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Sleep Advice from an Insomniac {Top 5 Ways to Fall Asleep}

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For as long as I can remember I’ve been a terrible sleeper. As a kid, I would wake up at 4 in the morning and go watch cartoons for a couple hours before I had to get ready for school. As I got older (and had more control over my bedtime) I became a terrible night owl – staying up all hours of the night watching bad TV, or reading a book, or – my personal favorite – playing Dr. Mario/Tetris on my NES. {{Years later I found out a large part of the reason I was such a night owl was because my body was trying to keep me alive…read about that here…if you care.}}

Anyway, over the decades, I’ve found little things that have helped me get my sleeping habits under control (I’m still a night owl and would rather stay up all night than get up early!) so that when I lay down to go to sleep it actually happens. I wanted to give you my personal top 5 tips to be a better sleeper – while they may not all be conventional they have worked wonders for me!

  1. Have Gratitude – Have you heard the saying ‘what you focus on expands’? I also think ‘what you focus on right before you try to go to sleep is what you dream about all night’. If you’re rehashing all the terrible things in your life and they try to sleep you’re going to be dreaming/nightmaring about those things. If you think about the positive in your life (as small or material as it may be) you’ll dream about that! I found it helped me so much to jot down, right before bed, a few things I was grateful for that day – and a few things I did right. It was literally life-altering once I changed what I thought about right before bed. Want my (not so) patented 1-3-3 journaling technique to help you have happier dreams? Here’s how I keep those positives top of mind as you head off to dreamland.
  2. Be Active – Movement was so important to improving my quality of sleep. I won’t get into the specifics of the chemicals it releases and what those do (blah, blah, blah) but I’ll tell you it helped my body to know when to be awake and when it was OK to sleep…instead of never really knowing when to be awake and when to be asleep because I just moved from laying in the bed to laying on the sofa. And, I’m not talking anything huge here – you don’t have to go run a marathon or lift like a linebacker. Going on a walk, doing yoga, and stretching are all great ways to start…once you get the hang of it you can add a little more.
  3. Relax – And limit screen time a couple hours before bed. Pick up a book – like a real book, play a quiet game of cards, listen to a story on audible… try to stay off the phone and computer and away from TV if possible. The blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is still daytime and slows the release of melatonin (the sleepytime hormone).
  4. See your Doctor – While I don’t think that prescription sleep aids are the first course of action you should take when working on your sleep – I’m also not opposed to them (I’ve taken them on and off myself!) AND, there are a lot of other things that can contribute to your poor sleep… For myself, I found I had restless leg syndrome (yes, I thought it was a made-up thing to sell pills too – until I tried them and didn’t squirm all night) and needed a Bi-Pap machine to get quality sleep. While I really detest that I need both…I’m actually able to human (instead of just zombie) on a daily basis because I’m getting some good sleep now!
  5. Have a routine – {This is very much a do as I say, not as I do tip…} When you go to bed at the same time every night your body starts expecting it. And, better yet, if you have a little nighttime routine your body learns what is supposed to come next (yes, if it works for toddlers it should work for adults too).  Maybe it’s something like: turn off your TV and read for 30 minutes, go upstairs brush your teeth and wash your face, Meditate for 15-20 minutes, climb into bed and journal about your day {again, check out the above blog post for ideas!}, then turn off the light and lay down for sleep. The more consistent you become with your routine the more it will serve you. {Yes, I’m trying to be better at this one myself too.}

    And now my super counterintuitive, extra special bonus tip!!

  6. Watch TV – OK, hear me out!! I know I JUST said don’t watch TV right before bed…and I firmly stand by that. And also, once I’m in bed I find the best thing I can do to fall asleep is ‘watch’ tv…and this is what I mean by that:I have a cheap little tablet that lives on my nightstand. I’m a Samsung girl…so I have a Samsung Tab – or you could use an old cell phone with wi-fi if you have one. I’ve downloaded all of the streaming apps: Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, even Pluto and FreeVee. I pop on my wireless sleep headphones (I think I’ve tried all the kinds and these seem to be the best value) and turn on a sitcom I’ve seen a billion times and can basically repeat by heart.

    For me, it’s F*R*I*E*N*D*S {for my hubby it’s Top Gear and for others I’ve heard The Office, Parks and Rec, Seinfeld, Golden Girls, etc.}. I have literally seen every episode so many times that I’m to the point of being able to close my eyes and recite the lines word for word…and I know that Joey is talking to Monica; Joey’s on the sofa wearing a white shirt and Monica’s cooking in the kitchen with her apron on…

    I turn the volume down so that it’s just loud enough to not have to strain to hear anything – but not so loud it’s consuming, flip the tablet over so the screen is on the table making the room dark, roll over, and go to sleep.

    The key is that you pick a show that is benign and lighthearted (30 min sitcoms are ideal) and that you’ve seen a million-plus times (so you know what’s going to happen and you’re not tempted to stay awake to find out). Murder documentaries are not ideal here.

    This is just enough to give me something to focus on – instead of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I had (especially early in my grief) but not enough that I’m invested and need to know what happens next! For a while, I just used the radio – but I would find myself jamming along to the songs and it became counterproductive.

Do you have a tip that helps you to sleep at night? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below with your favorite way to fall asleep faster.

2 thoughts on “Sleep Advice from an Insomniac {Top 5 Ways to Fall Asleep}

  1. I also do the TV thing as a matter of fact I can’t fall asleep without it. My go to show is Alice once I put that on I fall asleep in no time.

    • Abbey Mattson

    F*R*I*E*N*D*S….SAME!!!! Every night!


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