I don’t have a problem with it anymore, but when I was younger I had a TON of problems sleeping.
Maybe it was anxiety. Maybe it was stress-related.
Heck, maybe it was too much caffeine.
But it definitely wasn’t fun and I’m glad I sleep pretty well these days.
What do you do when you can’t go back to sleep at night?
Insomniacs of AskReddit spoke up.
1. Be productive.
“Read a book, do some work or study.
If I’ve got a few extra hours in the day may as well be productive.
Also might put me back to sleep.”
2. Don’t look at the clock!
“Absolutely don’t look at the clock, this isn’t a race! And don’t do the mental math on how much sleep you’ll get now – this is relaxing time, if nothing else.
I’ll also do a short wander around the house on the grounds that I might have heard something in my sleep. If there’s any little quiet chores, I’ll do them (put away dishes, tidy up bathroom counter, sweep floor).
Don’t vacuum (noisy) or do anything stressful or mentally challenging like bills / school/ work. Then maybe a drink of water or bathroom visit and right back into bed. I avoid my phone , tv and the computer.
For really bad patches of insomnia I start a jigsaw puzzle. Get up, do a small section, back to bed.”
3. Avoid your phone.
“Don’t pick up your phone.
I continue laying in bed and I think to myself, “This is fine, this is enough. Whether I fall asleep or not, this is nice. I have nowhere to go, I have nothing to do. I will enjoy laying in bed in the dark with my eyes closed and just enjoy the darkness and the quiet and the relaxation”
It takes the pressure and anxiety away from not falling asleep.”
4. The cycle.
“I do the 4-7-8 breathing method.
If that doesn’t work after about 20 cycles, I get up and read, or do some quiet housework.
Then I go back to bed in an hour.”
5. Works for some.
“I smoke weed.
I always leave a bowl already packed, so when I’m done with my pre-bed smoke session I go to bed, I will then wake up and I just have a bowl ready.”
6. Take away the stress.
“Since my insomnia came from stress, I took the opportunity to take away some of my stress.
Is it 3 a.m. and I’m stressing because the dishes aren’t done, or the house is in chaos or I should be applying for a job somewhere? I’m up anyway so I might as well… I have taken the opportunity to do some yoga, file paperwork, get back to the emails I had been neglecting.
It sucks to feel tired and it sucks not being able to sleep. But at least I’m getting something done and taking some weight off my shoulders.”
7. Word games.
“A good sleep hack I read was to go through each letter of the alphabet and think of three words for each letter.
This has helped my mind to stop wandering when I’m trying to snooze.”
8. Very specific routine.
“Go outside and look at the sky.
Empty the rubbish bins. Quietly.
Snuggle my cats. Get lots of licks and head butts in return.
Snuggle my Hippopotamus stuffie named Earl and try and find a position where my body doesn’t hurt due to my chronic illness.
Worry about everything I have said or done in my forty years on earth.
Try and go back to bed. Snuggle my man, wake him up. Stroke his back until he falls asleep again.
Take my cats back down stairs and snuggle them again. Cry. My body hurts so much and I have to get up for work in three hours.
Put on a comforting, familiar film or TV show like Harry Potter or B99 with the volume down super low. Try and listen only and cover my face with a pillow to reduce the stimulation to my brain so I forget I am worrying about everything I have ever said or done and focus on reciting the dialogue in my head.
Fall asleep hugging my cats and Earl. Wake up one hour before my alarm is meant to go off.
9. Give it a shot.
“I use the alphabet and imagine how to literally construct it out of different materials.
Like, tonight each letter is made of welded steel and I’ll picture the way the light reflects differently off the weld versus the steel, and tomorrow night the letters will be made of Twizzlers and I trace the lines around and imagine where the joints would be.
I’ve used cotton balls, stuffed denim, velvet, twigs, LEGO, etc. It’s the sensory details that short circuit my anxiety and get me back to sleep.”
10. Works for this person.
“I meditate until I fall back asleep.
Plus I remove the extra drape to get myself colder as I read somewhere that being colder makes it easier to fall asleep.”
11. I’ve heard they work wonders.
My SO is a fellow insomniac, he bought it. The weight helps you feel secure and helps you sleep deeper. He said he cannot wake up during the night, even if he has a nightmare which is a bummer but it shows how deeply he sleeps.
He uses a 7 kg one. Try it, it will help.”
12. Good idea.
“I started using Headspace app.
It has a specific night cast thing for when you wake up, to help you fall back to sleep.
Currently I try that, and if that doesn’t work, I just put on a series and pretend to watch it.
Used to clean my room when this happened.
It happens less now that I am medicated so nicely.”
13. That’s not good.
“Lie there for hours and feel like s**t in the morning.
Occasionally take a shower.”
14. Give it a shot.
“Get up, get a glass of water in the kitchen, check doors are locked, brush teeth and most importantly, go pee… then go back to bed.
If that doesn’t work, try the self loathing option!”
15. Good idea.
“I do a reset.
If I can’t get back to sleep, I get up and walk through my bedtime routine again and then get back into bed.
It usually works!”
16. No lights.
“I usually listen to a podcast rather than look at anything on my phone.
I find that the light from the screen only makes it less likely that I’ll be able to fall asleep again.”
17. Just get up.
“I get up for the day. I’ve had some days where I’m running on half an hour of sleep.
It truly sucks but I don’t know what else to do, if I just lay there I never actually fall back asleep and usually end up getting out of bed a few hours later.”
18. Change of scenery.
“Laying there is definitely not helpful. But neither is just getting up.
What I learned from insomnia therapy (CBT) is you should get up, sit down in another room or at least away from your bed and do something like read the paper or play solitaire. Something that doesn’t keep you up but takes your mind off things. I usually listen to a podcast or audiobook.
When you feel tired again, try going back to bed. If you can’t sleep, at least you gave your brain a little extra time to rest.”
19. No fun.
“I lay there annoyed that I’m not asleep and then start thinking about all my personal failings until I fall back asleep half an hour before the alarm.”
20. Maybe you shouldn’t do this…
“I relive all the awful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, humiliating experiences or mistakes I’ve made in my entire life and deride myself for being an idiot, because that’s a really useful way to spend time at 3:30am.
And then I fantasize about winning the lottery.”
21. Not a great night.
“Get up and wander around, trying to figure out why I’m not asleep. Do I need to pee? Am I too hot/cold? Do I need some water? If I drink the water, will I need to pee again? I hear an owl. It sounds so close.
If I go to the window, will I see it? OMG, it’s right there! Watch the owl for a while. Get into bed. Realize that my back hurts. Maybe that’s why I’m awake. Try to go back to sleep, since I’m already back in bed, it’s not happening. Get up for some painki**ers.
Try to pee again just in case, since I just drank another glass of water. Get back into bed. Every anxiety I’ve ever had crowds into my head. Listen jealously to my husband’s untroubled slumber.
Get out my iPad and earbuds to watch something to distract my brain. Doze off for an hour or two to Blue Planet, wake up tired.”
22. Worth a shot.
“Read a book. It usually puts me too sleep.
If I am stressed and woke from a nightmare, I will do a few breathing exercises or meditation to calm down before trying to sleep.”
23. It could work!
“1: Do NOT get on your phone, turn on the TV, or turn the lights on if your intent is to go back to sleep. You’re just going to f**k up your brain.
2: Lay still, close your eyes, and start with the letter A. Name five things from a category that start with A. Baby names, City names, items in a grocery store, types of animals, things you would find in an office, whatever…name five things from that category that start with the letter A, then move onto the letter B, then C, and so on. I skip Q and X.
3: If you make it through to Z, move onto another category.”
Do you have trouble sleeping?
What do you do when you’re up late at night?
Talk to us in the comments!