I take sleep very seriously. I love sleeping. I hate not sleeping. All that advice about sleeping is important – avoid caffeine, have a set bedtime, a bedtime routine, don’t fall asleep in front of the TV (which really makes me feel like a zombie the next day)
I invariably fall asleep with my book in my hand and my glasses still on my face. I wake up a bit later, put it all away, turn out the light and go back to sleep.
But it does not always work. Because my brain is overactive. I get worried or anxious. I wake up in the middle of the night worried about something. Or there is just stuff in my head stopping me from turning off.
Deep breathing and meditation are often recommended but my overactive brain usually overrides these. Here are some strange strategies I find work for me.
- The supermarket walk – I visualise myself in my local supermarket. I walk down each aisle and I have to remember what is in that aisle. I fall asleep by the second aisle. If I wake up again I just start where I left off.
- The day step by step. I force myself to remember every detail of the day I just had. I got up. I let the dogs out. What did I see? Every minute of the morning. I rarely make it to my workplace before I am asleep.
- Experiment subject – I imagine I am the subject of an experiment where the scientist wants to see how long I can sit in an empty room with only a chair. I think this is a real experiment. I want to win the experiment. I do the muscle relaxation meditation that many people know – visualise each toe, foot, ankle and so on and relax each thing. This relaxation technique does not usually work for me because my mind wanders off, but because I am trying to ‘win’ the experiment and beat the scientist, it seems to focus my find on the task.
- Pick a character – let’s say Sansa from Game of Thrones and I go through her entire story (what I can remember) from season 1 to the current season. It can take me weeks to get through a character’s arc.
- The word game – I go through the alphabet and think of the first word that pops into my head – the twist being that I decide beforehand that they must all be verbs, or adjectives or adverbs.
I think these things work because somehow they keep my overactive brain a bit occupied but they also are dull enough to put me to sleep – the way that counting sheep is supposed to but doesn’t.
What helps you sleep?