How do you shut your brain off when trying to sleep?

I try to tell myself a story and bore myself to sleep but it’s often not effective.

What works, if anything, for you?

White noise works for me. There is a good 10 hour white noise, black screen clip on youtube.

I pick a topic on a subject I know and give a “lecture” on it. The structure of the nucleus, the basics behind black holes, deriving the quadratic equation, how quicksort works, the layout of a modern computer processor, etc. I rarely get to the end of a lecture.

ETA: I realized it’s not really “shutting my brain off” that’s the goal. It’s to prevent me from ruminating on certain repetitive patterns. Usually some utterly useless thing from work or on the news. I just need to think about something else that doesn’t cause these annoying mental loops.

  1. Ambient music
  2. Mindy’s Gummies.

I count my blessings - literally. I start with #1, come up with something that is a blessing in my life, something positive or happy. Then I move on to #2, and keep counting until I fall asleep. The counting distracts my brain, and the blessings prevent me from dwelling on problems and anxiety. Often when I wake up in the morning, I can remember the last number before I fell asleep.

I mentally catalog my fig tree varieties and the progress of my latest batch of cuttings.

Ever since I was a kid I learned that when I shut my eyes and tried to look at the inside of my eyelid, I’d see patterns and specs that would ebb and flow. When I concentrate on staring at a particular pattern it not only clears my thoughts, it makes my eyelids feel heavy and I fall asleep.

Not waking up at 3:00 AM is a whole other matter that I’ve not found a solution for.

Well, believe it or not, I used to think about my hair. It was great because it was a topic with little to no emotional gradient. I had a goal to grow it as long as it would go, so I would think about what improvements I needed to make to the immediate plan.
Eventually, I did wear the topic out.
Another thing I could do was decide what to wear to work, but that never took very long.

Currently, I think about whatever novel I’m reading. Try to pick up any themes, notice symbolism, predict where the story goes next. This is great, but only if you’ve got a decent book to work with.

Same. I was going to be funny and answer Squirrels, but just stopping thinking works.

Trazadone works for me.

I count backwards and forwards from 100.

I used to just count, but I would get into little contests with myself and end up setting goals (can I get to 1,000? 2,000?), which kept me awake.

This way, there’s no goal and it’s no big deal if I lose my place. I count backwards from 100, then count up to 100, then back again, and so forth. No stakes at all, no excitement or interest, but enough to give me something to actually focus on in order to keep my mind from spinning.

I just listen to a Youtube video or something and generally fall asleep. Since I was a little kid, the sound of background voices always lulled me to sleep, and they still seem to do a decent job as an adult. As a pre-teen, it was talk radio. As a 20-something, it was the dulcet British tones of BBC News on the TV with the picture turned off. Now, it’s Youtube. I know for a lot of people this wouldn’t work, as they’d be mentally active with what they are hearing, but for me my attention just drops off and I fall asleep. I pay enough attention to drown out my thoughts, but apparently not enough to stay awake.

If I’m really tired and not particularly in a ruminating mood, I don’t do anything special, just fall asleep. There’s no thought routine I have that I could think of.

Breathing and meditation.

I do this too.

Me as well. Always works

I listen to audiobooks in a second language. Easier to dissociate from and drift. Plus, it helps with 3 a.m. waking: I have a story to listen to for distraction, and eventually I drift back to sleep.

Ativan. It calms me down for about fifteen minutes, long enough to fall asleep.

This is brilliant, honestly.

I sometimes struggle to sleep at night, and I have read some books about insomnia, and the best way to fall asleep at night, according to science, is to wake up at the same time every morning. Every morning. Weekends included. Regardless of what time you fell asleep. The brain generally regulates itself when it knows what to expect. If you make it long enough, it will also do you the kindness of not waking you up the next morning in the middle of a dream.

Knowing this is one thing. Doing it is quite another matter. I’m currently bribing myself with stickers to try to get up early. But without question, it works.

Also there’s a good chance you don’t need as much sleep as you think you do. There’s also a good chance you’re getting more sleep than you think you are. People with insomnia consistently overestimate how long it takes them to fall asleep and underestimate how much sleep they get at night. Insomnia is very much a disorder of perception.

The best sleep advice is to do something you enjoy until you fall asleep. Getting anxious about not being able to fall asleep creates a negative feedback loop that heightens your arousal and makes it harder to sleep. Stop stressing so much about sleep.

These ideas really helped me with my insomnia. Now if I can’t sleep, I don’t stress about it. I go write in a journal or read a book until I naturally fall asleep.

I repeat rote phrases over and over in my head, sometimes in time with my breath. Like “no words, no words, no words,” or “all is well, all is well,” etc.

  1. Music or nature sounds like rainfall which I’ve noticed on my phone sounds a lot like white noise so maybe it’s more that.
  2. Picturing myself somewhere relaxing and sleeping

I listen to music in my head. Stuff I play on guitar or just recordings that I like. Somehow, it holds my interest and has me dozing quickly. I’ve also done the count-my-blessings thing a few times. One that I haven’t done for a while is to imagine that I’m sinking to the bottom of the sea. With each exhalation, I sink a little lower, like a feather floating down. I relate that method to another in which you relax body parts one at a time, starting with your feet. I think everyone upthread knows that one and forgot to mention it.

Sleep aids include reading, YouTube videos (especially of rainfall) and TV in general. I’ve read that sleeping isn’t as deep or restful with the TV or radio on.

Speaking of YouTube rainfall, here’s a really weird one. Imagine that: David Lynch doing something weird.

I liked the first 10 minutes or so very much. He makes some excellent observations, and it’s fascinating to see the deep-thought process onscreen. Then it gets weird. I skipped ahead and saw that he makes a few more interesting observations, but I haven’t seen the whole thing or even revisited it. There are at least two similar videos that I haven’t seen.