem (may be go see a mental health professional, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness).

Exercise/regular sleep/healthier diet usually helps.

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Here's the best technique I know when I have trouble falling asleep, because I keep thinking about the day's events, or tomorrow's plans.

STOP thinking with your left brain, and switch to your right hemisphere!

For example, I'm a computer programmer, and usually code or design right up to the point I go to bed. But I keep thinking about new ideas or solutions to problems I am having. This can go on for more than an hour. And even if I'm actually very tired.

Once I realize this, I start thinking more emotionally, not logically. I think about what I plan to do tomorrow or the weekend (but not about programming!). Or, what I just did last weekend. Or, anything that involves simply 'being' in the situation without thinking about details. Try remembering a nice experience you had. It usually only takes a few minutes then I'm fast asleep.

Or try clearing your mind of the usual 'clutter'. (that voice that just wont shut up! Or is that just me? :) ) Start your mental training by either counting (as others have suggested), or concentrating on your breathing (my favorite!). Ideally you should be able to train yourself to think of 'nothing' (except maybe an occasional 'hey! I just thought of nothing for 10 seconds!' Dang inner voice!) All of this is to attempt to calm your inner dialog.

Good luck, and good night!

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Avoid reading Office emails before sleeping.

Otherwise you will keep thinking about stuff.

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Read THE PROMISE OF SLEEP by William Dement (prominent sleep researcher). His advice: at 7:00 pm (no later) take 30 minutes to write down every worry, every fear, every agitative thought. Then, go to bed. Very similar to David Allen's trusted system when the brain lets go once it understands that the ideas have been written down. I have a friend who got into GTD and wrote all the open loops on 3"x5" cards. After 3 weeks she emailed me and said "I'm dreaming again!"

The rest of the story was before she wrote her open loops on 3"x5" cards, the last thing she would do before falling asleep was review everything that she could not afford to forget. Then she fell asleep, then she dreamt about her open loops. Once her open loops were out of her head via 3"x5" cards, she started having "Normal person dreams" again.

If this is not enough to get you to sleep, try another of William Dement's recommendations which is to talk to your doctor, ask for 30 days of a non-habit forming sleeping pill that you won't refill without re-talking with the doctor. My doctor gave me Trazadone which s/he (first it was a she, currently it is a he) is not worried will be a problem. When the boss is too invasive, take a pill, sleep when you have the time to sleep.

Dement also explains in his book that the stereotype of habit forming sleeping pills comes from the 1960s when sleeping pills were habit forming. Today's pills are completely different and much safer.

Hope this helps!

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The hardest part for me was committing, and absolutely committing, to not having any electronics in the room. No phone, no iPad, no computer. It sounds silly but it took me about a week of this to be able to easily go to sleep without any distraction. Now it's very easy for me....but that first week was brutal!

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I want to describe what I'm doing in such case:

  1. Run before sleep.
  2. Visit any kind of event (presentation, exhibition, concert so on) after work hours.

First let's feel me fresh and guarantee that immediately fall in sleep when reach a bed. Second doesn't allow me to forget about beautiful things in this my life and bring motivation for work.

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One way to induce sleep is with Melatonin supplements. It is a chemical naturally released by your brain when it is dark out, but can be inhibited by caffeine, stress, etc. It is a cheap drug you can get in the vitamins section of a grocery store.

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I personally find listening to the radio helps me get to sleep.

I don't find music helps but listening to BBC Radio 4, 4extra, or BBC World Service has enough voice that helps me drop off.

I think it moves my heads focus away from thinking about the day to listening to the programme, and with it not being particularly engaging (like counting) it just helps you drop off.

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I do that too. But I heard that it's not good for your audition. – zeferino Jun 20 '12 at 17:14

A piece of advice: If you often have difficulty to sleep, I would stop consuming caffeine. Even if you are pretty sure it is not the reason why your sleep is bad, you should understand that caffeine stimulate the brain for a varying period of time. Therefore, you can become very tired but still your brain stay very active.

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First thing up my evening cup of coffee. Second, take my bible, read a chapter or two, and all my worries & concerns to God, who, in my convictions of my faith is big & powerful enough to handle it.

I believe in white noise also, in prior times, the humming sound of a fan helped.

Lately, I've taken Melatonin, it hasn't kicked in. If I'm not asleep after a certain time I will take a rx sleeping pill, which does the job...but, don't want to depend on them.

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Hi Yolanda, welcome to Productivity. I have edited your post to remove the 'non-answer' parts. Please have a look at the FAQ for guidance on how to answer. – Rory Alsop Mar 15 '13 at 20:34

I want to emphasize the "global" solutions too in the sense of "how do I make my day so that I have a clear mind before I go to sleep".

  • (mentioned many times) To have a fully productive day so that you will be tired by the time you want to sleep.
  • (given by Rory Aslop - emphasis mine) "I set some goals which I aim to attain before that [sleep] time, and I then have a mental self-satisfaction which helps with relaxation."
  • To address the worries during the day, decide on the actions to take and start these actions.
  • To have a clear agenda for the next day clear and concrete.
  • To prepare all the "logistics" for the next day well before sleep e.g. what to take to work, what to wear etc.
  • To stop demanding or stressful activities, TV, internet at least an hour before sleep.
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Work hard so you can forget about work and sleep sounds like a great recipe for waking up age 50 and thinking "I wasted my life on work." – Tymski May 17 at 22:33

I've found counting works.

It's a variant on the old counting sheep.

I change it by counting down from 100 or 200 in 3's or in 4's. Maybe down from 300 in 6's. I'm always surprised that it works but it often does. I guess it is:

  • Something that is easy to do without thinking hard...

  • but not too easy, so 'soaks up' your extra thoughts (so 1,2,3 isn't good).

  • repetitive, like a rocking motion.

Try it!

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This might seem like a small, simple thing, but I've found that it really has helped me in the long run: don't go to bed until you're tired.

I originally got this advice from a very good article about getting up early, but I think it's a valuable bit of advice for going to sleep, too. If you aren't tired, not only will it take far longer to fall asleep, but sleep will probably be less restful. When you are tired, it becomes harder to focus on trains of thought, making it easier to let them go and fall asleep.

Another piece of advice I can offer you, if it suits your tastes, is to have a drink before bed. A beer, a glass of wine, whatever drink you prefer. 15-30 minutes before you go to bed, have one drink. Alcohol is a depressant, and that little bit of anti-stimulation can be enough to take you from pondering the whole universe to mellow enough to let thoughts go.

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Alcohol actually reduces your sleep quality: "In the women studied, alcohol decreased sleep duration and efficiency (ratio of time sleeping in bed to total time spent in bed) and increased how often they woke up during the night. Alcohol deepened sleep during the first half of the night but then disrupted sleep during the second half of the night, a finding that previous studies have reported."WebMD – mike Jun 20 '12 at 22:36
Good to know! Thank you for the info, @mike. – asfallows Jun 21 '12 at 13:09
If you are going to have a drink before bed, 15-30 minutes is way too close for a diuretic. Unless that was the only liquid you had for the night, chances are, you will be up in the middle of the night to visit the restroom, inhibiting your natural sleep cycle. – Gaʀʀʏ Jun 21 '12 at 16:34

(Good thread is helpful. Here is my mantra.) When I was little and would complain to my parents that I could not sleep my mother would simply say: "If you can't sleep, you're not tied." By the time I had thought about it for a while it was usually morning.

Obviously as an adult we are slightly more complex beings, but for me the truth is usually a lack of exercises. If I can't sleep I get up, do some gardening and/or some taichi and then sleep is usually much easier.

If television or Interneting is part of your evening then you could try replacing part/all of it with any type of physical exercise.

Sweet dreams.

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Do not go to sleep with your laptop. That's all. Or, alternatively find a good wife a let her to decide when to go to sleep and how to sleep.

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What helps me to sleep and feel healty:

  • do physical activity, so I get tired and I sleep deeply
  • use coffee and sugar only in the morning
  • don't eat heavy at dinner

In some cases, when my regular habits are not enough:

  • drink a bit of alcohol, like one or two beers, it relaxes me
  • use some "valeriana" extracts 1-2 hours before going to sleep
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I thought that meditation was all about suppressing all external thoughts. After reading a bit more about the different types of meditation, I found that you can also do the following:

  1. When a thought arises, acknowledge it.
  2. Visualize your hand pushing the thought away . My visualization of choice is imagining the thought like an app on the iPad and the pushing away like when you push apps up to close them on an iPad.
  3. Keep pushing the thoughts aside. This exercise always puts me to sleep without me really realizing it and I wake up very refreshed.
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Workout everyday. (At least 30-40) mins

You can also do do normal Exercise or play outdoor sport.

You can also do some stretching exercises just before getting into bed. Also,

Take almonds and milk.

Follow the 4-5-7 rule.

4 seconds inhale.

5 seconds hold.

7 secs, let go.

This seriously gonna work. Have a good night's sleep buddy.

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