- Make a meaningless list, like creating a fantasy music festival lineup
- Try to force yourself to stay awake instead
Some nights, it's like you can't get your brain to shut up long enough for you to fall asleep.
You're mentally reviewing the day you just completed while also previewing the day ahead; sometimes, your mind may even reach way back into the archives and pull up something embarrassing you did back in high school. So fun!
Racing thoughts can be a sign of a serious mental health condition like anxiety. But these nights also happen to everyone from time to time -- and once we're too old for bedtime stories, it's not always clear what to do.
There's no one solution that will work for everybody, of course, so instead, we've rounded up suggestions from eight sleep experts. At the very least, it's something to read next time you can't sleep.
Distract yourself with meaningless mental lists.
"The absolute prerequisite for sleep is a quiet mind. Think of something else, rather than what's worrying you -- something with a story to it. It can be anything of interest, but of no importance, so you can devote some brain energy to it without clashing into the real world and going straight back to your worries.
I fly a lot, so I imagine I have my own private jet and how would I arrange the furniture on it. If you're someone who likes going to music festivals, what would your lineup be?" -- Neil Stanley, sleep expert
Try to stay awake instead.
"Thinking about sleep and wishing for it to happen is a recipe for staying awake. This is where paradoxical thinking comes in. If you give yourself the paradoxical instruction to stay awake instead, you'll be more likely to fall asleep.
If you can be comfortable with the idea of remaining awake, then the performance anxiety and frustration that are associated with trying to sleep have nowhere to go and your arousal level drops." -- Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford