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

My stories are always about Underdog. I play the theme song and every thing. No idea why.

I haven’t been able to do that since I was somewhere around three. I clearly remember the first night when I couldn’t shut my conscious thought/stream of words off to go to sleep – freaked the hell out of me.

I’ve learned to just let my mind drift. If it drifts to something that’s waking me up, redirect it. If it won’t redirect, get up and read something unrelated for a while, or do a sudoku. (In either case, on paper, not on a device.)

One trick my mother taught me when I was a child often works: lie quietly, eyes closed, for a while in a comfortable position that’s not the one I usually sleep in. Then roll into the position that I usually sleep in.

– I need to have it quiet, and no artificial light. People vary. If I have to get up at night to piss, I use only minimal light – one dim lamp that I look away from (which casts just enough light into the adjacent bathroom to keep me from walking into things) or a not-too-bright flashlight directed at the floor.

In this society, there’s also a pretty good chance that you need more sleep than you think you do. There are a lot of people who’ve been chronically sleep-deprived for so long that they think that state of mind is normal.

Yeah – I’ve got one in which I’ve been somehow deposited on an entirely environmentally-clean copy of Earth, along with a couple of hundred people nearby (and some cats/dogs/etc.), the knowledge that there are a few million or so additional humans elsewhere on the planet though not close enough to reach easily, and a large but not unlimited amount of funds to buy effectively whatever we want to help us set up our new society; by some entity with entirely implausible powers who mostly wants to find out what all the resulting societies would be like, but has been pretty selective about its initial population so as to not include anybody of ill will. Hanging out there for a while can help me get to sleep (or finish a job involving mostly driving in circles on the tractor); but it’s not really writeable in anything like that form, it’s way too obvious wish-fulfillment.

Well, as the books have pointed out, chronic sleep deprivation is different than insomnia. Because a lot of people who have insomnia are sleeping pretty well. And a lot of people who think they are sleeping well are sleep deprived. People are generally terrible at estimating how much sleep they are getting and how good their sleep is.

I personally found this really comforting. And it tracks with my sleep tracking device. I don’t pay attention to it anymore, because it was not recommended for people who have insomnia (I have also stopped checking the time after lights out, at any point during the night, even if I get up to pee), but I’ve had nights I feel great where I had constantly interrupted sleep, according to the tracker, and nights that felt terrible where you could see a good chunk of uninterrupted sleep.

I have to recommend the book, because it was fascinating and included general information about how sleep cycles work and everything. Pretty cool stuff.

The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It by W. Chris Winter, MD.

Thanks for that post. It’s beautiful. You had me at “green jade and pink coral.”

That, I have no problem believing. And, as you say, it’s pretty well documented.

And that’s not even getting into people who deliberately skimp on sleep because they’re working too hard.

According to the reading, the best way to figure out how much sleep you need is to get up at the same time every morning and go to bed two hours later than however much sleep you think you need. So if you think you need 8 hours of sleep, and you normally wake up at 6am, you are not allowed to go to sleep until midnight. You deliberately restrict your sleep time. Then slowly move that bedtime back earlier and earlier until you hit the time that you become naturally tired. For many people, the brain really can tell you when it’s time to go to bed, and give you the appropriate amount of sleep you need.

Right now I’m having a trouble with oversleeping. Which is worse than not sleeping enough. The problem is with the way my life is structured, I can easily get away with an extra hour or two of sleeping in, even though it sets me back a couple hours on my work, which I don’t like. But it’s not like I have to be anywhere at a certain time. So I find myself sleeping in. Unfortunately, due to medication or something else, the time my body is “set” to naturally wake up is after 10 hours of sleep. So I’m guessing I’m not getting the best quality sleep right now.

Yeah, I think that’s a lot of it. People in this society think they’re Better People if they work instead of sleeping. It’s liable to screw up both the work and the rest of their lives, though.

Science fiction world for me. Plotting in bed is good, since it helps find plot holes, and ones that I remember or like to repeat are good.
Doesn’t work as well now I’ve written two novels based in this world.
10 years ago I used to compose SD posts while trying to go to sleep, too long and trivial to actually post.

I once spent nine hours composing a Straight Dope post instead of sleeping. That’s when I accepted that an intervention was needed. They say you have to hit rock bottom… I haven’t returned to that post, but I’m guessing it’s incoherent.

I’m glad I’m not the only one. My posts weren’t incoherent, but they would have been boring enough to put everyone else to sleep.

I’m into chess, but I found that watching chess videos I would often doze off. So then it became my sleep routine and it works great; I’m always out within 15 - 20 minutes. Even when I’ve had a very stressful day.

I do that as well. Law and Order is my go to favorite because I’ve seen them all and they do not hold my interest. The TV’s on a 60 minute timer and usually shuts off after I’m asleep.

That could work for me, except that I would have to learn all of those things. I have some familarity with all of that, maybe I could pretend to be in the audience while you are giving your lecture and ask questions

Seriously, I am following this thread looking for suggestions. Could use one right now. I’ve done the counting thing, the ambient noise, relaxing body parts one by one, others mentioned. Maybe I will try all of them in order, counting then down until I fall asleep

Too late to edit my post, but the primary thing that keeps me from falling is asleep is the awareness, while I am lying there, that I am not falling asleep, or even getting drowsy. As a now disgraced comedian once said on a comedy album - “Ever really try to go to sleep? Nothing!”

Well, the topic doesn’t really matter much. Got any hobbies that you’re way too into? Know trivia on something or other? Any movies or TV shows that you could describe from beginning to end? Etc. You don’t have to worry about boring your audience…

I fall asleep without problems, but if I’m drinking in the evening I often wake up at 3 am. I can fix that by not drinking in the evening, but I don’t want to do that.

I just recently started to listen to pink noise instead of white noise. It does sound a little different than white. It puts me to sleep within 10 minutes. When I get up to go potty, it puts me to sleep almost immediately after returning to bed. I have it on a timer, so it will play all night. Of course there are nights that it might take me longer, but for the most part it really works.

Another thing that helps to relax me and helps me to fall asleep is a pressure point trick. We call it “The Toe Trick”. Right below the space between your big toe and next toe there’s a spot that if you put a bit of pressure on it and make circles with your finger counting to about 10, you can feel stress leave your body. I know it sounds hokey, but it works. I even use my other big toe to do it instead of my finger if I’m laying in bed and don’t want to have to reach down.

I listen to a sleep themed podcast if I find myself awake and not too sleepy.

My preferred podcast for this is called Sleep With Me. It’s a guy nicknamed Scooter who tells stories, recaps old TV shows, reads things or describes random stuff like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a kayak trip, or the dozens of types of apples grown in New York. He has a soporific voice, goes into excessively boring detail, his stories never quite seem to go anywhere, trips to Disney aren’t exciting, and how many different kinds of apples can you hear about without nodding off?

Imagine sitting in a darkened room, your neighbor has 80 slides of his trip to Utah ready to go in the carousel and an hour to kill. You can’t really ignore it, you can’t quite latch onto other topics as he drones on, but you really don’t care about what he’s saying and he’d be fine if you took a little nap. Makes me fall right back asleep.

Listen to ASMR sleep videos… direct attention to my breathing…meditate…take melatonin a half hour before going to bed. These are all things I’ve tried with varying degrees of success.

I don’t. I’ve discovered that, if I try to shut down my brain, it seems to become resentful and become even more active and stressed. I just lie back and relax and let my thoughts wander. I often slip into an active dreaming state and then into full sleep.