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15 things to try when you can’t fall asleep

We’ve all been through that “having trouble sleeping” stage, whether we were little or grown up. I’d lie awake until three in the morning before hysterical crying for my parents to comfort me. Let me just say, it’s my least favorite memory (and my parents’).


When you just can’t seem to turn off, it’s always best to have a backup strategy—here are 15 options for you to try right now!



  • Think positively



It’s that easy! According to science, ridding your mind off of those negative thoughts calms you down and makes you more likely to fall asleep



  • Pick one thing to focus on



You know how they always say to try counting sheep? Well, focusing on something specific could be just what you need to get sleepy. Choose to focus on your breath, or repeat a calming mantra over in your head—as long as it’s not “I can’t sleep,” you’ll fall asleep in no time.



  • Pretend to be tired



Trick your brain into thinking that you’re tired; concentrate on the things that would usually make you tired: drooping eyes, the room darkening, sinking into bed, and soon, you might be experiencing that!



  • Adjust your temperature



What’s your ideal sleeping environment? Even if you can’t completely control the heating and cooling system in your home, you can control the temperature of your body. Put the fan closer to your bed, or bundle up when it’s cold, try and aim for the ideal sleeping temperature of 60-67℉.



  • Read



No, not on your kindle or your phone– an actual paper book. Read with the lights dimmed down and make sure to read till the point where you just start to get sleepy.



  • Listen to music, podcast, audiobook, or meditation app


Simple, acoustic, minimal percussion music can be the perfect thing to help you fall asleep.


Pick your favorite podcast or a non action-packed audioboo, and let the soothing voices calm you down. It’s not about retaining information, but falling asleep to calm background noise.


Download a meditation app that will soothe your thoughts and make you feel as if you’re napping on a beach.



  • Stretch



Yes, you can do this without getting out of bed. Put your legs up against the wall to calm your nervous system, or try happy pose or child’s pose to relax your body.



  • Relax from head to toe



Concentrate on each muscle, starting from your toes, and tell yourself “My feet are getting sleepy,” “My right leg is getting very sleepy,” “My stomach is asleep,” while you relax each body part.



  • Try the 4-7-8 exercise



According to science, focusing on your breathing decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, which is prime for sleepiness.


So, try this technique:


Inhale for 4 seconds

Hold your breath for 7 seconds

Exhale for 8 seconds



  • Work on the thing that’s keeping you up



If you find that there’s something really nagging you and keeping you awake, don’t just pretend it’ll go away. Getting things over and done with will make sleep a heck of a lot easier. Just don’t spend all night working on it.



  • Do your least favorite task



If it’s been 20 minutes and you still haven’t drifted off, get out of bed and attack the most boring, least stimulating task imaginable. Sleep might seem more welcoming after spending a lively half-hour with a dusty college textbook on literary theory.



  • Drink something hot



Make yourself a glass of hot tea or milk, and it’ll quickly warm you up to get ready for bed.



  • Stick your feet out


Research says that keeping your feet cool makes you more likely to doze off!



  • Cover your eyes



Use an eye mask, warm, wet towel, or a t-shirt to cover your eyes, so that all you can see is sleep.



  • Watch a good movie or browse the web



Staring at a bright screen late at night is definitely not the smartest idea, but sometimes, we really  need that comforting, relaxing movie to help us fall asleep at night. Try everything above, and if they don’t work, technology is your last resort!


About Eileen Guo

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