How do you turn off your brain before going to bed?

No matter how groggy I may feel during the day, come night my brain is fully awake and its little wheels are spinning fast. How do I slow them down?
I know about the following:

Don’t listen to music or look at a bright light (like a screen) several hours before bed.
Don’t work out several hours before bed.
Dim down the lights.
If I can’t fall asleep for a significant period of time, I should get up and do something else (this I don’t always do).

What else can I do to get my brain to be less hyper before bed?
I also have the problem that I get bored when I’m lying in bed. Boredom leads me to think. Thinking makes the little wheels spin faster and keeps me awake. I’ve tried to find a way to keep me from getting bored that doesn’t keep me awake but so far no sucess.


I watch TV, and when I start to feel a little tired I turn my back to the TV. Then I concentrate on trying to follow the TV show via the audio. It’s hard to do so it sufficiently occupies my mind and then I end up falling asleep shortly.

You can’t do this with any old TV show. Something that is fast or that uses visual humor like a sitcom wouldn’t work.

The best show is Law & Order. I stay awake through the “Order” (cops) part then roll over and listen to the “Law” part. Puts me right to sleep.

Nice English mystery shows are great for this too, like Morse, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, etc.

I find I can’t really fall asleep without the TV anymore. It’s also helpful for overcoming the ringing sound of tinnitus.

I read a book, or I turn the screen light on my phone all the way down and play solitaire or a no-stress type game like the endless versions of bejeweled or mahjong or puzzles. I kinda prefer the phone these days, because if I’m reading a paper book the nightstand light needs to be on, and I have to reach over to put the book down and turn off the light. With the phone, whether playing a brainless game or reading, I can just drop it and sleep.

My mom taught me a version of meditation that always puts me to sleep. Lay in your comfy “I’m going to sleep now” position and close your eyes. Take some slow, deep, relaxing breaths and become aware of your own breathing. Start with your toes. Become aware of them. Tell them to go to sleep. Be conscious of your breaths, make them slow and regular. Thank your toes and feet for carrying you through the day, and they deserve some good rest. Breathe. Sometimes I’ll make the part I’m telling to sleep twitch just the slightest bit so I am aware of the muscle groups and can then make them relax. Do each foot individually if you need to, or both at the same time. It may take a few nights to figure out how slowly to go through body parts. I start with toes and then ankles and go to calves, knees, hips… I’ve never made it to my waist before being asleep!

I’ve had this problem my whole life.

-Growing up, I read until I slept, and usually got into trouble for it. :stuck_out_tongue:

-Older, I tried booze, both a little and a lot, and pot, both a little and a lot. Nothing worked; in fact, when the booze wore off, usually after an hour or two, I’d be WIDE awake whether I’d fallen asleep or not, so…yeah. No luck there.

-Discovered Tylenol PM and have never looked back. It is, so far, the ONLY thing that has shut my hyper-assed brain down enough to let me sleep. For the record, Benedryl is exactly the same amount of the same ingredients, so…I often wonder how people can take Benedryl and walk around, much the less work/drive/live. O.o

Herbal tea.

Or sex.

I can’t drink within hours of going to sleep, or I will wake up at 2am and not be able to go back to sleep. If I wake up anyway, sometimes I will get out of bed and surf the net for 30-45 minutes, by which time I am usually ready to sleep again.

I never have this problem when I’m with my partner. I just focus on his body next to mine and how sweet and peaceful he is when he’s asleep (he’s out light a light in less than a minute). It puts me into a really mellow mood, and I can just block out everything else.

When I’m not with him I tend to be up all night.

Podcasts are great for this! There are so many, one is bound to find a few that are the right depth and tempo. I like This American Life, Wiretap, and Q Radio.

Also, no caffeine. At all. A huge help. Get plenty of exercise, too.

Yeah, I listen to podcasts or Old Time Radio shows while falling asleep. I find those are better than TV, because the flickering light from the TV can be very distracting and keep you awake. Plus if you forget to put a timer on, it’ll run all night.

My trick is to “split” my brain - paying attention to the show I’m listening to while also thinking about something completely unrelated. This stops or slows the mental wheels enough that I’m usually able to fall asleep.

I try to do a word puzzle of some sort that’s way too hard for me like a super hard sudoku or crossword puzzle. Thinking about one thing keeps my mind from wandering to busier thoughts and I’m eventually just staring at it dozing off.

Sometimes I choose random starting numbers and count backwards by 7’s or 6’s.

I leave a season of South Park playing on my computer, quiet but loud enough to hear. I’m usually out before the first episode is over (22 minutes, give or take). My issue is not falling asleep, but staying there. A nightmare will predictably wake me up within an hour of bedtime, then I’ll get up and get a drink of water and go back to bed. Usually I’ll be ok then (with just a couple of early-morning wakeups).

Valarian. Sometimes valarian + benedryl.

That and I give myself something stupid to think about that is detailed enough to keep my brain busy and dull enough to go to sleep. For instance, I like to design clothes in my head.

When I was in my teens I’d find my brain racing when I went to bed. I had a couple of ways of dealing with it:

  1. Think of movie titles starting with each letter of the alphabet
  2. Picturing myself levitating then flying out the window and going to the next town. Trick was to imagine as much detail as possible.

I’m in my 30s now and I guess I grew out of thinking because all it takes for me to go to sleep is to lie down and close my eyes. I’m out in under 5 minutes.

Booze is a bad idea. Plus, I always found it kept me awake because I’d have to get up to go pee a few times before eventually passing out (bad sleeps as a result of the alcohol too).

I use 5 mg of melatonin now. Works 95% of the time.

I used to combine booze and sleeping pills (really bad idea) until it got so out of hand I was almost killing myself every night.

I take a benzodiazepam.

If boozing or wanking don’t work, episodes “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross will.

I don’t know-- works great for me! Doesn’t even have to be hard liquor. Wine is wonderful.

Interesting Spoonerism there.

I go with melatonin mostly. Soft music (volume not genre) if I’m alone. Sex might help, but the “we should do it so that I can sleep” excuse probably won’t work. Otherwise, like the OP, I should get up and do something else, but often don’t. The worst nights are when I try to sleep without anything, fail and take a melatonin, still can’t sleep, and finally opt for diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate (e.g. Benadryl, Unisom). Then I get pissed off because instead of taking it and going to sleep, I wasted several hours first.

Also, for the OP: you’re not supposed to look at a screen for several hours. I thought it was 30-60 minutes, but maybe I’m doing it wrong. I definitely don’t do that.

It might help me get to sleep initially, but I find that it causes insomnia after I’ve slept for a couple of hours, and that’s fairly typical.

Adjust the dosage.