Here's a tip for falling asleep. I don't think you'll see it anywhere else. It goes like this: Don't think words.

By that I mean don't imagine conversations that you plan to have, and don't replay in your head conversations you've had.

It's impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts. But I find it somewhat easy to switch off the language center of my brain. What happens after that is a flow of images, starting with ones that make some sense to my current life, quickly followed by randomness, then sleep. It usually takes less than a minute.

Let's say something is bugging you, or fascinating you, and the thought is keeping you awake. I'll bet that in those situations you're obsessed with the verbal elements of your problem. You're imagining what you will say to someone, or how you will explain yourself, or maybe what words someone else chose when annoying you.  To fall asleep, don't abandon the troublesome topic, because you probably can't. Just picture the situation in images alone. That will satisfy the part of you that can't let go of the problem while putting you on the sleep trajectory.

To be fair, I have no idea if this method will work for you. It's just something I discovered that works for me.

My wife hates my ability to sleep just about anywhere. Yesterday I dropped off for a few minutes during the new movie Paul. I would have awakened in ten minutes on my own, refreshed and ready to drive home. But that plan went off the rails when Shelly decided it would be funny to slap me in the chest and see what I would do if I woke up suddenly to a loud action sequence in the movie. I'm told it was hilarious.

Anyway, if you try my sleep tip, let me know if it works for you.

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+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
Two best techniques I've found (using an active imagination for good instead of evil):

(1) I'm looking at a bank of tvs (4 rows of 4, and for some reason this has always taken place in the batcave), and flicking my eyes in no particular order from tv to tv. Each one is playing something completely random, and I put no rules on what that is. The only rule I enforce is not looking for more than a couple of seconds, and not thinking about what's on the next until I look at it. I do this for fun and it takes me less than a minute to fall asleep - I think maybe because it engages that random "imagey" part of your brain that feels like dreams, and taps in to your subconscious for tv content.

(2) Any time I'm struggling to get to sleep I imagine I'm a giant human-operated robot. Then, starting with my feet I imagine each segment has people in it shutting down control systems and exiting via doors and poles. They turn the lights off as they go, and I'm not allowed to move that part of my body (it's unmanned; a dead weight!) once they've left. If I do I have to start over (imagining someone left their wallet at work). The shutdown order is feet, shins, thighs, hands, forearms, upper arms, lower torso, upper torso. Finally head, I guess, but it's usually all over before I get done with four limbs.
Mar 21, 2011
I usually visualize abstract fantasy things as realistically as possible. I try to imagine dropping down through the clouds of Jupiter, or Venus. Sometimes the some of the more interesting moons of Jupiter and Saturn. I've been a space buff for years, so there are lots of images in my mind to draw upon. A recent sleep imagining I have been using is visualizing atomic nuclei fissioning, fusing, stuff like that. Or when a free neutron decays, what does it 'look like' when that electron is struggling to get out of that proton..
Mar 21, 2011
That reminds me that I wrote about my tips for falling asleep a few years ago -- http://tinyhands.blogspot.com/2005/01/insomnia.html

I still resort to counting in Roman numerals once in a while.
Mar 21, 2011
I imagine blackness and white noise, shoving my consciousness deeper into it... Sleep follows in seconds. Anywhere. Anytime.

This effect of white noise is apparently why I can't stay awake on an airplane if I close my eyes and have no other stimilation to cut through it and keep me awake. Or in a car. Or on a motorcycle. Or a death metal concert. My wife thinks my secret to falling asleep anywhere is sleep deprivation and training I received in the police academy. Po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
Those of us who sleep well and easily will always be targets for those who do not enjoy that same facility.

I have a friend who routinely falls asleep in his chair watching TV (something to do with working 16-hour days), and his wife thinks it's funny to throw things at him to wake him up. I figure the poor guy deserves a nap, and if that happens during the hockey game or watching a movie, so be it. It doesn't bother me, but then I'm a sleeper and she isn't.
Mar 21, 2011
To not think in words I try to focus on some white noise like the sound a fan makes.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
I find that the most important factor in my ability to fall asleep is turning off my husband's words.
I sleep fine. He sleeps poorly. I want to shut off my mind and drift into sleep. He wants to talk obsessively about everything he's worried about (which is pretty much everything). I'll talk - but not in bed. We've been married over 20 years - and the last half have been much more peaceful than the first - because now I have a rule: He talks: He sleeps alone. (He sleeps better now too - but he'd never admit it.)
Mar 21, 2011
I try not to focus on current things (hard some days) but imagine myself alone on a warm and sunny beach, with the warm breezes and the smell of salt air. Works for me (along with being under lots of quilts when it's cold, or at least a blanket when it's warm). Words are never part of my going to sleep strategy. Just beach images.
Mar 21, 2011
I rarely simply link to my own work but I crafted a sleep tip that had decent success with some friends who battle with sleep disorders. Very similar idea but it allows you to concentrate on the goal of remaining sleepy. http://www.planet-dan.com/2010/09/sleep-is-something-that-should-be-easy.html
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
They say that the period of time between wakefulness and sleep is when your subconscious is most receptive to positive reinforcement. So instead of visualizing random images, you should visualize yourself achieving your goals, kind of like an athlete does before a big competition. That's using the drifting off time more efficiently and getting your brain 'in tune' with the things you'd like to accomplish.
Mar 21, 2011
Sure worked for me. I fell asleep twice just reading this post! :)
Mar 21, 2011
I have used this method for years, and have never seen it put into words. I never have trouble getting to sleep. Turning off the words is what does it. Visions of pleasant or mundane images in very dim light work well.
I think most folks who have sleep problems are rehearsing how they will handle what they are stressed about rather than letting it go for the night. To make the transition, a notepad by the bed is helpful. Writing down the problem and solution your are mulling over, generally helps to put it away until the morning.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2011
In the past I found that thinking about images indeed helped me fall asleep. I would imagine one object in an empty space (like a tree) and when other images popped to mind (usually images of what's been bothering me) I would have them thrown out of the image and concentrate on the one object.

Then, following a book I read (I forgot which book it was), I started using the "self hypnosis" method of falling asleep, for example I would imagine looking at a 100 stories building from afar. The building has all its lights on and I would imagine the lights go off floor by floor, top to bottom. Usually I wouldn't get further than turning off the lights of 20 floors.

Another thing that I learned is that when I find it hard to fall asleep I should get into the position in which I usually go to sleep in and avoid the temptation to toss and turn. When I feel the urge to change to a different position I ask myself "what's bothering you that you have to turn?" The answer is usually a small thing (like a part of my body not covered enough by the blanket), which I then fix until I feel entirely comfortable enough.
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